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#NVLeg Adjourns Sine Die

Members of the Nevada Assembly are all standing and facing the center of a conference room.
Paul Boger
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno), Fabian Donate (D-Las Vegas) and Mo Denis (D-Las Vegas) alert the Assembly the Senate is ready to adjourn sine die.

The 81st Session of the Nevada Legislature is officially over after lawmakers approved one of the largest ever tax increases on the state's mining industry. The move is expected to generate millions in state revenue for education. To explain the change, KUNR Morning Edition host Noah Glick spoke with political editor Paul Boger.

Noah Glick: So let's just break down the last couple of days, starting with the mining tax compromise bill that was introduced with, what, roughly 48 hours left in the session? So, how does that work, and why did lawmakers wait so long in the session to unveil it?

Paul Boger: Yeah, so that is AB 495. That is pretty much one of the largest tax increases on the mining industry. In 1989, that was really the first time lawmakers really addressed mining in the state constitution.

Since then, there have been very, very minor tweaks on deductions and the back end stuff that lawmakers can deal with because mining, of course, is in the constitution. They need an official amendment to change that. And so, what they did this time was lawmakers essentially changed the way that mining taxes are looked at, and they got this through [with] help [from] mining.

And partly for that is because there has been this move by the Clark County Education Association. Last year, they put up two initiative petitions to raise the state sales tax and to also raise taxes on gaming, the state's largest industry. So with pressure from gaming, with pressure from Clark County Education Association and residents, and, of course, with lawmakers passing a number of resolutions last year, determined to ask residents how they feel about mining, mining came to the table.

They made some concessions and it looks like it's going to add about $300 million in state revenue over the next biennium.

Glick: That's not an insignificant amount at all. As you mentioned, though, this is a tax bill that required bipartisanship. So, what did Democrats have to do to get Republicans on board?

Boger: In the bill, you saw some concessions to them. So there was an increase in funding for opportunity scholarships. Those are scholarships for special needs students and poor students, poor families to send their kids to private schools. ... It's a voucher system for special needs students and poor students.

It helps students go to those private schools that may better serve their needs. Of course, that is a problem for a lot of Democrats. But there was concessions in there to that. There was concessions in there to spend some federal money toward charter schools, another Republican issue, but there was also this move to maybe kill a few bills that Republicans weren't thrilled about.

One of them was straight-ticket voting. We know that we saw a number of election bills this year. One of them would allow voters to just [select] “I want to vote for all Republicans” and then cast their ballot. That bill is dead. That did not make it through the end of the session, and really, lawmakers were just fine with that, I think, and so was the governor. They needed this done, so they were more than happy to make those concessions. And this is what Governor Steve Sisolak said [Tuesday].

Sisolak: Good governance is all about compromise. I mean, it's not just getting your way all the time. I mean, that doesn't happen. I mean, you sit down, and you discuss it, and you say, "Look, let's, let's be reasonable here. What's it going to take? What can we do to bring people together?" And you know, how it will be viewed in the future? I don't know, but I think that some legislators made some reasonable requests. I'm not calling them demands. They made some reasonable requests, and they did it because they realized the overall good, and I view it the same way.

Glick: So the legislative session is over. What else were lawmakers able to accomplish before it all ended?

Boger: Yeah, so let's talk about those election bills now. One of them, of course, is making those changes they made last year, the mail-in voting. That's the standard now. Of course, there is this effort to become the first-in-the-nation primary, so that passed.

Moving away from a caucus to an actual primary, where you go in and cast a ballot, that's going to be a thing now. Of course, decriminalizing traffic tickets, that's been discussed all session, but that made it through to the end.

The state's discounted health insurance plan. I don't want to call it a public health option because that would imply that it is state funded, and there is state-required discounts to the plan, but it is a private insurance plan. So I refuse to call it a public option there.

And, of course, there's right to return, which means workers can go get their pre-pandemic jobs back in certain circumstances. Lots of things made it through the end of the session that we knew were coming but definitely got that little push near the end.

Glick: Now, just really quick in the seconds we have left, is there a chance for a special session in the coming weeks?

Boger: So we know that there's going to be a special session in October to deal with redistricting, but it seems that lawmakers were able to pass a budget and account for enough of the federal money, that federal COVID relief money, to avoid a special session.

Governor says he's not going to call one; lawmakers say they don't want to do one. I think we're good on not having a special session for a few weeks.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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