There are close to 1,000 bills currently before the Nevada legislature, and nearly half of them have been introduced in the past seven days. Many of those new bills came after legislative leaders extended a deadline for introductions. To get the latest from Nevada's capital city, KUNR's Michelle Billman spoke with Political Reporter Paul Boger.
It was another busy week at the legislature. Why don’t we start off talking about that major deadline that started off the week? Where to start?
So, last Monday was supposed to be the first major deadline of the legislative session. Lawmakers were supposed to introduce all measures by individual legislators if they were to be considered during the 2019 session. What happened is that lawmakers voted to change the rules and give themselves a one-week extension. According to legislative leaders, the extension is due to complications arising from the resignations of Senator Kelvin Atkinson and Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle. Now, that deadline is Monday.
So, what are some of the bills you’re keeping an eye on?
We’ve really got a lot of stuff to look at now. There's a measure that would require private employers with a certain number of workers to provide paid sick leave. There are also measures aimed at restoring prevailing wages for public construction measures. There are campaign finance measures and bills aimed at allowing former felons to vote. There’s also more gun legislation on the way, so we’re not done with that issue yet this session.
There were also a few fairly controversial measures that went before a public hearing last week. Can you tell us any more about those?
First and foremost, I think we need to talk about AB325. It’s a measure that would essentially eliminate cash bail in the state’s criminal justice system except as a last resort, meaning that most offenders will no longer have to pay a certain amount of money in order to leave jail after an arrest. Instead, judges would have more leeway on what requirements are needed in order to release someone from jail.
That bill is getting quite a bit of criticism from the law enforcement community as well as bail bondsmen across the state. You know, this could effectively put them out of business. Supporters say bail can often disproportionately affect the poor, who may have to stay in jail for an extended period of time, because they can’t afford the bond, and that the measure would stop the practice of incarceration before trial.
There was also a lengthy hearing on a bill that would create a database to track data about high-interest, short-term loans (payday loans). Senate Bill 201 would require businesses that supply these loans to include information on loan amounts, the fees they assess and all interest charged on loans. This is another one of those controversial bills that led to a fairly lengthy hearing.
Supporters say collecting this type of data may help impose new regulations on an industry that preys on lower socio-economic groups. Opponents, mostly lobbyists for the industry, say that the bill, which requires businesses to attach a small fee to the loan, could have a significant impact on interest payments.
Lastly, I feel like we should touch on SB179, which was presented to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee by Senator Yvanna Cancela. This one would officially decriminalize abortions in Nevada, nearly 30 years after voters placed the right into state law. The measure also repeals a portion of state law that requires that doctors inform patients as to possible emotional side effects of an abortion. I’ll leave it up to you as to why this particular measure was a bit controversial.