Nevada bills take effect Monday but will take time to implement

CARSON CITY — Nobody has ever accused government of moving fast, and that view probably won’t change with many of the new laws taking effect in Nevada on Monday.

Bills implementing Nevada’s two-year $6.6 billion general fund budget, creating driver authorization cards for undocumented Nevada residents and requiring DNA testing of those arrested for felony crimes are among the nearly 200 new laws that will become law on July 1.

But it might be awhile for results to be seen from many of the measures implemented by the 2013 Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The DNA bill takes effect on Monday only for the collection of fees to pay for the expanded testing effort. The actual collection of cheek swabs won’t start until July 1, 2014.

And the driver authorization cards won’t become available until Jan. 15. The law takes effect now to allow the state Department of Motor Vehicles to move forward with regulations to get the program going.

Some elements of the state budget will take time to implement, including an expansion of beds at the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas to accommodate more patients with mental health issues.

The expansion will require renovation of an existing adjacent facility that will take as long as two years to accomplish, state Public Works Board Manager Gus Nuñez said.

In all, there are 90 Assembly and 106 Senate bills that take effect in part or in their entirety on the first day of the new fiscal year.

Many other measures passed during the 2013 legislative session will take effect on Oct. 1 and on dates even further in the future.

Some laws, such as the measure legalizing Internet poker, took effect the day they were signed into law. The measure is an exception to the routinely slow pace of government. The bill passed both houses of the Legislature and was signed into law the same day by Sandoval.

The Rawson-Neal expansion was part of $13 million in new funding for mental health programs approved by lawmakers. The hospital is the focus of a political firestorm over the transfer of patients out of state, including at least a few cases of alleged patient dumping.

Nuñez said the renovation of the closed psychiatric hospital adjacent to Rawson-Neal is moving forward with the selection of a consultant. But it will take close to two years before construction is complete, he said.

The driver authorization card law, which received bipartisan support in the Legislature, is expected to see as many as 66,000 people apply next year. The law, modeled after a similar law in Utah, is intended to improve driver safety.

“This is not about politics,” Sandoval said at a May 31 bill signing ceremony. “This is about making roads safer. The driver privilege cards will allow someone to drive, but not to be used for identification purposes. This is good for everybody.”

The DNA testing law is known as “Brianna’s Law” for Brianna Denison, who was raped and murdered in 2008 after she was abducted from a home near the University of Nevada, Reno campus.

The bill will require law enforcement to take a cheek swab of someone arrested in connection with a felony. The DNA sample would be destroyed if there is no felony conviction.

The testing will be paid for with a $3 assessment on each person convicted of a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony.

Linda Krueger, executive director of the Criminalistics Bureau for the Metropolitan Police Department, said the agency is appreciative of the bill’s authors for ensuring there is funding in place to pay for the expanded testing.

The agency handles between 5,000 and 6,000 such tests each year now, which are only administered to those convicted of a felony, she said.

With an average of nearly 25,000 felony arrests statewide each year, that number will expand dramatically for the agency when the new testing requirements take effect in 2014, Krueger said.

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