Conference Committee Meetings
Conference committees start appearing more often near the end of session as one House makes changes to a measure from the other House. If an amendment to a bill in the second House does not receive concurrence from the House of origin, and the second House does not recede from its amendment, a conference committee is called to attempt to resolve the differences. The procedures governing conference committees are specified in Rule No. 1 of the Joint Standing Rules of the Senate and Assembly for the 78th Session of the Legislature (ACR1). Minor or extensive changes can be made by a conference committee. Such meetings are required to be public (although they typically are not video conferenced or available for viewing on the Internet). Additionally, only one conference committee is allowed on any bill or resolution, and a conference committee report is not subject to amendment and may be adopted by acclamation in each House.
By the end of the fifteenth week, 486 Assembly bills and 510 Senate bills had been introduced. Of the total 996 bills introduced in the Legislature at this time, 422 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, 124 (21.6 percent) were bipartisan in that they included one or more co-sponsors from the opposite party. Among the 294 Senate bills in that category, 53 (18 percent) were bipartisan. Among the similar 280 Assembly bills, there were 71 (25.4 percent) that featured bipartisan support.
Note: Bills going forward may be designated as (R1), (R2), and so forth to indicate the First or Second Reprints, etc. that reflect the latest amended versions that were adopted by the respective Houses during the legislative process.
Committee Hearings and Actions (Fifteenth Week)
On Monday, May 11
AWM/SFIN, in its Subcommittee on Human Services, closed budgets in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), including the Directors Office, the Division of Health Care Financing and Policy, and the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services. The Division of Health Care Financing and Policy submitted a prioritized list of the 41 new positions included in the Governor’s budget. The Subcommittee had extensive discussion about proposed reductions in Medicare reimbursement rates for primary care providers and proposed increases in the reimbursement rate for acute inpatient hospital services.
AWM/SFIN, in its Subcommittee on General Government, closed certain budgets in the Department of Business and Industry relating to real estate administration and common interest communities. The Subcommittee approved various fee increases and the restoration of certain administrative real estate positions to maintain the status quo for customer service, contingent upon the full committee’s approval and use of the funding savings from elimination of the Foreclosure Mediation Program in the Judicial Branch.
AGA heard SB70(R1) on behalf of the Attorney General to clarify provisions and provide guidance to public bodies relating to the Open Meeting Law. The committee also considered SB406(R1) to make comprehensive reforms to the State’s public employee retirement systems for new employees beginning July 1, 2015. The measure includes revisions relating to the forfeiture of benefits for felony convictions involving the misuse of a public office, postretirement increases, age and eligibility requirements, the multiplier for compensation, and beneficiary and other changes. The bill received substantial support and neutral testimony.
ACL, in work session, approved SB251, which ratifies the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. This compact provides a streamlined process that allows physicians to become licensed in multiple states. The Guinn Center previously testified in support of the compact based on our recommendations in Nevada’s Mental Health Workforce: Shortages and Opportunities.
AHHS considered SB35 that ratifies and enacts the Interstate Compact on Mental Health to be administered by the head of the Division of Public and Behavioral Health. The compact, with 45 other states, provides for uniform national standards and procedures to reconnect patients with their families and home state of residence. The only nonparticipating states at this time are Arizona, California, Mississippi, Virginia, and currently Nevada. The committee also heard SB314(R1), which is a priority of the Southern Nevada Forum, to reform the governance structure of the Southern Nevada Health District. The bill revises the composition of the District’s Board to reduce its membership from 14 to 11 voting members, and provides for a district administrative director and a public health advisory board. The measure was opposed by the Health District and others. Both of these bills were approved without change by AHHS in its work session on Wednesday, May 13.
