CARSON CITY -- Drivers in Nevada would no longer be allowed to text or talk on hand-held cellphones under a bill sent Saturday to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.
By an 11-10 margin, with Democrats voting in favor, the state Senate voted to concur with two minor Assembly amendments to Senate Bill 140, leaving it up to Sandoval to sign or veto the bill.
"Everyone is not going to be happy, but it will save lives," said state Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, the bill's sponsor.
Under the bill, violators would be assessed $50 fines for the first offense, $100 for the second and $250 for the third and subsequent offenses. Police would start issuing warnings to violators on Oct. 1, but fines would not be imposed until next year.
The cellphone restriction was among dozens of bills that moved in the Legislature on Saturday, just days before the 1 a.m. Tuesday conclusion of the 120-day legislative session. They included bills that had been used as political footballs during negotiations over the two-year budget that concluded Wednesday.
A brief meeting on the state Senate floor of the Senate Finance Committee produced a 63-page bill, Senate Bill 506. It simultaneously seeks to authorize a toll road bypass highway around Boulder City and reduce the amount of money school districts need to set aside in bond reserves so the money could be spent on more school construction projects.
The Boulder City bypass is a favorite of state Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City. It had been contained in another bill, Senate Bill 214, that died earlier in the session. The idea was revived and added to SB506, after the Democrat-controlled Legislature concluded budget negotiations with Sandoval that included securing support from Republicans, including Hardy, for the budget deal.
Hardy said the toll road revival was unrelated to the budget talks.
"People realize we do need a bypass around Boulder City, and this is the time to do it," Hardy said.
The school bond reserve portion of SB506 is a revived version of Assembly Bill 183, sought by Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.
AB183 passed the Legislature by party line votes earlier this session but was vetoed by Sandoval, in large part because he had already earmarked the bond reserve money for his budget. But during budget talks Sandoval scuttled the idea because it was questionable as to whether it would be constitutional, meaning the money was once again available for Smith's idea. The bill needs to clear both houses of the Legislature to get to Sandoval.
The Assembly Committee on Ways and Means amended and passed Assembly Bill 405 to include authorization to spend $250,000 in state money to study the efficiency of the Public Employees Retirement System.
Such a study was part of a list of reforms sought by Assembly Republicans in exchange for their votes in favor of a budget compromise that includes the extension of $620 million in taxes that had been scheduled to expire, or sunset, on June 30.
Assembly Bill 571, which would have allowed food service in bars that allow smoking, had been scheduled for the Assembly floor. But the vote was postponed until today after Assemblymen Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, and Tom Grady, R-Yerington, were no-shows for the floor session. Their votes were presumed to be needed for the bill to pass.
"Weird, really weird," said Nevada Tavern Association lobbyist Sean Higgins of the missing lawmakers.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org.