Budget Closings Set to Begin
Since the beginning of session, the Senate Committee on Finance (SFIN) and the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means, known as the “money committees,” have been meeting almost daily to review the Governor’s recommended budget. SFIN has completed its hearings on 100 percent of the 442 budget accounts in the Governor’s proposed Executive Budget, one week ahead of schedule. The money committees will now begin the budget closing process where they make their final decisions on either accepting or revising the Governor’s spending recommendations.
Work sessions will be conducted, with closing documents provided by the LCB Fiscal Analysis Division staff. These work sessions will consist of open committee member discussions. Public testimony will not be allowed, although State agency staff may be invited to answer questions as necessary and provide updated information. Some closings that involve no major funding or new policy changes will be accomplished by staff. The Joint Subcommittees will close the budgets that they reviewed and report their recommendations to the full money committees in each chamber (Assembly and Senate). Letters of intent may be prepared to provide further direction to State agencies and departments. Closing differences between the two chambers will be resolved later in the session. A verbal explanation of the closing process was provided by the Senate Fiscal Analyst in a 24-minute video of the SFIN meeting on Monday, March 16.
By the end of the seventh week, 423 Assembly bills and 420 Senate bills had been introduced. Of the total 843 bills introduced in the Legislature by the end of the seventh week, 269 were committee introductions that essentially are controlled by the majority party in each House, and 574 were introduced by individual Legislators.
The bills introduced by Legislators may be co-sponsored by other lawmakers. An indicator of bipartisanship is the number of bills that attract co-sponsors from the other party. Among the current, total 574 legislator bills, 123 (21.4 percent) were bipartisan in that they included one or more co-sponsors from the opposite party. Among the 294 Senate bills in that category, 51 (17.3 percent) were bipartisan. Among the similar 280 Assembly bills, there were 72 (25.7 percent) that featured bipartisan support.
Committee Hearings and Actions (Seventh Week)
On Monday, March 16
SCL considered SB242 to adopt certain provisions of the Community Financial Services Association (CFSA) of America’s best practices for the payday loan industry. There was widespread support for the measure and testimony indicated that these practices generally are being followed by most payday loan companies. Amendments are under development to address certain duplicative, technical and terminology concerns raised by the CFSA and the State’s Financial Institutions Division.
ACL heard AB179, which is a data breach notification proposal that expands the definition of “personal information” for businesses that collect such information to include certain electronic, passport, and medical and health information that would increase a person’s likelihood for identity theft. The sponsor proposed an amendment to clarify the definition, and the exhibits included a Guide to Protecting the Confidentiality of Personally Identifiable Information from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
AED heard AB234, which would require the State Board of Education to adopt a program of multicultural education for pupils enrolled in grades 2 through 12. It would also require certain licensed teachers to complete a course in multicultural education for renewal of their license. The Clark County School District submitted a proposed amendment to ensure the program is aligned to the Nevada Academic Content Standards. The Committee also heard AB226, which provides for payment of certain undergraduate fees and expenses of a dependent child of a public employee killed while at work.
Additionally, the AED Committee held a work session on two bills: AB111 and AB121. The Committee amended and approved AB111, which increases the number of credits that community college students must take to remain eligible for the Millennium Scholarship from 6 to 9, beginning July 1, 2015. A provision that would have increased the number of required credits from 9 to 12 by July 1, 2016 was deleted by the amendment. The bill also increases the amount of money a student may receive on a per credit basis each semester from 12 to 13 by July 1, 2015, from 13 to 14 by July 1, 2016, and from 14 to 15 by July 1, 2017. Assembly members E. Anderson, Diaz, Joiner, and Flores voted against the bill over concerns about the incremental nature of the increases in the number of credit hours that can be reimbursed. These members were concerned that students would not be able to find one or two-credit courses relevant to their course of study or would have to take a three-unit course that would not be fully reimbursed. The Committee also amended and approved AB121, which prohibits a school from disciplining a pupil for: simulating a firearm or other dangerous weapon while playing; wearing clothing or accessories that depict such weapons; or expressing an opinion about the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The amendment limited the bill to grades K-8 and clarified that actions cannot substantially disrupt the educational environment. Assemblyman Elliot Anderson discussed the possibility of amending the bill to allow students to express any constitutional right and to allow teachers to ban all toys, but no action was taken. Assembly members Diaz, Anderson, and Joiner voted against the bill.
SLOE conducted a work session and passed SJR2, which urges Congress to share federal receipts from commercial activity on certain public lands with the State and its counties. It also amended and passed SJR3 that would amend the Nevada Constitution to provide for the joint election of the Lieutenant Governor with the Governor. The amendment added provisions for joint campaign contributions and to specify the time period for the gubernatorial candidates to designate a running mate.