SLOE heard two bills relating to redistricting procedures. AB252(R1) would create the Legislative Advisory Commission on Reapportionment and Redistricting to assist with developing redistricting plans for congressional, State Senate and Assembly, and Board of Regents districts that would not be binding on the Legislature. AB460 expresses the intent of the Legislature to increase its size by one Senator and two Assemblypersons in the next redistricting cycle and requires the LCB to study and report on the logistical effects of such an increase. In addition, SLOE considered SJR8 from the 2013 session that would amend the Nevada Constitution to provide for limited annual sessions and related revisions. If approved by the 2015 session without any changes, this measure would be subject to voter approval at the 2016 General Election.
On Tuesday, May 12
SFIN/AWM, meeting jointly, closed the budget to re-establish the Office of Science, Innovation and Technology in the Office of the Governor, which would promote the development of a skilled workforce in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) and improve broadband availability, adoption, and use throughout the State. The closing included approval of four non-classified positions, contract costs for expanding broadband planning and implementation, and $3 million over the biennium to fund the STEM Grant Challenge Program.
The joint SFIN/AWM committee reviewed and approved subcommittee budget closings reports for nine departments and agencies. In the Department of Taxation, additional staffing will be included in the back language of the Appropriations Act depending on final approval of the tax reform proposal. For the Department of Education’s budgets, the subcommittee’s actions resulted in a decrease in General Fund appropriations recommended by the Governor of $602,726 in FY 2016 and $1,076,555 in FY 2017. These budgets include the State match for a new Federal preschool grant, as well as various positions and evaluations to implement the Governor’s major education initiatives. The State Public Charter School Authority’s (SPCSA) budget includes new positions, which will be funded by the SPCSA’s fee revenue and will have no impact on the General Fund. For the Aging and Disability Services Division in DHHS, $2.2 million was redirected to the Interim Finance Committee Contingency Account to fund additional autism treatment services if sufficient providers become available and more children can be served, and the provider rate increase for certain clinical services was spread over the biennium, rather than just provided in the second year. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources closing included the new budget for, and creation of, the Bureau of Industrial Site Cleanup to handle the settlement trust funds and activities for the cleanup of perchlorate and other hazardous substances released from the Former Kerr-McGee Tronox site in southern Nevada. For the Department of Wildlife, the Assembly agreed with the Senate’s approval for a public education and outreach video program on bear and coyote issues. The Department of Transportation closing included approval of highway revenue bond sales totaling $250 million during the biennium for Project NEON in the spaghetti bowl area of Las Vegas, and establishment of the new Environmental Division for the storm water program. Lastly, SFIN/AWM jointly approved the closings reports for the Public Employees’ Benefits Program and the Department of Veterans’ Services based on the Governor’s recommendations.
AGA, in work session, approved SB289(R1) that requires the Information Technology Advisory Board to conduct a study of peering, which is the voluntary physical interconnection of administratively separate Internet networks for exchanging traffic between network users. The study is to include an analysis of potential benefits of peering arrangements to the State and its political subdivisions, and a report and recommendations are required for the next legislative session.
AWM considered and approved SB504(R1) regarding school bullying. The measure includes consequences for administrators and principals if action is not taken. In addition, the bill creates the Office of Safe and Respectful Learning in the Department of Education, which will maintain a bullying hotline and provide training and outreach. The funds and positions for this office were approved earlier in the day in the joint meeting of SFIN and AWM. On Wednesday, May 13, the full Assembly approved SB504(R1) with a vote of 36-6. The committee also held a policy discussion on the regulation of transportation network companies by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, relating to the Senate’s passage of AB175(R2) which had not yet been received by the Assembly.
