Nevada’s 2019 Legislative Session is halfway over, and with less than 60 days left in the 120-day session, lawmakers still have a lot of work to do. To get the latest from Carson City, KUNR’s News Director Michelle Billman spoke with Political Reporter Paul Boger.
Paul, thanks for joining me. I know things have been a bit hectic in Carson.
That is definitely a very fitting word, hectic. So, this is the particularly busy part of the session where lawmakers are holding their first hearings on most of the legislation that is up this session. It can be a bit of a whirlwind. For example, between today and tomorrow, more than 80 bill hearings are scheduled. So, there is a lot of running around, right now.
With so many bills up for consideration, what are you keeping you on?
Jumping right in, AB411 would decriminalize most minor traffic misdemeanors and instead treat them as civil infractions.
There’s also SB326, introduced by Senator Pat Spearman of Las Vegas, which would restore voting rights to anyone released from prison unless they were convicted of using force or violence against a child, sexual abuse of a child or murder. Those particular individuals would be able to petition a court two years after their release from prison or completion of parole or probation for the restoration of their right to vote.
Aimed at curbing the state’s high rate of human trafficking, Spearman also co-sponsored SB413 which would criminalize prostitution in Nevada. At that same time, another measure seeks to create a study looking at working conditions in the brothels.
I also want to touch on Opportunity Scholarships, it’s a program that allows parents who meet certain needs criteria to get state support to send special needs students to private schools which may be better able to serve their needs. Under the current language, funding for the program grows at a rate of ten percent every biennium. However, Democratic leaders have been critical of the program likening it to the state’s stalled school voucher program. A proposed measure would instead cap the measure at about 6.7 million dollars annually.
But what about those major priorities items we heard so much about from the governor in his State of the State and from Democratic leaders at the start of the session?
Last week, we finally saw lawmakers take up a pair of measures that deal with collective bargaining for state employees. Allowing state workers to unionize is a major priority for Governor Sisolak who mentioned it in his State of the State address in January.
We also heard a rather substantial hearing on SB358. This place into law the same increase of the state’s renewable portfolio standards that voters approved in the 2018 general election. And, just like Question 6, under the bill, utility providers would be required to get 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. And it’s interesting that, just like Question 6, the measure is receiving tremendous support from both the public and industry alike.
Alright, Paul, wrapping up, what can we expect to see this week?
Well Michelle, this week we’re heading into another major deadline.
Friday marks the last day legislators can vote bills out of their house’s committee if they’re to remain up for consideration this session. In other words, if an Assembly committee decides not to act on a particular Assembly bill, then it’s dead. It’s the same deal for the Senate. So, while there are close to a thousand bills now, Friday at midnight there’s going to be a culling. And at 12:01, Saturday, likely hundreds of those measures will be dead.
But before lawmakers get to that, there is still a whole lot of work to do. Some of the more interesting bills coming up include a slew of education a measure that essentially guts the state’s “Read by Three” program. Another would place caps on student-teacher ratios across the state. On the higher-education front, lawmakers are continuing to reform the Nevada System of Higher Education, they also want to make school tuition-free for Purple Heart recipients. There’s also more action coming on residential solar and net-metering.
Lastly, the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor will look at a bill clarifying the legality of using electric scooters on public roads. That could be interesting considering the bike-share program, Lime, tried to release a scooter-share program in Reno and Sparks last year. That was quickly quashed partly due to the legality question.