Guinn Center Legislative Update
The Guinn Center for Policy Priorities will be publishing regularly a “Legislative Update” to help inform readers about activities and actions during the 2015 session of the Nevada Legislature. In our nonpartisan manner, we will (1) summarize committee hearings and actions, and recap floor actions in both houses, (2) provide an overview of the upcoming schedule, (3) highlight upcoming events such as deadlines, addresses, joint meetings, hearings in Las Vegas, Guinn Center testimony, as well as (4) offer some tips and observations along the way.
With limited staff, at least five standing committees meeting every morning, and up to four committees holding hearings within both the early and late afternoon time periods, we cannot watch or attend every committee. But we will set priorities and, through the Legislature’s NELIS (Nevada Electronic Legislative Information System) and Personalized Legislative Tracking (PLT) services, be able to follow legislation, big and small, and review submitted testimony and documentation in the hearings that we cannot observe. Our focus will be on those issues, studies, reports and recommendations made by the Guinn Center in areas such as education (higher education and K-12), economic development, tax and fiscal policy, health, and natural resource security, as well as other issues of significance to the citizens of our State.
The legislative website at http://www.leg.state.nv.us/ provides a wealth of current and historical information on the Nevada Legislature and its processes, with multiple points of access to much of the information. Quick links to the 2015 session are contained on the right side of the page. The Calendar of Meetings at the top right (https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Calendar/A/) furnishes easy access to the schedule of committee meetings, including links to their agendas and the bills and budgets to be heard each day, along with a “View” link to allow real time Internet access to every meeting and floor session in the current day. Many committee meetings are video conferenced to the Grant Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas for those who wish to attend and/or testify in person, and those meetings are noted on the Calendar and agendas. One page summaries of the membership, and regular meeting days and times, are available for both the Senate and Assembly standing committees.
Although the Nevada Legislature is statutorily exempt from the Open Meeting Law, both Senate and Assembly rules require adequate notice to be provided on bills, resolutions, and public hearings, although this requirement may be suspended for an emergency. The standing committees in both houses generally comply for most of the session to provide advance notice and post their agendas at least three days or more before the hearings. Agendas often are revised, sometimes several times, before a meeting so it is important to check them frequently for possible changes (a small number following the “Agenda” link on the Calendar indicates the latest revision).
The Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB), the staff arm of the Nevada Legislature, undertook a major project (nicknamed “Cheetah”) to overhaul the NELIS Program during the recent interim period so as to improve its usefulness and speed. An approximately 40-minute video, by LCB’s Information Technology Unit, highlights the changes and improvements made to NELIS and PLT, and how to use them. A major advantage of NELIS (a free service) is real time access to legislative actions, along with ready access to the bills, budgets, testimony and documents (exhibits) submitted to legislative committees for their consideration. Most committees set a deadline in the afternoon the day before a hearing for the submission of relevant testimony and documentation. A major improvement is that bills and other documents now may be scrolled through the viewer in NELIS, rather than having to click through each page, and they also may be opened to view in PDF format.
In addition, budget information is only available in NELIS and PLT. The PLT is an optional, upgraded feature of NELIS that provides immediate notification of hearings, daily status notifications, and access to tailored, exportable reports for the subscriptions (bills) that have been chosen for tracking. This service is free for anyone who chooses to track 10 or fewer bills, and it gradually increases in price for higher numbers of bills, such as those followed by lobbyists and other organizations. This service also allows users to tag and sort bills by subject matter or other personal classifications, attach multiple tags on bills, and add personal notes to tracked bills.
We will use the standard NELIS abbreviations for the Assembly (A) and Senate (S) standing committees of the Nevada legislature as follows:
ACL/SCL—Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor/Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy
AED/SED—Assembly and Senate Committees on Education
AGA/SGA—Assembly and Senate Committees on Government Affairs
AHHS/SHHS—Assembly and Senate Committees on Health and Human Services
AJUD/SJUD—Assembly and Senate Committees on Judiciary
ALOE/SLOE—Assembly and Senate Committees on Legislative Operations and Elections
ANRAM/SNR—Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining/Senate Committee on Natural Resources
ATAX/SREV—Assembly Committee on Taxation/Senate Committee on Revenue and Economic Development
ATRANS/STRN—Assembly and Senate Committees on Transportation
AWM/SFIN—Assembly Committee on Ways and Means/Senate Committee on Finance (also known as the “money” committees)
When not meeting separately every morning during session, the “money’ committees often will meet in Joint Subcommittees to help expedite the detailed budget review process, in one or more of the following five areas: Audit; General Government; Human Services; K-12/Higher Ed./CIPS; and Public Safety, Natural Resources, and Transportation.