SED heard AB121(R1), which prohibits a school from disciplining pupils in grades K-8 for simulating a firearm or dangerous weapon, wearing clothing or accessories that depict a firearm or dangerous weapon, or expressing certain opinions except in certain circumstances. SED also heard AB206(R1), which requires notices provided by schools to parents/guardians regarding health screenings or bullying to include a list of available community resources. In work session, SED amended and approved SB332, which appropriates $2 million over the biennium for the peer assistance and review program in the Clark County School District. The amendment clarifies that the program is for assistance and review instead of evaluation. SED also amended and approved AB107(R1), which requires school districts and the State Public Charter School Authority to disaggregate school accountability data for pupils eligible for free and reduced price lunch by race. The amendment clarifies that data will be collected based upon both race and ethnicity. The committee also approved three bills: (1) AB278(R1), which requires the Department of Education to develop certain policies, procedures and guidance related to the class-size reduction (CSR) program and requires the Legislative Auditor to conduct an audit of how each district utilized the CSR funds; (2) AB285(R1), which allows pupils to self-administer prescribed medications for diabetes under certain circumstances; and (3) AB351(R1), which revises and expands eligibility requirements for charter schools that wish to receive State bond funding for capital facilities costs to those charter schools that have received a three, four, or five-star rating in the last two consecutive years.
SREV heard AB17(R1) that provides for the establishment of a nonprofit entity for economic development which allows continuation of the Federal State Small Business Credit Initiative, and authorizes confidentiality to extend beyond the application and approval process to protect proprietary business information. An explanation of the measure was provided by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development that included comparisons of confidentiality provisions in the surrounding states. The Committee also considered AB116(R1) to revise membership and reporting provisions for the Regional Business Development Advisory Council for Clark County that addresses the economic development of local businesses owned and operated by disadvantaged persons. Lastly, SREV heard AB451 that revises provisions relating to the UNLV Campus Improvement Authority for examining a stadium project to extend its expiration date, boundary, and meeting location. These three bills were approved without changes at the SREV meeting on Thursday, May 14 (see Exhibits for the work session documents).
ALOE considered SJR3(R1) that proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution to provide for the joint election of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and SJR17(R1) that proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution to expand the rights guaranteed to victims of crime, also known as Marsy’s Law. The Committee also heard SB19(R1) to authorize a school district to place an advisory question on the ballot of a general election. In work session, ALOE approved, on a party-line vote, SJR1(R1) that urges Congress to enact legislation transferring title to certain public lands to the State in accordance with the report prepared by the Nevada Land Management Task Force. SJR21(R1) also was approved to urge Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
SFIN heard several budget implementation bills that included SB502(R1), which makes a $40.5 million appropriation to the Department of Motor Vehicles for the modernization of its information technology platform, and authorizes a $1 technology fee for each paid transaction to help finance the modernization and continuing improvements.
On Wednesday, May 13
AWM/SFIN, meeting jointly, reviewed and approved seven subcommittee budget closings reports. For the Judicial Branch closing, the Senate agreed with the Assembly on increasing the hourly rate and expenses for settlement judges, and the closings report was approved on a mostly party-line vote due to objections by Democratic legislators concerning the closure and elimination of the Foreclosure Mediation Program during the biennium. The opposing members all expressed support for the remainder of the Judicial Branch’s budget. Within the budgets of the Division of Public and Behavioral Health in DHHS, the Governor originally recommended saving $40.9 million in General Funds over the biennium by shifting costs to Medicaid for mental health inpatient and outpatient managed care costs. The Governor now projects that Medicaid reimbursements will be $21.3 million less than anticipated. Private providers are now serving clients eligible for Medicaid due to a significant increase in the reimbursement rate for inpatient mental health treatment. In addition, the Committee voted not to shift responsibility for commitment costs of un-restorable defendants from the State to counties as recommended in SB487, which will increase General Fund costs by $2.6 billion over the biennium. The closings reports for the Division of Child and Family Services in DHHS, Department of Administration and its State Public Works Division, and Department of Public Safety were approved with no changes. The Department of Motor Vehicles closings report included approval of the continuing redirection to the General Fund of Governmental Services Tax commissions and penalties funds of $60.8 million over the biennium, and the Assembly concurred with the Senate on the eight-year, rolling reissuance of license plates.
