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December 19, 2014

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Legislature 2013:

How the past 120 days in Carson City might affect your life

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Cathleen Allison / AP

Nevada Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, naps after lawmakers failed to meet their midnight deadline for the end of the 77th Legislative session in Carson City, Nev., Tuesday, June 4, 2013.

Let’s face it.

It can be pretty easy to ignore a bunch of politicians getting together in Carson City to pass bills. Life is hectic, and if you paid absolutely no attention to what happened during the 120-day legislative session or did not know a legislative session had occurred, that’s all right.

The end is what really matters. The Legislature began Feb. 4 and adjourned June 4. So what, exactly, did Nevada’s 63 legislators do that might affect you during the past four months?

Here’s the abbreviated, condensed rundown of what happened and how it might affect you. (Click the links to learn more about each issue.)

• Surprise! Your taxes are probably going up. The Legislature told the Clark County Commission that it can vote to raise your sales tax 0.15 percent to hire more police officers, and it can tie the gas tax to inflation rates. So get ready to watch the price you pay at the pump increase about 3 cents per gallon per year.

• You’ll also likely pay more on your energy bill. NV Energy is shutting down its coal plants — meaning Clark County’s Reid Gardner coal plant will soon be shut down — but it’s going to cost everybody money.

• The Legislature isn’t all about higher taxes. The economy is slowly improving, so every school in Southern Nevada will be getting more money over the next few years thanks to changes the Legislature passed. The beneficiaries are the Clark County School District, UNLV, Nevada State College and the College of Southern Nevada.

• Employees at the higher education schools and state workers will see a slight pay bump of 2.5 percent, which is really just a restoration of a 2.5 percent pay cut they took several years ago because of the recession. Workers will still have 12 unpaid furlough days, just like they’ve had for the past two years.

• Apart from the money bills, you’ll likely see some changes in the physical landscape in Clark County.

Pending the signature of Gov. Brian Sandoval, you could soon see medical marijuana dispensaries in a neighborhood near you. Nevadans put the right to medical marijuana in the state constitution, and legislators say they want to make it easier for patients to get their cannabis.

• If you gamble, you can thank the Legislature for legalizing online gaming websites where you can bet real money while playing poker anywhere in Nevada that you have an Internet connection.

But, if you bet on sports, forget going to a tavern to place a bet on a game. Legislators restricted so-called sports betting kiosks at small venues, so you’ll have to go to a larger venue to place a sports bet.

• Nevadans can expect to see more immigrants driving on the roads. That’s because immigrants in the country illegally can now get new driver authorization cards, a move that the governor and legislators have billed as a public safety measure designed to make sure all motorists have auto insurance.

• Anybody in the market for a gun may now have to get a background check to buy one, even if they’re buying from a friend or at a gun show, where there is no current requirement to get a background check. A bill from Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, mandates background checks for private gun sales, but Sandoval has said he’ll veto it.

• If you live in North Las Vegas, expect to see parks and libraries open this summer. The city’s severe fiscal crisis has led to budget shortfalls and talks of curtailing library and park hours, but Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, saved the day with a bill allowing the city to access money it has stored away for sewer repairs.

• Legislators also voted to start the process of repealing Nevada's same-sex marriage ban from the constitution and pave the way to taxing mining at a higher rate — but not yet. Voters will decide the mining issue in 2014 and could get a shot at the marriage equality question in 2016 if the 2015 Legislature approves.

• A lot of stuff also didn’t happen at the Nevada Legislature.

Legislators proposed thousands of bills, most of which died. Although these were all ideas, you still can’t legally drive 85 mph anywhere in Nevada, strippers won’t be taxed, chain restaurants won’t have to display calorie counts because Sandoval vetoed that bill, the state drink won’t be the Basque aperitif Picon Punch, the state dog won’t be the Blue Weimaraner, Nevada won’t have a comprehensive sex education program in state schools, using marijuana for recreational purposes is still illegal, hospital emergency room charges won’t be capped, and there won’t be funding for a mega stadium at UNLV.

Legislators also failed to pass a payroll tax hike, a sales tax on services, and an admissions and entertainment tax that would’ve levied an 8 percent tax on movie tickets, greens fees at golf courses, large outdoor concerts, gym memberships and a variety of other activities people do for fun.

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  1. Some wins - some heartbreaks. Education is still $400 million plus in the hole - since Governor Sandoval's takeover. We were dead last in the nation before the recession. It infuriates me that he gets any credit for finding funds - when he has restored less than half that he took. It's hard for me to celebrate a public relations spin win. Nearly a billion in cuts and we are supposed to be happy with $40 million here and there? I'm grateful - but don't act like a champion - when you were the vandal in the first place.

    So Governor Sandoval ... Where is the other $400 million plus that you took?

  2. "How the past 120 days in Carson City might affect your life"

    It has provided the encouragement, incentive, and motivation to find low cost tours and trips to other parts of the world that have imagination, excitement and most of all, a future.