Opening Day (Monday, Feb. 2, 2015)
Opening Day of the 78th Session of the Nevada Legislature was largely ceremonial with legislators’ families and friends in attendance. No committees were scheduled to meet. Assemblyman John Hambrick was unanimously elected as Speaker of the Assembly to preside over that body. The Lieutenant Governor presides over the Senate. The Chief Clerk of the Assembly and the Secretary of the Senate also were elected to their positions. Following the swearing in and oath signing ceremonies and notifications, some work was accomplished with items such as the adoption by resolutions of the Joint Rules (ACR1), and individual Rules of the Assembly (AR1) and Senate (SR1); adoption of the appropriation bill to finance the legislative session (SB1); and first reading of the 219 prefiled bills and joint resolutions (109 bills and 3 resolutions in the Assembly, and 102 bills and 5 resolutions in the Senate).
First Week’s Committee Schedule (Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015-Friday, Feb.6, 2015)
During this first week, many of the standing committees are conducting organizational hearings to adopt committee rules and policies, introduce bill draft requests (BDRs), hear presentations from the State agencies and departments under their jurisdiction, and receive committee/policy briefs from the assigned LCB Research and Fiscal staff. These briefs typically cover the range of issues that are charged to the respective committees, the number and types of measures heard in the last session, and issues and interim study recommendations expected to come before them in the current session. Some committees are scheduled to hear a few of the prefiled bills. Some of the highlighted meetings and times are as follows.
On Tuesday, Feb. 3rd:
SFIN (8 am) reviewed budgets relating to the Secretary of State’s Office and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and AWM (8 am) covered budgets for the offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.
ATAX (1:30 pm) heard its committee policy brief and a presentation on the Revenue Reference Manual produced by the LCB Fiscal Analysis Division.
SREV (3:30 pm) received the same policy brief and Manual overview. The agenda item on General Fund revenue for the biennium to compare estimates from the Economic Forum and the Governor’s recommended budget was moved to the Committee’s meeting on Thursday. Presentations were provided from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance (with testimony), and the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.
On Wednesday, Feb. 4th:
AJUD (8 am) will receive a briefing from the Department of Public Safety and conduct a hearing on SB2 that would authorize possession of a weapon out of public view in an occupied or locked motor vehicle around educational entities or child care facilities.
AHHS (1:30 pm) will receive an overview from the Department of Health and Human Services and a presentation on Nevada Mental Health Services.
SGA (1:30 pm) includes a hearing on SB119 relating to the construction of school facilities.
SHHS (3:30 pm) will hear three bills relating to mental health—SB7 relating to mental health admissions, SB15 concerning mental health professionals and threats, and SB35 that would ratify and enact the Interstate Compact on Mental Health.
SLOE (3:30 pm) will receive, from the Secretary of State’s office, an overview of its programs and activities, and a review of election issues.
On Thursday, Feb. 5th:
AWM (8 am) will review budgets of the Secretary of State’s office and the Commission on Ethics.
SFIN (8 am) will look at the budgets of the Commission on Ethics, Gaming Control Board and the Public Employees’ Retirement System.
ATAX (1:30 pm) receives presentations from the Gaming Control Board and Secretary of State.
SED (3:30 pm) hears SB8 relating to the evaluation of licensed educational personnel and administrators.
SREV (3:30 pm) receives presentations from the Department of Taxation, Gaming Control Board Secretary of State, and Department of Motor Vehicles.
On Friday, Feb. 6th:
AJUD (8 am) receives a briefing on the Office of the Attorney General and hears three bills.
SCL (8 am) has a hearing on SB 68 regarding expediting licensing for medical professionals coming from other states.
AWM/SFIN (8 am)—The Joint Subcommittee on General Government reviews budgets in the Department of Administration, and the Joint Subcommittee on Human Services looks at budgets in the Director’s Office of the Department of Health and Human Services relating to Administration, Grants Management, and the Office of Consumer Health Assistance.
SREV (3:30 pm) is scheduled to conduct an overview and discussion of the Live Entertainment Tax.
The Guinn Center for Policy Priorities will be hosting a breakfast for legislators and staff on Monday, February 16th from 7:30 to 9:00 am in Room 3100 at the Legislative Building to highlight its Fact Sheet on Nevada K-12 Education Finance.
The State of the Judiciary address is scheduled for Monday, March 23rd, at 5 pm in the Assembly Chambers.