SGA heard AB54(R1) that revises provisions relating to local governments existing in a severe financial emergency. The Department of Taxation provided a detailed review of the bill. In work session, the committee amended and approved AB364(R1) relating to the State business portal to establish common business registration information and electronic integration as feasible with State and local agencies and health districts. This bill is a priority of the Southern Nevada Forum and the amendments were agreed to by interested parties (see page 29 of the work session document). SGA also approved AB162(R1) to revise provisions governing the use of portable event recording devices by law enforcement.
ACL, in work session, amended and approved SB68(R1), which expedites licensure for health professionals coming from other states. The amendment makes certain language consistent with similar provisions in AB89(R1). The amendment also includes technical changes requested for physicians, optometrists, podiatrists, and social workers. The Guinn Center previously testified on this bill based on our recommendations in Nevada’s Mental Health Workforce: Shortages and Opportunities. The committee also approved SB242(R1) to require payday lenders to use best practices.
AED, in work session, amended and approved SB330(R2), regarding interscholastic sports. The amendment deletes reference to “participation or practice in a sanctioned sport” in a provision that would require rules and regulations governing sports eligibility of students who transfer from one school to another to apply equally to public and private schools. AED also approved SB394(R1), regarding personal safety of children.
SLOE heard three interim study committee measures: SB269 to research issues regarding the behavioral health and cognitive care of older persons, SB360 to investigate the viability of establishing entities to help finance the use and harnessing of clean energy in this State, and SCR4 relating to energy efficiency programs. An amendment was proposed to place the SB360 study into the jurisdiction of the interim Legislative Committee on Energy. Typically, near the end of session, both Houses through their SLOE and ALOE committees set priorities and decide among the many interim study proposals based on their need and the staffing and funding resources of the LCB and Legislative Commission available during the interim period. In work session, SLOE approved several bills that included AB252(R1) to establish the Legislative Advisory Commission on Reapportionment and Redistricting, and AB460 to express the Legislature’s intent to increase its membership in the next redistricting cycle.
On Thursday, May 14
SFIN/AWM, in its Subcommittee on Public Safety, Natural Resources, and Transportation, conducted the budget closing for Parole and Probation in the Department of Public Safety. The closing included increased funding and caseload projections and staffing adjustments totaling 26 new positions for the agency.
ATAX received a presentation on an Overview and Discussion of an Alternative Revenue Proposal from State Controller Ron Knecht and Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R-Minden) which is called the Balanced Plan for Growth. In work session, the committee approved several measures that included SB74(R1) relating to the partial abatement of taxes for new or expanding businesses in the State, and SB94(R1) that makes changes to the program for transferable tax credits for film and other productions. The work session documents for SB74 and SB94 further explain the bills.
ALOE, in work session, approved without changes SB19(R1) to authorize school district boards to place an advisory question on a general election ballot, SB293(R1) relating to the disposition of unspent campaign contributions, SB403(R1) to provide for reimbursements of contributions for candidates determined by a court to have violated residency requirements, and SB499(R1) concerning certain election deadlines. (See Exhibits for specific work session documents.) The committee amended and approved SB5(R1) governing elections for nonpartisan offices. SB307 was amended and approved to revise provisions concerning Nevada’s Lobbying and Financial Disclosure Acts. The amendment retains existing law for quarterly, rather than monthly, reporting, and a report on contribution and expenditure statistics was provided from the Secretary of State. During the ALOE work session, three measures failed to pass: SB274(R1) governing the State’s delegates to any Federal constitutional conventions, and two proposed constitutional amendments; SJR3(R1) relating to the joint election of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and SJR17(R1) to expand the rights guaranteed to victims of crime.
SED heard AB120(R1), which clarifies that public school pupils are entitled to free exercise of religion and freedom of expression provided that such expression does not disrupt instruction at a public school, is not used to bully or intimidate any person, and is not organized or endorsed by the public school. The bill also requires creation of a grievance process for pupils claiming these rights have been violated.