On Tuesday, March 17
AWM/SFIN in its Subcommittee on K-12/Higher Education/CIPS considered several budget accounts related to K-12 education. The Guinn Center testified on the Office of Early Learning and Development budget based on its recommendations in a report coauthored with Nevada Succeeds: Examining Nevada’s Education Priorities: Which Initiatives are Worth the Investment?In its testimony, the Guinn Center recommended that the State appropriate $10 million as a match to $20 million in Federal funds recently awarded to Nevada through the Race to the Top in Early Childhood grant.
AWM/SFIN in its Joint Subcommittee on Public Safety, Natural Resources, and Transportation reviewed the budgets and received presentations from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) that focused on its Criminal History Repository, and from the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) on its Administration and Bond Construction program. The DPS presentation highlighted its Disposition Backfill Project to address a backlog of over 900,000 newly discovered court dispositions to post to the criminal history, and its ongoing, complex Modernization Project for the Nevada Criminal Justice Information System. The NDOT presentation included an overview, its funding and bonding status, and enhancements, along with its major projects such as the NEON and Boulder City Bypass in southern Nevada, and the USA Parkway and Carson City Bypass in the north.
ATAX held an overview and discussion of property taxes with presentations from the Department of Taxation, Nevada Association of Counties, Nye County, Clark County, and the City of Las Vegas. The presentations focused on the effects of the abatements and the changes that have made this revenue source no longer stable and predictable.
SREV amended and passed SB170 that provides for a partial abatement of certain property and sales taxes for new or expanding data centers and related businesses in Nevada. The work session document contains a summary of the bill and the adopted amendments. The Committee also considered SJR13 that proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution to limit the total amount of property taxes that may be levied on real property.
SED heard a presentation from Senator Joyce Woodhouse (D-Henderson) on SB220, which would require instruction on financial literacy in public middle schools and junior high schools. An amendment was proposed by the Clark County School District to limit the program to high school and to not include financial literacy in the math curriculum because it does not align with the Nevada Academic Content Standards or the Smarter Balanced Assessments that students are required to take. Another option discussed was to ask the State Board of Education to modify social studies standards to include financial literacy.
The SED committee held a work session on three bills. Two bills were approved as written: SB212, which provides more discretion to schools regarding the discipline of pupils; and AB76, which makes changes to the education of veterans and their dependents. The Committee amended and approved SB133, which creates the Teachers’ School Supplies Reimbursement Account and requires the Department of Education to annually apportion money deposited in the account among the school districts, based upon the number of teachers employed by each district. It also requires the board of trustees of each school district to establish a special revenue fund for the deposit of money received from the Account and to reimburse teachers, up to $100 annually, for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in purchasing certain school supplies. The amendment excludes substitute teachers and adds charter schools; increases the maximum annual reimbursement from $100 to $250, as determined annually by the Department of Education based upon available funding; removes the requirement that the Department regulate the reimbursement process, and provides flexibility to school districts and charter schools in designing local implementation; requires receipts be submitted to and retained by the school for possible inspection by the Department; and allows unclaimed property of less than $500 to be donated to the Teachers’ School Supplies Reimbursement Account by the person holding the claim.
On Wednesday, March 18
AJUD amended and passed AB148, known as the “campus carry” bill, to authorize persons with concealed firearms permits to carry their weapons on the property of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), a public or private school, a child care facility, and unsecured areas of an airport with a 9 to 4 vote. The amendment deletes a public or private school and a child care facility, and includes the provisions in AB2 that allow the possession of such weapons at educational and child care facilities in occupied or locked vehicles. It also makes void and prohibits rules by the Board of Regents that would require concealed firearms permit holders to obtain permission to carry on campuses.
AWM/SFIN in its Joint Subcommittee on Human Resources reviewed the budgets and received a presentation from the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR). Along with its budgets and enhancements relating to vocational rehabilitation, unemployment compensation, the Equal Rights Commission, and workforce development services, the presentation included a new Nevada P20 Workforce Reporting Program to link and aggregate education and workforce data.
