Thursday, April 9, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Nevada is prohibited by its constitution from joining states, most recently Vermont and Iowa, where gay marriage is legal. But legislation is making its way through Carson City that would give same-sex couples who enter domestic partnerships the same benefits as married couples.
Advocates of the bill, however, are careful to distinguish their proposal from traditional marriage, given Nevada voters banned gay marriage in 2002.
Senate Bill 283 cleared a key hurdle Wednesday, passing a Senate committee by a 4-2 vote.
Jan Gilbert, a lobbyist with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, called the domestic partnerships bill “a big step.”
But she added, “It is not about marriage; this is about domestic partnerships.”
Domestic partnerships could be entered into by following a path that would be laid out by the secretary of state.
The bill now must clear the Senate floor, where Democrats hold a 12-9 majority over Republicans.
Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, the only openly gay member of the Legislature, sponsored the bill.
He added an amendment Wednesday that exempts the state and local governments from being required to pay for domestic partner benefits.
Democrats on the committee voted for the bill. Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas, and Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, voted against the bill. Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, was absent.
On an 18-3 vote, the full Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would ban text-messaging by motorists.
The bill, which goes to the Assembly for consideration, would exempt a motorist who “reads, selects or enters a telephone number” to make a cell phone call. The bill defines text-based communications as text messages, instant messages or electronic mail.
Senate Bill 136 would require a $20 fine for the first offense. The second offense would result in a $50 fine; subsequent offenses would result in $100 fines.
If it wasn’t clear by the bills detailed above, this is a deadline time in Carson City — bills have to pass out of their respective committees by the end of the week, so agendas are packed.
The range and breadth of legislation is striking: Taxing plastic grocery bags, new rules for homeowners associations, regulation of accountants, changes in workers’ compensation insurance, a vast education reform bill, a mandate that the county hospital treat poor people for cancer.
That’s just a fraction of what appeared on agendas Wednesday.
It’s your citizen Legislature at work.
Sun Capital Bureau Chief Cy Ryan and Sun reporter J. Patrick Coolican contributed to this story.