SED also conducted a work session on several bills. The Committee amended and approved AB447 regarding implementation of the teacher evaluation system. The amendment: (1) excludes the use of student achievement data in the Nevada Educator Performance Framework (NEPF) for FY 2016; (2) changes the weighting of student achievement data within the NEPF from 50 percent to 20 percent in FY 2017, and then to 40 percent in FY 2018; (3) allows a school district to choose one or more of the local assessments designated by the State Board, or apply to use a different assessment; (4) makes supervisors of principals also subject to the NEPF; (5) authorizes the State Board to determine which other licensed personnel are evaluated and the manner in which to measure their performance; (6) requires those first-year probationary personnel, or those who are post-probationary and deemed minimally effective or ineffective to receive three scheduled observations and one summative evaluation each school year; (7) provides for less frequent observations of probationary teachers evaluated as effective or highly effective; and (8) authorizes school districts to apply to the State Board to use a different but equivalent evaluation system.
The Committee approved AB121(R1), which prohibits a school from disciplining pupils in grades K-8 for simulating a firearm or dangerous weapon, wearing clothing or accessories that depicts a firearm or dangerous weapon, or expressing certain opinions except in certain circumstances. The committee also amended and approved AB205(R1), which requires the Legislative Committee on Education to consider guidelines, parameters, and financial plans for mentorship programs in Nevada to address issues relating to education, health, criminal justice, and employment of school-age children. The amendment adds college and career readiness to the list of issues. SED amended and approved AB206(R1), which requires notices provided by schools to parents/guardians regarding health screenings or bullying to include a list of available community resources. The amendment makes technical changes to conform to language regarding bullying in SB504(R1), which has been approved by both houses. The Committee also amended and approved AB321(R1), which clarifies that the jurisdiction of school police officers extends to all charter school property, buildings, and facilities. Lastly, SED amended and approved AB341(R1) which creates requirements for screening and services for students with dyslexia.
SREV heard and approved AB391 to provide an exemption from property taxes for certain property used for religious worship. In work session, the committee also approved AB32(R1) relating to the reporting and taxation of liquefied petroleum gas (propane) and compressed natural gas, AB57 concerning purchases of direct mail, and AB366(R1) to provide local government flexibility in the use of motor vehicle taxes within rights of way of roadway construction projects. (See Exhibits for specific work session documents.) SREV also amended and approved AB83(R1) to allow for the licensing and inspection of manufacturers that use commercial grade cigarette rolling machines.
AWM amended and approved AB448(R1), which creates the Achievement School District. This measure allows low performing schools to be converted to charter schools. The amendment: (1) limits the number of schools going into the ASD to six per year; (2) clarifies that if a school is converted to an achievement charter school, the school district is not required to give the school priority for capital projects unless it had already been identified as a priority; and (3) requires that students previously attending the school would attend the achievement charter school unless the parents opt out.
SFIN heard SB508, a key education measure which provides for long-term modernization of the Nevada Plan for K-12 finance. The Guinn Center testified on this bill based on our reports: Nevada K-12 Education Finance and Examining Nevada’s Education Priorities: Which Initiatives are Worth the Investment? The Guinn Center recommended: (1) greater specificity in the bill regarding a new weighted formula; and (2) moving towards per pupil funding based on adequacy in lieu of historic costs.
The Committee also heard several other bills related to education. SB302(R1) creates Education Savings Accounts. Families would receive a grant equal to 90-100 percent of per-pupil education funding and would be required to use funds to attend private schools or receive other educational services. SB460(R1) requires the State Board of Education to prescribe an alternative performance framework to evaluate certain schools which serve certain populations. SB461 provides individual graduation plans to allow certain high school pupils to remain enrolled in high school for an additional period to work towards graduation. SB509(R1) is a comprehensive charter school bill implementing national best practices. SB76(R1) makes technical changes related to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and allows participants seeking education and training in certain medical professions to qualify for loan forgiveness if their practice after graduation serves certain medically underserved populations as well as medically underserved areas, or health professional shortage areas, within Nevada. SB414(R1) encourages the Board of Regents of the University of Nevada to enter into a reciprocal agreement with the State of California to authorize waivers of nonresident tuition to certain residents of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
On Friday, May 15
SFIN/AWM, meeting jointly, closed the budget for the Nevada Catalyst Fund in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, which is intended to incentivize the expansion or relocation of businesses by focusing on high quality, primary jobs. The closing approved restoration of $7 million in FY2016 to cover current obligations of the account that are listed in an attachment to the closing document, and eliminated a $10 million appropriation to the fund depending upon further action with SB507 that changes the program to the issuance of transferable tax credits. The joint committee then acted on eight subcommittee budget closings reports.