SREV/ATAX in a joint meeting, which lasted more than nine hours and was attended by other legislators, considered SB252 to revise provisions governing the State’s business license fee, which is the Governor’s major tax reform proposal. The historic hearing began with supportive statements concerning the need for education reform and a more stable revenue system from Governor Brian Sandoval (R), who was followed by former Governors Bob List (R), Richard Bryan (D), and Bob Miller (D). Representatives from the Governor’s Office, Applied Analysis, and the Department of Taxation explained the development of the tax reform proposal, reviewed the provisions in the 130-page bill, and responded to Committee questions. Questions and recommendations outlined in the Guinn Center’s policy brief, The Business License Fee: What We Still Don’t Know, were posed of the Business License Fee architects during the hearing. A wide range of economic development and business leaders and organizations spoke in favor of the proposal, including the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, Nevada Resort Association, Nevada Mining Association, hospitals, construction organizations, Switch, SolarCity, Nevadans for a Common Good, Council for a Better Nevada, taxicab companies, the Latin Chamber of Commerce, the Urban Chamber of Commerce and many others. Opposition and neutral testimony was presented by some small businesses and their representatives, and included the Nevada Taxpayers Association (neutral), Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce (neutral), Manufacturers Association, Nevada Trucking Association, Registered Agents Association, Nevada Retail Association, scrap metal operators, and others. (See Exhibits for submitted testimony.)
On Thursday, March 19
AWM/SFIN in its Joint Subcommittee on Public Safety, Natural Resources, and Transportation reviewed the budgets and received a presentation from the Department of Wildlife.
ANRAM received a presentation from the Nevada Mining Association, and a presentation and remarks from the Nevada Mineral Exploration Coalition.
ALOE heard AB252 relating to elections to create the Legislative Advisory Commission on Reapportionment and Redistricting to assist the Legislature with reapportionment. Among other things, this bill would (1) establish a five person Advisory Commission consisting of four members appointed by the majority and minority leaders of each House, and a Chair appointed by the Chief Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court; (2) direct the body to receive public testimony and consider standard redistricting guidelines in the development of its plans; and (3) require the Commission to submit three different reapportionment plans to the Legislature for all districts (Congressional, Assembly, Senate, and Board of Regents) within 30 days of the beginning of the redistricting session following the decennial census. The measure does not include a requirement for the Legislature to consider the Commission’s plans or a provision that would affect the Legislature’s authority to adopt its own plans. The 30-day deadline could be problematic for the development of a total 12 different plans in a short period of time. The detailed Census data necessary for redistricting in the past has not been received by the State until around the middle of February in redistricting years after the session has started.
The Committee also considered AJR6 to amend the Nevada Constitution to allow the Legislature to authorize a lottery for the support of public education and the health and welfare of senior citizens. Similar perennial proposals have been unsuccessful for many years in the Nevada Legislature.
The Senate Committee of the Whole conducted a hearing on SB252, the Governor’s proposed Business License Fee. The Committee conducted a question and answer session with the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, the Director of the Department of Taxation, and Applied Analysis. The Department of Taxation provided hypotheticals to show how the tax would be calculated for different types of businesses, examples of what would be subtracted from gross revenue, and examples of what is not included in the definition of a business. The Guinn Center testified in support of the measure and provided several recommendations from its report, The Business License Fee: What We Still Don’t Know.
On Friday, March 20
AGA considered AB300 to create the Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Administration. The sponsor’s amendment substantially modifies the bill to make the Office reportable to the Governor; and responsible for investigating, auditing, and reviewing the operations of State agencies and local government with a focus on occurrences of fraud, waste, abuse or corruption. The Committee also heard AB241 and its proposed amendment to create the Advisory Military and Veterans Research Committee which would be charged to conduct research on issues relating to pre- and post-deployment, homelessness, claims backlogs, mental health, and women veterans.
SCL considered SB251, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. This bill would create an expedited process for licensure for physicians who wish to practice in multiple states and would help facilitate telemedicine. The Guinn Center testified in support of the bill based on its recommendations in Nevada’s Mental Health Workforce: Shortages and Opportunities.
SCL in work session amended and passed SB193 relating to compensation for overtime. The measure removes provisions in Nevada law requiring payment of overtime for more than 8 hours of work in any workday, and retains existing provisions for overtime payments in excess of 40 hours in any work week. The bill was verbally amended to add an increase in the minimum wage from $8.25 to $9 per hour for employees who do not have health benefits. The amendment generated significant discussion among committee members and was adopted on a mostly party line vote.
SGA heard SB213 to revise provisions relating to Federal assistance received by State Executive Branch agencies, and SB214 to create the Nevada Advisory Council on Federal Assistance. Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R-CC and Washoe) sponsored the measures on behalf of the Nevada Community Foundation and Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce. He indicated there is a package of three bills (with BDR 839 yet to be introduced) to help the State receive its fair allocation and improve its bottom level rankings in per capita share of Federal grant funds. A presentation on these measures from the two organizations highlights this as a priority issue, and includes information on the current status, challenges, and goals of obtaining Federal grants, along with the purposes of the bills. Other informational handouts included Federal grant highlights and a conceptual amendment to SB214.
