Lawmakers rush to meet deadline for bill passage

CARSON CITY — Assembly and Senate legislative committees worked into the evening Thursday to pass hundreds of bills, including one requiring universal background checks for gun buyers and another seeking to establish licensed, state-regulated dispensaries for medical marijuana patients.

The committees are expected to work late again today, the deadline for passing many bills out of a committee. Among those still awaiting votes today are one to legalize recreational marijuana and another to create driving privilege cards for undocumented residents.

Many bills Thursday were referred to the Senate Finance or Assembly Ways and Means committees. The committees will consider the costs of the bills and decide later whether to pass or kill them.

Bills that survived committees include the following:


The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved “Brianna’s Law,” a bill by Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, that would require any person arrested in connection with a felony to give DNA through a cheek swab. The arrested person could have the DNA file destroyed if he or she is exonerated, charged with a lesser crime or never prosecuted. The bill failed in the Assembly in the 2011 Legislature.

Supporters want to name Senate Bill 243, if it becomes law, after Brianna Denison, a 19-year-old Reno girl who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 2008. Her killer, James Biela, has been sentenced to death. Biela raped a University of Nevada, Reno student just before Denison’s murder, and supporters believe he could have been stopped from killing Denison if a mandatory DNA submission law had been in effect.


The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously signed off on a bill to create medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state. Under the amended version of SB374, the state will license and regulate marijuana dispensaries and farms. A database will be created to watch that marijuana patients do not buy more than the amount approved by their doctors. Dispensaries can sell to patients from other states if those states have similar databases. Licenses will be given to people who want to create medical marijuana edibles such as brownies.


A bill by Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, did not fare well. Roberson had sought in SB245 to prohibit new private ownership of potentially dangerous animals, like lions, tigers and poison snakes. He drew up the bill after an incident last July when two chimpanzees, Buddy and C.J., escaped from an enclosure in northwest Las Vegas. Buddy was killed by police when he “aggressively approached” onlookers. The Senate Natural Resources Committee voted 4-1 to pass the bill with an amendment that allows counties to decide whether to permit exotic pets.


The Senate Health and Human Services Committee late Thursday approved two bills designed to keep guns away from the mentally ill and criminals. SB221 by Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, would require background checks of people before they buy guns from private owners and at gun shows and require authorities to send records within five days to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System when someone is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. SB277 by Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, would bar those facing commitment hearings for mental health problems from acquiring guns for as long as three years.


The Senate Legislative Operations and Election Committee referred a voter ID bill sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller to the Finance Committee. Miller’s SB63 would provide for the inclusion of drivers’ license photos in Election Day poll books. Miller believes passage will assure Nevadans there is no voter fraud.


The Senate Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved Sen. David Parks’ SB230 to create a memorial wall that lists all Nevada service members who have died in America’s wars. The wall would be built behind the state Capitol through private donations.


The committee also amended animal-related bills. SB371, drawn up to prohibit people from feeding all wild animals except for birds, was changed to block only intentional feeding done to attract big game like deer, bighorn sheep, bears and elk.