Nevada's 2019 legislative session is officially over. To help break down the session and the hundreds of measures passed over the past four months, KUNR's Paul Boger chats with Bree Zender.
So, the session is over. Here in the immediate aftermath, what are some of the biggest takeaways?
Well, first and foremost, I think it's going to be impossible for me, at least, to look back on this session and not think about the historic nature of the nation's first female majority legislature. That was really a focal point for much of the session, and I think that showed in the legislation.
Some of that legislation, for example, included decriminalizing abortions, requiring paid time off for workers at companies with more than 50 employees, and a ban on marriage for any under 17.
Lawmakers also tackled a huge swath of legislation, whether it was passing expanded gun background checks or criminal justice reform or overhauling the education funding formula.
To kind of boil that down a little more, let's just talk about what passed out of the legislature over the past couple of days.
There was an election reform measure that would now create same-day voter registration. It also allows voters to vote at any polling pace in their county.
Lawmakers also addressed sunshine legislation by strengthening the penalties on public agencies that do not comply with new public records requirements. In that same vein, lawmakers put into place a set of penalties if local or state governments or their agencies willfully violate open meeting laws.
On the criminal justice front, lawmakers moved to accept a number of recommendations from prosecutors who felt that previous versions of AB236 were to lenient. Those recommendations included keeping all drug possession charges a felony, albeit lower scale felonies.
Also, lawmakers drafted legislation creating the governor's proposed Cannabis Compliance Board, which will oversee pot regulations moving into the future.
One of the major issues that seemed to come up a lot over the past few weeks was education funding--not just how much money was going to go to schools, but how those funds were going to be allocated.
First, we should talk about that education funding formula. SB543 really came down to the wire, making it out of the Assembly with just about an hour to spare last night. If you remember, the measure would completely overhaul the state's school funding mechanism and convert it to a weighted funding formula. A quasi-independent commission would determine a base level of support for each student in the state. If a student needs more help because they’re gifted or an English Language Learner or have special needs, then additional funding would be sent to the district to help support that student. And interestingly enough, that bill made it out of the legislative process relatively unscathed.
As for funding, districts will see more money over the next two years, and that's coming in a myriad of different ways. First, lawmakers appropriated about $2.3 billion from the general fund to schools. They also added $327 million to reduce K-12 class sizes, another $63 million for a school reading program, and about $45 million for school safety projects. All of that is on top of an additional $72 million for teacher pay raises.
Now, obviously, lawmakers are done, but before these measures can become law they still need one last okay from Governor Sisolak. Is there any indication that he's planning to veto this legislation?
At this time, I can't point to any one piece of legislation passed in the last few days and say, 'That's the one; that's the one that's going to get vetoed.'
But as we saw last week, the governor vetoed a bill that would have declared Nevada's intent to join a compact declaring a desire to move to popular vote in presidential election. That measure was supported by a large number of folks from his own side of the aisle, and it seems that he didn't hesitate to buck his party on that issue.
Now, I'm not saying that's the rule. No, that seemed very much like the exception. But at this point, most of the measures approved by lawmakers have been in line with the governor.
Alright, well, what happens now?
Well, first, rest. The last week of any legislative session becomes a marathon because there's so much going on. It can be exhausting.
But these lawmakers aren't done. Over the next year-and-a-half, a number of legislative committees will meet during the interim to discuss potential legislation for the 2021 session. They'll conduct studies examining things like wildfires or workplace conditions in legal brothels.
And don't forget, we've got another election coming up in about a year-and-a-half, so whether we like it or not, it's time to start looking at 2020.