SED considered SB287, which requires instruction in cursive handwriting in all public elementary schools in Nevada. Some Legislators expressed concern about adding additional educational requirements given the existing demands on teachers to cover the Nevada Academic Content Standards. The Clark and Washoe County School Districts testified in opposition, stating that the bill is an unfunded mandate. The Committee also heard SB228, which revises provisions relating to disclosure of personally identifiable pupil information. As proposed to be amended, the bill prohibits a school district, public school, or private school from releasing personally identifiable information to anyone other than an employee of the school district or school without written consent. There was substantial testimony in support and opposition to the bill. The Nevada Department of Education testified in opposition because the inability to share certain data could put Federal education funds in jeopardy.
Floor Actions (Seventh Week)
On Monday, March 16, the Senate and Assembly adopted SCR3 to move the deadline in the Joint Standing Rules for the introduction of individual legislators’ BDR’s to the next day. The purpose was to allow the LCB Legal Division time to process all requested changes and additions to Legislators’ bill drafts. (More on the effects of 120-Day Calendar deadlines will be forthcoming in future editions of this Legislative Update.)
Eighth Week’s Committee Schedule (Monday, March 23—Friday, March 27, 2015)
Please note that committee meetings are added, particularly toward the end of the week, and agendas frequently are changed. Check the Calendar of Meetings or NELIS regularly for such additions and changes as the week progresses. Some highlighted meetings and selected bills currently scheduled for the eighth week are as follows.
On Monday, March 23
AJUD (8 am) hears AB283 to revise provisions governing law enforcement powers on certain lands. The measure establishes the circumstances under which a State or local law enforcement officer may recognize a federal employee’s exercise of law enforcement power on federal lands.
AGA (8:30 am) has a work session on AB54 to revise provisions relating to local governments existing in a severe financial emergency.
SJUD (1 pm) considers SB240 that makes certain changes relating to public safety that pertain to mental health adjudications and notifications, background checks and prohibitions on certain persons from possessing and selling firearms.
AED (3:15 pm) hears AB218 relating to emergencies in schools, AB221 relating to data concerning pupils, and AB395 pertaining to the State Public Charter School Authority. It also conducts a work session on AB206 to revise provisions relating to certain notices provided to parents of public school pupils.
The Senate Committee of the Whole (4 pm) continues its hearings on SB252, the Governor’s proposed Business License Fee.
On Tuesday, March 24
AGA (8 am) hears AB 347 that revises provisions relating to the drilling of conservation domestic wells, under the authority of the State Engineer in designated groundwater basins; and AB410 that requires proportional representation on certain major State boards and commissions based on the decennial census populations of the rural and two most populous urban regions of the State.
AJUD (8 am) considers AB239 that would regulate operators of unmanned aerial vehicles in the State, and AB337 to revise provisions governing the dissolution and annulment of marriage by removing the six-week residency requirement.
ATAX hears AB372 that establishes a tax credit for an insurer who meets certain economic development criteria in the State, AB391 to revise provisions governing the exemption from property taxes of certain property used for religious worship, and AB399 which directs the Office of Economic Development to create a pilot program to encourage the growth of existing businesses in this State.
SED (3:30 pm) considers SB236 relating to the Advisory Council on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic, SB414 regarding waivers of nonresident tuition to certain residents of the Lake Tahoe Basin, and SB418 relating to refunds paid by private postsecondary educational institutions.
SREV (3:30 pm) hears SB378 concerning governmental financial administration, which is the Democratic proposal for tax reform.
ALOE (4 pm) considers AB289 that directs the Legislative Commission to conduct an interim study on governance of mental health services.
On Wednesday, March 25
AED (3:15 pm) has scheduled AB278 that makes revisions governing class-size reduction, AB285 relating to the self-administration of certain medications in public schools, AB328 concerning certain hearings for pupils with disabilities, AB339 to revise provisions governing the composition of the boards of trustees of county school districts, and AB351 relating to projects to benefit charter schools.
On Thursday, March 26
ATAX (1 pm) hears AB316 that revises provisions governing the taxation of occasional sales of firearms, and AB366 relating to the use of certain motor vehicle fuel taxes.
On Friday, March 27
AJUD (8 am) considers AB277 to enact the Nevada Protection of Religious Freedom Act.
U.S. Representative Joe Heck is scheduled to address the Legislature on Monday, March 30, at 5 pm in the Assembly Chamber.
U.S. Senator Harry Reid is scheduled to address the Legislature on Wednesday, April 1, at 12:00 pm in the Assembly Chamber.
U.S. Senator Dean Heller is scheduled to address the Legislature on Monday, April 6, at 5:00 pm in the Assembly Chamber.
U.S. Representative Cresent Hardy is scheduled to address the Legislature on Wednesday, April 8, at 5:00 pm in the Assembly Chamber.
The State of the Judiciary address is scheduled for Wednesday, April 15, at 5 pm in the Assembly Chamber.