Las Vegas Sun

August 17, 2017

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EDITORIAL:

Legislature quietly did quality work for people of Nevada

The 2017 Nevada legislative session was relatively quiet compared with the past several times lawmakers got together — from the 2014 special session that brought Tesla to the state to the 2016 special session that produced the Oakland Raiders stadium deal.

But that doesn’t mean this year’s session, which ended this month, was insignificant.

Here are some of the hits and misses from Carson City.

HITS

• In a victory for the state’s public schools, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposal for $60 million in funding for Education Savings Accounts died amid stiff opposition from the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Senate. ESAs were created in 2015 to provide state funding for parents to send their children to private schools, but were put on hold by the Nevada Supreme Court last year after a legal challenge. Sandoval’s proposal would have revived them, but Democrats and public-school advocates carried the day, arguing that ESAs sapped state money from Nevada’s struggling K-12 schools.

• Lawmakers approved a bill to exclude feminine hygiene products from sales taxes, meaning the measure will go on the statewide ballot in November 2018. Given that the state also exempts prescription medications and medical equipment, there’s no good argument against this bill. One lawmaker tried, asking if jockstraps should be exempted. Hardy har. Now, go back to your cave.

• Lawmakers issued a joint resolution opposing development of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump site 90 miles from Las Vegas. With the Trump administration’s effort to resurrect the facility, which was starved of funding under former President Barack Obama, lawmakers showed the nation that Nevadans stand shoulder-to-shoulder against it. The site is scientifically unproven, would lead to transportation of 70,000 tons of nuclear waste across the nation and is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

• All law enforcement officers who regularly interact with the public will be required to wear body cameras.

• Lawmakers passed a 10 percent tax on recreational marijuana to be used for the state’s rainy day fund, along with regulations like guidelines for packaging of marijuana products to ensure they weren’t attractive to children.

• Felons no longer will be banned from voting or serving on juries after completing their sentences and satisfying any post-release requirements. Also, thanks to a “Ban the Box” bill that applies to state government jobs, applicants with criminal records can no longer be automatically rejected based solely on their court convictions.

• Other wins for public schools included a measure to audit standardized testing in schools statewide to determine whether students are taking redundant or unnecessary tests, and new incentives for teachers to work in at-risk schools. Another step forward: A weighted funding formula that provides additional per-student funding for students with special needs and English-language learners.

To help combat squatting, leases for single-family residences must now be notarized or signed by an authorized agent of the landlord. Law enforcement authorities say it’s become increasingly common for squatters to produce fake leases when confronted.

MISSES

• Despite holding the majority in both chambers, Democratic lawmakers took virtually no action on reducing gun violence. On the other hand, the Legislature also didn’t relax gun control measures.

• Sandoval made a repugnant call in vetoing a bill limiting use of private prisons, which profit from mass incarceration.

• The Legislature approved a bill to raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour for workers without employer-provided insurance and $12 for some workers with that insurance, but Sandoval vetoed it, saying it would threaten Nevada’s post-recession recovery. That’s a weak argument considering that study after study has shown that increasing the minimum wage helps the economy.

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