The first week of Nevada's 2019 Legislative Session is in the books, and to help us make sense of the goings-on in Carson, KUNR's Political Reporter Paul Boger sat down with News Director Michelle Billman to discuss the latest from the capital city.
Paul, the first week of the legislative session is behind us. Let’s start off by talking about the mood in Carson City. The start of the session, spirits are high. What are you hearing from lawmakers?
Well, as a whole, I’ve got to say lawmakers seemed to be pretty excited to be back at work last week. As part of the opening day festivities, it’s customary for some of the leaders in both chambers to give speeches that are meant to reflect the tone of the upcoming session. This year, leaders seemed like they were committed to working together to accomplish their priorities.
For Democrats, that’s fairly easy to say. They’ve got a supermajority in one house and a fairly substantial majority in the other. That being said, they are still going to need to work with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle in order to pass a budget at the end of the session.
It’s a sentiment echoed by many Republicans. In his speech, Assembly Minority Leader, Republican Jim Wheeler of Minden told his fellow lawmakers, that he understands the limitations of being in the minority, but that his party will use the legislative process to bolster lively debate and discussion. So, all and all, the mood in Carson is fairly positive, but it is only the first week.
One of the first things, lawmakers do during the session, is decide whether they are willing to override any vetoes from the previous session – in this case, vetoes made by Republican Governor Sandoval in 2017. Is there ANY likelihood of that happening this year?
In a word, no… As a matter of fact, the Assembly has already tabled all of their vetoed items from last session, meaning that they’ve set them aside with no real intention of bringing them back up. The Senate, on the other hand, has yet to do that, but they are scheduled to take care of that first thing this week.
Now, that may sound surprising given that there were some fairly interesting bills that Democrats pushed hard for during the 79th session in 2017. But speaking to Senate Majority Leader, Democrat Kelvin Atkinson of Las Vegas, legislative leaders feel like some of those measures can be improved upon:
"I know we have the number to do that, so why not just re-hear them, get people up here to advocate for them and re-hear them in front of a little bit more friendly body," Atkinson said.
So, let’s talk about legislation…. We’re starting to see some legislation move from “BDR’s” (bill draft requests) into actual bill form. What are we seeing and what happens to those measures now?
Yeah, so we’re starting to see many of those bills come down the pike. This session we’re expected to see somewhere around 1,200 separate pieces of legislation be introduced. That being said, we’re already getting a preview of some fairly interesting legislation including some of the higher priority measures.
First and foremost on my list, is the Collective Bargaining bill that Governor Sisolak called for in his State of the State. The bill made its way into committee last week, and should likely get a hearing in the coming days.
We’ve also seen the introduction of a measure that would give cities and counties the ability to lower or wave ‘impact fees” – the money developers have to pay to hook up homes to city services like water and sewage – for certain housing projects.
There’s also a bill that would seek to changes how the state pays for public education. That’s mostly a dummy bill as of now, something lawmakers can hold onto as they iron out the details. So there aren’t really a lot of details on those changes available yet, but I mention it mostly because it was a priority for the governor in his State of the State address and it’s something I’m going to keep my eye on over the next few months.
As for where do these bills go now? We’ll see all of the bills in committee. That’s the next step after the bills are introduced, they head to committee where they’ll receive a full public hearing. That step of the process can take a while, as a matter of fact, it’s not until mid-April that committees are required to pass any of the measures. So, this is where a bulk of the heavy lifting is done.
Lastly, Paul, what can we expect to see next week?
Well, I’d be lying if I said the start of the legislative session was filled with non-stop thrills and excitement…. No, it’s the second week, so what we’re going to see is more BDR submissions and bills getting introduced and sent to committees.
During the first week, most of the committees don’t really start digging into legislation right off the bat, instead, most use the first few days to reorient legislators with presentations of current laws and issues within that committee’s purview. So, we’re probably going to see them get into that a little more.
Specifically, though, lawmakers seem to be diving headfirst into one of the biggest issues from the 2018 election cycle – background checks for gun purchases. On Tuesday, lawmakers are set to hold a joint meeting of the Senate and Assembly Judiciary Committees in order to hold a hearing on the state’s beleaguered background check law. That’s surely going to draw a large crowd. Public comment on topic alone should be interesting.