Saturday, May 1, 2021 | 7:24 p.m.
CARSON CITY — In the first weekend hearing of the 2021 session, legislative committees in the Nevada statehouse on Saturday approved budgets for the upcoming two years for Department of Public Safety, Colorado River Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services Director’s Office.
With 31 days until they adjourn, lawmakers are preparing for a final-month sprint. They're poring over departmental budgets, hoping to restore some of the funding and positions cut Gov. Steve Sisolak's budget proposal in January, and scheduling their priority proposals for committee hearings to ensure they receive votes before the end of the legislative session.
Although lawmakers have approved budgets for many state agencies, the final state budget will hinge largely on two things: revenue forecasts scheduled to be released Tuesday and the American Rescue Plan that Congress passed in March. The U.S. Treasury Department has not released guidance for state and local governments on how those federal dollars can be spent, but Nevada is expected to receive $2.9 billion — a massive influx for a state that expects to log roughly $8.7 billion in expenditures over the next two years.
On Saturday, lawmakers reviewed the budget adjustments made by subcommittees tasked with overseeing certain spending and weighed whether to provide additional funding to hire more staff at agencies with problems filling open positions.
The Colorado River Commission — which purchases electricity generated at Hoover Dam and manages the state's Colorado River allocation — said it expects energy demand to continue to increase throughout the Las Vegas area in the years ahead even as Lake Mead shrinks and Hoover Dam becomes less productive. Lawmakers approved the commission's request to hire a new power facilities manager after questioning why more than 20% of the positions budgeted for remained unfilled in a previous subcommittee.
They also approved a $6 million request from the Department of Health and Human Services to hire a new Health Bureau chief to lead an Office of Data Analytics within the agency. Lawmakers said the coronavirus had made clear the need for accessible public health data to inform decision-making.
“I know there’s a number of times in this building where we’ve made decisions based on anecdote, crossed our fingers and wished really hard to make sure that it was true. Our instincts are usually pretty good, but having real data to make real decisions will be a significant step forward for a lot of health care decisions,” said Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton.