The 31st Special Session Of The Nevada Legislature: July 8-16

Jul 16, 2020

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak issued the formal proclamation to call the Nevada Legislature into a special session beginning on Wednesday, July 8 at 9 a.m. to address the historic budget shortfall. This is the 31st Special Session in Nevada’s history.

Tune in to both chambers of the state legislature to watch live:

As of July 16, this webpage will no longer be updated. For recent updates, visit our live blog.

2:09 p.m. | July 16, 2020

Lawmakers Consider Budget Bill, Changes to Come
By Paul Boger

Lawmakers in Nevada are poised to take up a measure aimed at cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s general fund budget.

For the first time since introducing the measure last week, lawmakers in the Assembly were presented with a detailed analysis of AB3 -- a list of proposed cuts to the general fund.

The bill includes more than $535 million in budget reductions, affecting every state agency. It also includes roughly $158 million in cuts to categorical education funding and $213 million in cuts to Health and Human Services.

However, it’s incredibly likely the measure will see substantial changes before lawmakers hold a vote on the bill.

It’s one of only two bills currently before lawmakers. The other would officially furlough state workers 12 days -- or one day a month -- over the current fiscal year which ends June 30, 2021.

Senate Passes Bill To Tax Mines Upfront, Sweep Highway Fund And Introduce Tax Amnesty Program
By Lucia Starbuck

Nevada lawmakers voted to pass a measure to generate much-needed tax revenue as the state deals with a $1.2 billion budget shortfall as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Bill 3 temporarily requires mining companies to prepay half of their taxes until 2023. The revenue will be swept into Nevada’s General Fund, whereas the other half of the tax revenue will still be collected at the end of the year, and would still go to school districts and local governments.

The measure also sweeps 100 percent of the proceeds generated by the state's Governmental Services Tax - about 70 million dollars - into the state’s General Fund.

Finally, the measure re-introduces a tax amnesty program to incentivize people to pay their delinquent tax bill without penalties or interest.

Overall, an analysis of the bill anticipates adding roughly $147 million to the General Fund during this fiscal year.

The bill is now heading to the governor for his approval.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

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9:10 p.m. | July 14, 2020

Lawmakers Urge Congress For Federal Relief Money
By Paul Boger

Lawmakers in Nevada are urging Congress and President Donald Trump to allow for greater flexibility in how the state, local and tribal governments spend federal aid.

Day 7 of the 31st Special Session of the Nevada Legislature came and went with little movement on a set of budget bills aimed at addressing the state’s nearly $1.2 billion budget shortfall.

However, lawmakers did pass a joint resolution calling on Congress and the president to quickly pass a federal aid package that allows states and local governments greater flexibility in how they spend the money.

According to lawmakers, the extra money would go a long way in avoiding hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to education and healthcare.

Assembly Republicans also sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar earlier this week, asking the federal government to extend a program that temporarily increases the federal government’s portion of Medicaid payments.

Lawmakers also unanimously passed a measure that would temporarily extend the state’s line of credit in times of dire emergency. It’s a strategy employed by the legislature during the 2009 recession.

9:20 p.m. | July 13, 2020

Senate OK’s Capital Improvement Cuts, Changes to Millennium Scholarship
By Lucia Starbuck and Paul Boger

Lawmakers in Nevada may soon send the first bills from the 31st Special Session to the governor for his approval.

It’s been six days since the start of the special session, and the Senate just approved a set of bills yesterday aimed at cutting roughly $1.2 billion from the state budget.

The first, SB1, would cancel or delay more than $72.5 million from construction, repair and maintenance projects around the state. The cuts include $13 million for a new Health and Science Building at the College of Southern Nevada, $20 million for a new engineering building at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and about $8 million for a new boiler and heating system at Lovelock Correctional Center.

The second measure, SB2, gives the Nevada Board of Regents the ability to temporarily waive certain eligibility requirements like grade point average and enrollment minimums.

The bills now head to the Assembly where they’re expected to pass with few changes.

Updated at 9:10 p.m., July 14, 2020: The Assembly also approved both measures unanimously. They will now be sent to the Governor for his approval.

The Nevada Assembly chambers on the fourth day of the 31st Special Session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on Saturday, July 11, 2020.
Credit David Calvert / The Nevada Independent

5:45 p.m. | July 12, 2020

Senate Discusses Possible Avenues For Revenue From Mining Taxing and Transportation
By Lucia Starbuck and Paul Boger

The Nevada Senate may soon vote on a measure aimed at generating much-needed tax revenue as the state deals with the economic fallout created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Current law requires mines to split five percent of the previous years “net proceeds” between the state and the counties in which the mines operate.

But SB3 would require mines to prepay their tax liability for the next two years.

It’s a strategy lawmakers employed during the previous recession in 2009, but reverted to normal just a few years ago.

The measure also sweeps a portion of the money collected for transportation and highway maintenance into the general fund.

SB3 also re-establishes a tax amnesty program meant to incentivize the payment of delinquent taxes by waiving penalties and interest charges.

The Senate is expected to vote on the measure this week.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

6:15 p.m. | July 11, 2020

Lawmakers Examine Measure Furloughing State Workers
By Paul Boger

Members of the Nevada Assembly are getting their first explanation of a measure that would furlough the state’s entire workforce.

AB1 would officially furlough state workers and employees of the Nevada System of Higher Education for 12 days -- or 1 day a month -- over the course of the current fiscal year.

That represents a roughly 4.5 percent pay cut for most employees.

