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#NVLEG Day 120: The End Is Nigh

Lawmakers hold a "behind-the-bar" committee meeting as the last day of the legislative session quickly approaches.
Paul Boger
KUNR Public Radio
Lawmakers hold a "behind-the-bar" committee meeting as the last day of the legislative session quickly approaches.

At midnight, Nevada’s 2019 legislative session will be over. But even though there are less than 24 hours until sine die, lawmakers still have a lot left on their agenda. To discuss the latest from the Capital City, we turn to KUNR’s Senior Political Reporter Paul Boger.

There are a lot of bills moving quickly through the legislative process as lawmakers wrap up the session. What have you been following these past few days? 

First and foremost, you’ve got the five big appropriation bills. Those are the measures that essentially fund government for the next two years, and interestingly enough, those are the only measures that the legislature is required by law to pass, but that’s neither here nor there. Under the measures, lawmakers are looking to spend about $8.8 billion over the next two years. That includes SB555, which moves more than $2.3 billion from the state’s general fund to the account that goes to public schools. That measure was approved unanimously by both the Senate and Assembly Sunday. And with that out of the way, lawmakers can move on to the other major spending bills.

What do you mean?

Well, constitutionally, lawmakers have to pass the education funding bill first. Once that’s done, they can move on to funding the rest of government. Here’s probably where I should mention that under the budget bills, state workers can expect to see a three percent pay raise this July. There’s also more than $250 million in proposed capital repairs and improvements.

Of course, those are not the only bills sprinting toward the finish line. There’s also the education funding overhaul that remains up in the air, and lawmakers are also looking to move forward with a plan that would extend the state’s modified business tax to help offset the costs associated with school safety initiatives; however, that remains fairly controversial.

How so?

Well, as it stands right now, the modified business tax is supposed to sunset later this year, but Democrats need the state to keep collecting that money in order to balance the budget. Republicans have vowed to kill the effort.

To incentivize Republicans to vote for the measure, Democrats tied the money to school safety. And, as of Sunday night, to further sweeten the deal, they’ve added an extra $10 million dollars in one-time monies for the Opportunity Scholarships, as well as $72 million for teacher pay raises. All of that is because this is a tax bill, and normally when lawmakers pass tax or spending bills, it requires a two-thirds vote. 

Now, this is where it gets tricky. Legislative counsel has written an opinion that states that since lawmakers are not creating a new tax, they don’t need that 2/3rds vote. Republicans vehemently disagree and are vowing to take legal action if the bill is passed solely on party lines. Democrats are trying to avoid that, hence all the wheeling and dealing. 

There were also a few last-minute bills introduced over the weekend. What were they?

Well, let’s start off with Senate Joint Resolution 8. That’s a measure that seeks to place an equal rights amendment in Nevada’s constitution. Essentially, the measure would put language into the constitution that guarantees equal rights under the law regardless of gender, race, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, ancestry or national origin. That measure has so far received fairly bipartisan support. That means, it’s very likely going to be back before lawmakers in two years, before it heads to the voters in 2022.

Assembly Republicans dropped a Saturday night bill that would raise the legal age to buy tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21. While the measure seems fairly straightforward, it appears to have some complications and may not make it to the floor.

Lastly, lawmakers are also moving forward with a campaign finance bill that was dropped late Saturday. Under SB557, any big money donors, that is any person, business, union or political organization that makes $10,000 or more in political contributions in a calendar year, are now required to declare that donation to the Secretary of State’s office.

That’s somewhat surprising considering there are literally only hours left in this session. Can lawmakers get something like that done in time?

Well, that’s honestly up to leadership. If they make a particular measure a priority, they can essentially push through whatever they want. And when it comes to these types of bills, I’m willing to bet that most of the time, they already know how the vote will turn out.

Either way, if lawmakers are hoping to move forward with some of these bills, they need to act fact because if it’s not on it’s way to the Governor’s desk or the Secretary of State’s office, then it is dead, dead, dead.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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