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Next steps on governor’s exempt bills from Nevada’s legislative session

A blue dome with a flag pole on top with the American flag and a blue Nevada state flag fluttering in the wind. Tree branches with no leaves frame the photo on each side. The blue sky has thin wisps of clouds.
Zoe Malen
KUNR Public Radio
The top of the Nevada Capitol Building.

The Nevada Legislature passed a major deadline on Friday. Bills needed to be passed out of committee, otherwise they’re dead, but the governor’s legislation didn’t have the same deadline. KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck spoke with Sondra Cosgrove, a history professor at the College of Southern Nevada to learn what happens next.

Lucia Starbuck: Let’s chat about Republican Governor Joe Lombardo’s legislation. What is the governor trying to accomplish this session?

Sondra Cosgrove: Big things. So if you look at his five bills, they’re oftentimes called omnibus bills. Meaning, it’s not a single subject, there’s just a whole lot going on in those bills. So as you go through his bills, it’s jumping around in existing law, saying, ‘Well, we’re amending this and we’re adding that, we’re taking this out.’

Starbuck: What issues is he tackling?

So education, definitely, because we’ve got a problem with school violence. The governor has a bill on elections. And that bill is going to need to get a hearing because the Democrats are saying we’re not changing anything, but I’ve heard from Democrats that they also do not like the fact that it takes 10 days to count the ballots.

And SB 431, that’s the bill that no one has said anything about. That’s the bill that would create that cabinet and the governor’s office with different secretaries. I can tell you, because I’m involved with the disability community, they want that bill heard, because right now if you have any type of disability, you’re dealing with like nine different state agencies, and a federal bureaucracy, and no one’s coordinating. When they saw that bill with the secretary of workforce and education, and it talks about reforming [Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation’s Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation], the disability community said, ‘Wait, this actually may be a solution to the problems we’re having.’

Starbuck: Many of the governor’s bills were declared exempt, so they didn’t have to meet Friday’s deadline. What does that mean?

So right now, you go on to NELIS, and you’re wondering which of your bills might still be alive, you’ll see “declared exempt” on the top. Usually what that means is it’s been re-referred to a money committee, or the LCB [Legislative Counsel Bureau] is taking it back because there was a legal issue that was found. Usually, there’s a technicality that couldn’t have made the deadline. For the governor’s bills, it’s literally saying he has the veto pen, and if we kill his bills, he’s going to veto our bills.

Starbuck: Is this typically reserved for the governor?

Yes. And even when the governor was a Democrat, I mean, the Democrats often didn’t agree on what they were doing. He’s got that veto pen, though. So do you want to make the man with the veto pen angry by just killing his bill? Probably not.

Starbuck: When can we expect to hear the exempt bills? Are they under a new deadline?

If they’re exempt from deadlines, who knows? We have no idea what timeline they’re are on. The clock is ticking. And they’re huge bills with really important things that people want to talk about.

Starbuck: What other bills were declared exempt and why?

So for instance, one of the bills I’m following AB 37, has been exempted. So AB 37 is the bill to create a behavioral health workforce center in the Nevada System of Higher Education. It has a $2 million fiscal note that is not currently covered in the governor’s budget. And so it passed out of Assembly Revenue with a do pass and it went over to the floor. And then the speaker said, ‘Whoa, this has money attached to it that we haven’t paid for yet. So I’m re-referring it over to Assembly Ways and Means,’ so the money committee. So it’s over there to see if there’s any extra money that can be locked down to cover that bill. And so they’ll ask the governor’s office Economic Forum, meeting May 1, if they have a forecast above the revenue projection they did in December, that might be where money comes from. But that bill will sit over there until the fiscal bill is paid for, then it comes back through the system.

Starbuck: What are some of the downfalls of a Democrat majority legislature and Republican bills not being heard? 

When you think about everybody’s constitutional rights, when we talk about the right to vote, we’re very clear on what the requirements are to have the right to vote. If a bill is going to impact you, you can show up and you can provide public comment, because we say if you live here, you should be represented by our government. We don’t talk enough about, are you actually being represented? If you’re in the minority party or registered nonpartisan, or you’re disgusted with the process, or you just opted out, that means the majority of us are not feeling like we’re really represented. That’s a huge problem.

Starbuck: And for the bills that passed and those that didn’t, what kind of stage does this set for the rest of the session?

Things will go faster now. Because usually, the second round of hearings are not as intensive as the first round, because if more people are aware, the amendments have already been added. But I think you’ll start seeing bills that are dead now, all of a sudden bits and pieces of them amended into live bills. So it’s important that if you were following a bill and it’s dead now, still be paying attention to that bill, because there might be an opportunity for you to show up or the bill sponsor to show up and say, ‘Hey, I know you guys are talking about the problem with this other bill, I kind of addressed that problem in my dead bill, I can give you permission to amend it over.’ And so this is a way if you’re the Republicans and you’re in the minority. or nonpartisan we’re always in the minority, and your stuff got killed, you still may have the opportunity if you’re paying attention to have your stuff amended into a live bill.

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning journalist covering politics, focusing on democracy and solutions for KUNR Public Radio. Her goal is to provide helpful and informative coverage for everyday Nevadans.
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