Some bills face uncertain future as Nevada Legislature winds down

CARSON CITY — It’s fingernail-biting time for those with a vested interest in bills that are hanging by a thread as the 2013 legislative session lumbers to adjournment today .

Several significant bills sought by Gov. Brian Sandoval and lawmakers face uncertain futures as the clock ticks down on a midnight adjournment deadline.

Sandoval’s Teach for America funding measure has passed the state Senate but faces some opposition in the Assembly. His school choice bill remains alive but stuck in the Senate Finance Committee where it has languished for months.

Bills seeking to create a medical marijuana dispensary system, mandate background checks on all gun sales and establish tax credits to lure film companies to the state are also in jeopardy. All three have passed the state Senate but faced tough questioning in the Assembly.

Even those with support could become victims of the 120-day constitutionally mandated deadline as time simply runs out.

But supporters of the measures never give up hope. As long as the Legislature remains in session, there is always the chance of cutting a deal or getting a proposal into the inevitable last-minute negotiations as the session nears its end.

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, remains optimistic that his bill to establish medical marijuana dispensaries will get the 28 votes needed in the Assembly to go on to Sandoval, who has indicated some support for the idea.

His Senate Bill 374 was voted out by the Assembly Judiciary Committee Sunday with minor amendments. Republican members of the Assembly appear nearly uniformly opposed to the bill, even though it had strong bipartisan support in the state Senate, Segerblom said.

It may take support from all 27 Assembly Democrats, plus Republican Assembly­woman Michele Fiore of Las Vegas to win passage, he said.

Fiore has said she will support the bill, though in voting for it in committee she reserved the right to change her vote on the floor.

The bill requires two-thirds approval because it contains start-up funding.

“I’m hoping we can break the (GOP) caucus unanimity but at the end of the day we need two-thirds, and we’re hanging on by a thread,” Segerblom said.

State Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, said he is keeping a positive attitude that his bill to establish a four-year pilot program of tax credits for companies that film in Nevada will win approval.

Ford said the $20 million per year in tax credits would be a good start to establishing a film industry in Nevada. Senate Bill 165 passed the state Senate with bipartisan support and was endorsed by the Assembly Taxation Committee late Sunday. It now faces a vote by the full Assembly.

Senate Bill 221, which would mandate background checks for most gun sales, remains in limbo in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Proposed by state Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, the measure has generated intense lobbying on both sides of the issue.

The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns has been lobbying heavily for the bill. The organization, co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, has brought relatives of victims of the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; and Tucson, Ariz., to the capital to support the bill.

The bill passed the state Senate on an 11-10 party-line vote, with all Republicans opposed, and Sandoval has said he will veto the bill as written if it reaches him.

Late Sunday, the reporting provisions in the controversial bill, but not the background checks, were amended into another measure, Senate Bill 38, during a conference committee. The move likely means SB221 and its background check requirement will not move forward this session. Senate Bill 38 deals with a related issue, the release of information by the central repository of criminal history.

Gerald Gardner, chief of staff to Sandoval, said Senate Bill 445, which would give tax breaks to Nevada businesses that donate to scholarships for low-income children to attend private schools, remains in high-level negotiations with legislative leaders.

“We think it is an important program that offers parents and students the opportunity to choose their education,” Gardner said. “We’re getting towards the end of the session and there are a few pieces still in play and this is one of them.”

The governor’s office is highly optimistic that the $2 million Teach for America measure, which would recruit 50 teachers for high-risk schools in Clark County, will win approval, Gardner said.

Senate Bill 517 easily passed the state Senate 20-1 on Friday.

“We’re confident this is a nonpartisan, stand-alone, good policy bill,” Gardner said.

Contact reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.