The subcommittee report to close the NSHE budgets was approved. Among the approved items were: (1) General Fund Appropriations of $8.3 million for the UNLV Medical school; (2) $2.5 million for the University of Nevada Reno School of Medicine; and (3) $3.0 million in General Fund appropriation enhancement over the 2015-17 biennium to offset a revenue reduction resulting from lower enrollments. Several members raised concerns regarding: (1) whether F grades should be counted in weighted student credit hours used to determine funding; (2) funding reductions to Desert Research Institute; (3) funding reductions to rural community colleges, and (4) how the performance pool is a carve-out from existing funds instead of additional funding. A background handout on the priorities of the Desert Research Institute was provided in the exhibits. For the Department of Corrections, the closing was amended to clarify that funding for 55 of the 100 new positions will be held in the Interim Finance Committee’s Contingency Account for FY2017, with reporting requirements, and recognition of the Department’s position vacancy issues. Several closing reports were approved without changes for the following agencies: the Enterprise Information Technology Services Division in the Department of Administration; the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education; the Department of Business and Industry, the Director’s Office and Division of Health Care Financing and Policy in DHHS, which includes Medicaid; the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services in DHHS; and the Parole and Probation in the Department of Public Safety.
ATAX amended and approved SB411(R1), which allows school districts to create a Public Schools Overcrowding and Repair Needs Committee. The Committee can recommend one or more statutory taxes for consideration by the voters at the 2016 General Election to fund the capital projects of the school district. The amendment: (1) limits the taxes that can be proposed to room taxes, governmental services taxes, real property transfer taxes, sales and use taxes, and property taxes; (2) requires that the ballot measure specify the tax rates and the period to be imposed; (3) exempts any property taxes proposed from the 3 percent and 8 percent property tax abatements and the $3.64 per $100 statutory property tax cap as recommended by the Guinn Center; and (4) excludes Clark County from the provisions of the bill. The Guinn Center previously testified based on our report: Expanding Financing Options for Nevada’s K-12 Facilities.
AGA, in work session, amended and approved SB406(R1) that makes consensus changes to the State’s public employees’ retirement systems for persons who become members on or after July 1, 2015. The work session document summarizes the changes and adopted amendments.
ACL, in work session, amended and approved, on a party-line vote, SB193(R1) relating to the minimum wage and overtime compensation hours. The amendment deleted the minimum wage provision and reverted the bill to its original form. Leadership on both sides, however, indicated that discussions would continue on both issues with possible amendments on the floor. The committee also approved, by a unanimous vote, SB241(R3) which is a consensus collective bargaining measure with changes that are summarized in the work session document.
SCL, in work session, amended and approved AB89(R1), which changes various provisions related to professions. This bill includes similar provisions as SB68(R1) related to expedited licensure for health professionals who are already licensed in other states. The amendment makes changes to conform to SB68(R1) and limits expedited licensure to certain health professions. The Guinn Center previously testified on this bill based on our recommendations in Nevada’s Mental Health Workforce: Shortages and Opportunities.
AED, in work session, amended and approved SB463(R2) regarding privacy of pupil data obtained by providers of electronic applications used for educational purposes.
