CARSON CITY — Dozens of new laws dealing with police body cameras and elections to industrial hemp and craft pickling will take effect in Nevada at the stroke of midnight.
Here is an overview of some the 50 new laws that will become effective Jan 1, 2016:
Nevada voters may soon forgo receiving paper sample ballots in the mail. Assembly Bill 94 authorizes local election officials to set up systems allowing voters, upon request, to receive sample ballots electronically, either by email or through website access.
Assembly Bill 462 makes several changes to election law. It raises to 3,000 from 1,500 the maximum number of voters in a precinct and imposes new measures to verify voter identity. If signatures do not match, voters may be asked to answer questions about personal data on their voter registration application or provide other proof of identity.
Lobbyists, meanwhile, are now banned from giving and legislators are prohibited from accepting anything of value. The provisions of Senate Bill 307 are effective regardless of whether the Legislature is in session. There are exemptions for travel, lodging and meals provided as part of educational or informational events, as well as the cost of functions to which every legislator is invited.
Public safety, public welfare
Body cameras may become common tools of the trade for Nevada law enforcement agencies under two measures passed by the 2015 Legislature. Assembly Bill 162 authorizes local agencies to require officers to use portable recording devices. The law also makes such recordings public record. A separate law, Senate Bill 111, specifically mandates and funds body cameras for Nevada Highway Patrol officers beginning Jan. 1, 2017.
Another public safety law is Assembly Bill 176 adopting the "Yellow Dot" program in Clark County. Under the program, motorists can affix a yellow dot decal on their vehicle, alerting first responders to important identification and medical information in the glovebox.
Private professional guardians must now be licensed in Nevada under Assembly Bill 325. The law also prohibits guardians from having any financial interest in the activities of a ward and imposes regular accounting and reporting requirements.
Parents may soon be able to tap taxpayer funding to help pay tuition to send their children to private schools. Senate Bill 302, considered the most ambitious school choice law in the country, allows parents to set up education savings accounts administered by the state treasurer's office to receive the state per-pupil funding that otherwise goes to public schools. Parents can use the funds toward private school tuition or other educational services. However, two lawsuits challenging the law are pending in courts and the outcome is uncertain.
Another law, Senate Bill 338, established the Safe-to-Tell program, enabling anyone to anonymously report dangerous, violent or illegal activity at public schools or facilities.
And school districts and charter schools now have to include information on the number and percentage of students who are eligible for and receive free or reduced-priced breakfasts and lunches in annual accountability reports. Further, Assembly Bill 107 requires a breakdown and comparison of the achievement and proficiency of pupils based on race and ethnicity and whether they receive free or reduced-priced meals.
Senate Bill 170 authorizes tax abatements for big data centers that handle billions of dollars in e-commerce transactions. The sizes of the abatements depend on the amount of capital investment made in the state and other criteria, such as staffing levels, wage minimums and insurance requirements.
Senate Bill 412 allows employers subject to payroll taxes to reduce their liability by contributing to a qualified college savings account of an employee who makes matching contributions. The tax credit amounts to 25 percent of the matching contribution but cannot exceed $500 per contributing employee per year. Any credits that exceed an employer's tax liability can be applied toward future tax obligations for up to five years.
Things that grow
Hemp, a member of the cannabis plant family, can now be grown for limited purposes in Nevada. Senate Bill 305 authorizes the state Department of Agriculture or institutions of higher learning to grow hemp for research. According to industry trade groups, hemp is used to make such things as paper, building materials, clothing, biofuels, beauty products and paints. While it's related to marijuana, hemp has very low THC content and experts say it will not make you high if you smoke it.
Lawmakers also made it easier for small producers of pickled fruits and vegetables to sell their tangy, mouth-puckering goods. Senate Bill 441 sets out requirements for "craft food" operations, defined as someone who prepares acidified foods in a private home or, if allowed by health officials, in a kitchen at an organization or school. The law exempts them from some stringent inspections and safety requirements that other food establishments must meet. But operators must register with the Department of Agriculture, take a training course and pass a test on safe pickling practices. They also must keep detailed logs on their products that include the recipe, canning date and PH levels for each batch.