Lawmakers in Nevada are officially one month into the 2019 Legislative Session. KUNR's News Director Michelle Billman sat down with our political reporter Paul Boger to learn more about the latest from Carson City.
Paul, Republicans and Democratic leaders last week officially announced their legislative agendas, roughly a month into the legislative session. What are some of the key takeaways from that?
So, as you said, last week the two major parties unveiled their major priorities for the 2019 session.
This is something that’s become sort of a tradition over the past several years. Democrats have their Nevada Blueprint while Republicans work with their Battle Born Priorities. And I have to say, the items on both agendas were nothing new.
Democrats are continuing to call for an increase in the minimum wage, as well as bumping up the state’s renewable energy requirements and reforming the state’s education funding plan. It’s an agenda that was mostly laid out by the governor during his State of the State in January, and it’s important to note that there were few specifics associated with the major priority points.
Assembly Republicans also laid out an agenda that was fairly broad in scope; however, they have a particularly tough row to hoe. They are not only the minority; they are a super minority – meaning as long as Democrats have all the votes in their own party, they do not need a single Republican vote.
For Republicans, a lot of their priorities are pie in the sky. And if you talk to them, they know that what they say they are looking for more than anything is a seat at the table to hash things out and maybe get a little compromise in the process. I also think it’s important to note that in both the Republican and Democratic plans, the basic priorities are the same. Both want better schools, safer neighborhoods, and improved access to healthcare.
That’s actually a point made by Assembly Minority Leader Jim Wheeler of Minden. In his remarks, he says the two groups have the same end goal.
“We saw a blueprint rolled out the other day, and I think when you look at the headings, we all want the same thing; we all want a prosperous Nevada. How we get there is the difference, so it’s going to take some negotiations. It’s going to take actually talking about things. It’s going to take looking back and seeing what’s worked, especially since the recession.”
So, while it is still fairly early in the session, we are seeing some important legislation making its way through the legislature. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
One major takeaway from both the governor’s State of the State address and the presentations of both parties' agendas last week is that nobody in the state wants to cede Nevada’s edge on economic development.
I think you’re seeing that in a set of bills presented by Republican Senator Ben Kieckhefer of Reno. Last week, Kieckhefer presented SB 162 and 163 to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Essentially, the two bills seek to further cement Nevada as the home for blockchain technology. If you’re not familiar, blockchains were created for use with crypto-currencies, but over the last few years, they are becoming widely used for record keeping. And in that time, the state has worked hard to attract companies interested in that kind of tech – most notably BlockChains, LLC, which purchased a sizable chunk of the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center last year.
Kieckhefer says the investing in blockchains can help set the Silver State apart from others trying to attract members of the tech industry.
“This continues moving the ball forward by specifically recognizing that blockchains are legitimate ways for corporations and other business entities to manage their internal documents, and that’s legal and recognized here in the state of Nevada,” Kieckhefer says.
I also think I would be remiss if I didn’t point out a few other bills lawmakers looked at last week, including a measure that would have Nevada join the growing number of states calling for the end of the electoral college in favor of the popular vote in presidential elections. There’s also a proposed ban on marriages for people under 18, as well as a controversial measure that would double the sentence of anyone caught committing a crime with a weapon.
Wrapping up, what can we expect to see next week?
Well, over the next week or so, I think you’re really going to see lawmakers ramp up the number of bill hearings. That’s because we’re officially a month into the session now. Many of the 1,000 or so bill draft requests have been turned into actual pieces of legislation, so that helps. But, also, everybody has gotten their feet wet, and lawmakers have become reacquainted with the process – which always takes a little bit of time at the start of a session.
This week, lawmakers are set to hear a number of measures including SB57 and 89. Those measures are actually part of the recommendations from a statewide school safety task force created by Governor Brian Sandoval last year. The first measure would essentially make school plans or blueprints confidential. The other is a much broader piece of legislation, that, among other things, would re-designate school resource officers, require schools to create an action plan for emergencies and change the guidelines for disciplining students.
There are also measures that range from placing DMVs in rural areas like West Wendover and Caliente to the creation of a statewide cybersecurity awareness month. There’s also an interesting piece of legislation that would prohibit groups from preventing pharmacists from telling patients about lower priced or more effective drugs. That’s all on the docket this week