SED, in work session, amended and approved AB166(R1) which establishes the State Seal of Biliteracy Program. The amendment clarifies that the biliteracy seal would be noted on a student’s transcript, rather than affixed to the transcript. The Committee also amended and approved AB178(R1) which revises provisions governing the discipline of pupils. The amendment provides incentives for students with discipline issues to complete a behavior plan prior to being determined to have a habitual disciplinary problem. The Committee amended and approved AB328(R1) regarding hearings for special education appeals. The amendment requires decisions to be posted on the Nevada Department of Education’s website and enables aggrieved parties to select a hearing officer from a list of approved officers maintained by the Department. In addition, SED amended and approved AB421(R1), which creates the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission. The amendment limits the Commission’s duties to K-12 education and replaces one of the members on the board with a retired educator. The Committee also approved AB120(R1), which clarifies rights of public school pupils regarding the free exercise of religion and freedom of expression. Lastly, the Committee amended and approved AB117(R1), which authorizes a school district to lease school buses or vehicles belonging to the school district in certain circumstances. The amendment requires a 20 percent security deposit.
On Saturday, May 16
SFIN/AWM, meeting jointly, closed numerous K-12 education budgets, which include many of the Governor’s major education initiatives, such as Read by 3, Zoom Schools, Victory Schools, universal full-day kindergarten, and the Great Teaching and Leading Fund. The Guinn Center submitted testimony on which programs should be prioritized based on our report Examining Nevada’s Education Priorities: Which Initiatives are Worth the Investment? The Joint Committee scaled back several proposals, including Class Size Reduction, social workers in schools, educational technology, the harbor master fund, and funds for underperforming schools. Funds for full-day kindergarten were reduced by $28.4 million due to a technical adjustment. The Committee also approved an increase of $40 per pupil for basic support by reallocating funds from the Class Size Reduction program. Among the initiatives approved are: (1) $36.5 million toward expanding full-day kindergarten to schools statewide; (2) $295 million to support Class Size Reduction (which will result in a student teacher ratio of 17:1 for students in first and second grade and 20:1 for third-grade classrooms); (3) $100 million over biennium for Zoom Schools; (4) $50 million over biennium for Victory Schools; (5) approximately $16 million for the Governor’s anti-bullying initiative, which will allow school districts to hire a contract social worker or similar professional for 140 schools in FY 2016 and 280 schools in FY 2017; (6) $20 million for Nevada Ready 21, which will expand the use of technology in middle schools; (7) $27.2 million for the “Read by 3” literacy initiative; (8) $25 million for Special Education students; and (9) $10 million for Gifted and Talented Students. Certain budget closing differences between the committees also were resolved.
Floor Actions (Fifteenth Week)
On Monday, May 11, the Senate adopted, on a party-line vote, SR7 which provides new Standing Rules of the Senate for the remainder of the 78th Session to help expedite the timely completion of its business (see discussion on pages 20-24 of the Day 99 Senate Journal). The rules include creation of a three-member Senate Parliamentary Rules and Procedures Committee (in Rule 22) to consider and approve proposed amendments to legislative measures. The Majority Leader appointed Senators James Settelmeyer (R-Minden) as Chair, Greg Brower (R-Reno) as Vice-Chair, and Kelvin Atkinson (D-LV) to the new rules committee. Certain requirements in the previous rules (SR1) for a two-thirds vote not required by the constitution, such as for the introduction of an indefinitely postponed question and amendments to the Standing Rules, were changed to a simple majority vote. The next day, Senator Moises Denis (D-LV), in a floor statement reported on LCB research that indicated the last new, major Senate rules change occurred in 1973 on the eighth day of that session, with committee approval and unanimous support (see page 45 of the Day 100 Senate Journal).
Some selected measures passed this week by each House are listed and summarized with their votes below.
Passed by the Assembly:
SB504(R1)—relating to bullying and cyber-bullying in public schools—approved 36-6.
Passed by the Senate:
AB175(R2)—regulates transportation network companies (TNC) and imposes 3 percent excise tax on TNC and taxicab fares—reconsidered and approved 18-1.