During a presentation on the measure from Legislature Counsel Bureau (LCB) staff, the furloughs will only count toward pay and overtime accrual.

However, furlough days will still be counted toward the accrual of personal and sick leave, retirement, seniority, and probationary periods.

The measure also temporarily increases the cap on how much leave a state employee can carry forward from one year to another. Under current law, state employees may only carry over 30 days of leave.

This bill would increase it to 40 days.

As a note of disclosure, the license to KUNR is owned by the Board of Regents to the Nevada System of Higher Education; therefore, all KUNR staff members are state employees.

A member of the Legislature’s janitorial staff cleans a hadn’t railing outside the building on the third day of the 31st Special Session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on Friday, July 10, 2020.
Credit David Calvert / The Nevada Independent

5:05 p.m. | July 10, 2020

Positive COVID Test Among Nevada Legislature
By Paul Boger

Officials with Nevada’s Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB) said someone who has been present during the legislature’s special session has tested positive for COVID-19.

While LCB Director Brenda Erdoes would not go into specifics on who has tested positive, she did confirm that someone who has been in the Legislative Building since the start of the special session tested positive for the disease.

She also noted that the person who tested positive was asymptomatic and feeling well.

LCB closed the special session to the public in an effort to limit any possible spread of the disease. They also enacted strict mask and social distancing requirements and have stepped up cleaning and disinfecting regimens.

Earlier this week, lawmakers passed a resolution allowing lawmakers to participate in the session remotely.

For more updates on the novel coronavirus in Nevada, visit our live blog.

The Nevada Assembly Chambers before the start of the first day of the 31st Special Session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Credit David Calvert / The Nevada Independent

4:12 p.m. | July 9, 2020

Lawmakers Unveil First Budget Cut Measures
By Paul Boger

Nevada lawmakers have unveiled the first set of bills aimed at curbing the state’s massive budget shortfall.

After two days of budget presentations, lawmakers have introduced the first round of bills aimed at tackling the state’s $1.15 billon shortfall.

Among them is a bill that would sweep a portion of the state’s Millennium Scholarship reserves into the general fund. Lawmakers have also taken up a measure that would officially furlough the state’s entire workforce at least once a month for the current fiscal year.

Another measure, SB2, would cut about $72 million in capital improvement projects - that’s the term used to explain the construction, repair and maintenance projects on state-owned property.

Finally, lawmakers are making their first attempts at accelerating the collection of tax revenue. Under SB3, mining operations would be allowed to pay their annual tax burden early.

1:30 p.m. | July 9, 2020

Nevada Department Of Health And Human Services Proposes $233 Million Budget Cut
By Lucia Starbuck

Lawmakers in Nevada are considering a proposal that would cut as much as $233 million from Medicaid and mental health services.

In a presentation to lawmakers, officials with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services said they are preparing to cut 14 percent of their budget, per Gov. Steve Sisolak’s orders.

Those cuts include a little over $30 million from aging and disability services, placing a cap on current social service caseloads, and an overall reduction in Medicaid reimbursement and services to the tune of roughly $140 million.

Democratic State Senator Julia Ratti of Sparks says the reductions, especially those to mental health services, are alarming.

"I feel like, maybe, we're reverting back to a place that if you really need behavioral health services, you almost have to be part of the criminal justice system to access them,” Ratti said.

Additionally, any cuts to the state’s healthcare services could have a compounding effect because the federal government matches the state’s spending on Medicaid.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

This story was produced in partnership with This Is Reno.

Members of the Assembly inside the chambers on the second day of the 31st Special Session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on Thursday, July 9, 2020.
Credit David Calvert / The Nevada Independent

Lawmakers Eye Cuts To Supplemental K-12 Education Funding
By Paul Boger

Lawmakers in Nevada are eyeing nearly $1.15 billion in cuts to the state's general fund budget. Those cuts may include more than $156 million in supplemental education funding.

State leaders have, so far, been hesitant to make any cuts to the state's base education funding or how much it spends per pupil.

According to officials with the Nevada Department of Education, that would mean an elimination of incentives for literacy specialists under the Read By Three program, reduction in funding for social and emotional learning, and the near elimination of the state's teacher supply reimbursement account.

Speaker of the Assembly Jason Frierson says the cuts will likely have a significant impact on students and families across the state, but lawmakers may have no other choice at this point.

“There are proposals for other cuts that are painful and difficult, and we’re going to have to look at those, and I think it’s our job to make changes and adjustments that reflect our values and we’re planning on doing that,” Frierson said.

Currently, there are no plans to include teachers at the district level in possible furloughs or layoffs for the coming year.

5:40 p.m. | July 8, 2020

Lawmakers Learn Full Extent Of State Budget Shortfall
By Lucia Starbuck

Lawmakers in Nevada spent most of the first day of the special session learning more details about the state’s budget crisis.

Shortly after gaveling in the 31st Special Session of the Nevada Legislature, officials with the Governor’s Finance Office, known as GFO, began laying bare the extent of the state’s $1.15 billion budget deficit.

To address the shortfall, GFO has recommended that ALL state agencies will have a portion of their funds swept into the state’s general fund.

Some of the largest budget funds will come from the Inmate Welfare Fund, Public Employees Benefits Program, the Healthy Nevada Fund, the state’s Disaster Relief Account and the Millennium Scholarship Fund.

In April, Governor Steve Sisolak asked all state agencies to plan for cuts of up to 14 percent to address looming budget concerns. Lawmakers may consider further cuts if they deem them necessary in this special session.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.