CARSON CITY — After a spirited, party-line debate Thursday evening, the Assembly passed a bill 28-11 that would allow victims of domestic violence to break rental agreements without fear of retaliation from landlords.
During the debate, the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, talked about being a victim of domestic violence herself and how her landlord would not let her out of her lease though she had been hospitalized. Once a renter breaks a lease, she said, it is “incredibly difficult” to find new housing.
Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, said she understands domestic violence, having filed for a protective order herself, but could not support the bill.
“It fails to consider the safety of the community as a whole,” Fiore said. “I totally get this bill. But perpetrators of domestic violence would remain free.”
The Assembly met for three hours Thursday night to pass 60 bills.
Both the Senate and Assembly must move by Tuesday night remaining bills introduced in their houses, or they are dead for the remainder of the legislative session.
Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said the Assembly has 49 bills remaining but would not be holding another voting session until Monday.
The domestic violence bill spells out documentation, such as police reports and protective orders, that a victim would need before breaking a lease.
Flores insisted it was not a “measure to hurt landlords” but to protect victims who fear for their lives and often don’t relocate because of concern about the rent they may owe.
“Nevada is No. 1 for domestic violence homicides,” she said.
Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle, D-Sparks, said that as a paramedic he often has seen victims “in the back of my ambulance.”
A lease limits a victim’s ability to leave and “keeps them in domestic violence situations,” added Sprinkle, saying statistics show women are the victims in 93 percent of domestic violence situations.
Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said that as a lawyer he has represented both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence and that Assembly Bill 284 should be approved immediately. All 11 votes against the bill were cast by Republicans, but four GOP members voted in support. Every Democrat present voted yes.
In another mainly party-line vote, members backed a second Flores bill, Assembly Bill 126, that requires restaurants with 15 or more locations to post calorie and nutritional information about the meals they serve.
AB126 won approval on a 25-14 vote. This bill requires restaurants with 15 or more locations to post information about the nutritional value and calorie content of their meals.
Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel, D-Henderson, told members she has been fighting her weight for 45 years and is a member of Weight Watchers who appreciates having the calorie information when she eats in restaurants in other states.
“I think this will help Nevadans make good choices,” Spiegel said.
But Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said the federal government may adopt rules requiring restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie and nutritional information before 2015.
“Individuals should know what is in the food they eat,” added Hickey, who contended there is a big difference between small Nevada-based restaurants and national chains.
All 24 Democrats who were present and Assemblyman James Oscarson, R-Pahrump, backed the bill, while the 14 other Republicans voted no.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3900.