SB391(R2)—creates the Read by 3 program to improve literacy–approved 19-0.
SB405(R2)—expands the Zoom School program for English Language Learners–approved 18-1.
SB432(R2)—creates the Victory School program for students in low-income areas–approved 20-1.
SB474(R2)—creates the Great Teaching and Leading Fund to provide professional development–approved 21-0.
SB483(R1)—makes permanent “sunset” taxes, increases cigarette tax, and makes other tax law changes—approved 18-3.
Signed by the Governor
As of the end of the fifteenth week, 91 bills had passed both Houses and were signed by the Governor. Chapter numbers are assigned based on the order in which the measures are signed by the Governor, for subsequent publication in the Statutes of Nevada, 2015. Selected major enacted and enrolled bills include the following (by Chapter number):
AB125, Chapter 2, relating to constructional defects, effective Feb. 24, 2015.
SB207, Chapter 4, bond rollover for school construction, eff. Mar. 4, 2015.
SB119, Chapter 5, bond rollover and repeal of prevailing wage for school construction, eff. Mar. 6, 2015.
SB101, Chapter 11, reemployment of school district employees, eff. Mar. 19, 2015.
AB165, Chapter 22, NV Educational Choice Scholarship Program, eff. Apr. 13, 2015.
SB459, Chapter 26, establishes an opioid overdose prevention policy for Nevada, eff. Oct. 1, 2015.
AB505, Chapter 35, suspension of agency benefit collections in May and June, 2015, to help address current budget shortfall, eff. May 6, 2015.
SB205, Chapter 44, model plan for schools to respond to a crisis or emergency, eff. July 1, 2015.
SB158, Chapter 84, public information before approval of local government collective bargaining agreement, eff. July 1, 2015.
SB473, Chapter 90, grants management procedures, eff. July 1, 2015.
Sixteenth Week’s Committee Schedule (Monday, May 18—Friday, May 22, 2015)
With the Second House Committee Passage deadline on Friday, May 15, most standing policy committees have essentially completed their work, except for any exempt bills and concurrence decisions that may be considered. The focus in the remaining two weeks of session will be on floor actions, particularly with the Second House Passage deadline on Friday, May 22, along with the work of the money (AWM and SFIN) and taxation (ATAX and SREV) committees to process the remaining exempt bills and reconcile the expenditure and revenue sides for the legislatively-approved Executive Budget. Notices of committee meetings in these waning days will be shorter than in previous weeks. Check the Calendar of Meetings or NELIS regularly and often for additions and changes during the week.
The list of current exempt fiscal bills remains at a total of 96 in the Assembly, and 115 in the Senate along with one joint resolution. Some have passed and many others are continuing in the legislative process.
Some highlighted committee meetings and selected bills currently scheduled for the sixteenth week are as follows.
On Monday, May 18
AWM/SFIN (8 am), in its Subcommittee on K-12/Higher Education/CIP, conducts budget closings for Bond Interest & Redemption in the Office of the Treasurer, and the Capital Improvement Program in the Department of Administration.
AED (1:15 pm) considers SB391(R2) to revise provisions governing educational instruction in the subject of reading, and SB405(R2) that expands the Zoom schools program and the provision of programs and services to children who are limited English proficient in certain other schools.
SLOE (3:30 pm) hears SB413 that revises provisions relating to the State legislative process regarding fiscal notes, and SCR6 which directs the Legislative Commission to conduct an interim study relating to the consolidation, deconsolidation and realignment of the boundaries of the State’s school districts.
On Wednesday, May 20
AWM/SFIN (8 am), meeting jointly, reviews the subcommittee budget closings reports for Bond Interest & Redemption in the Office of the Treasurer, and the Capital Improvement Program in the Department of Administration.
May 21 (Thursday)—Finish Budget Differences
May 22 (Friday)—Second House Passage
May 27 (Wednesday)—Budget Bills Introduced, Exempt Bills from Committee
June 1 (Monday)—End Date for Regular Session