Protesters in Carson City objecting to education cuts

CARSON CITY -- Week 7 of the Nevada Legislature starts today with a marathon day that will include a student protest over higher education cuts and the first nighttime floor meetings of the 2011 session as legislators rush to meet the deadline for individual bill introductions.

Hundreds of college and university students from around the state will converge in front of the Legislature for a midday rally to protest deep cuts to higher education proposed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Sandoval, who has promised not to raise taxes as Nevada tries to claw out of the Great Recession, has proposed cutting state support for the higher education system by $162 million over the next two years.

University officials have said such cuts will result in layoffs, program eliminations and steep tuition increases.

Protest organizers said more than a dozen buses will bring demonstrators from Las Vegas to the capital to join Northern Nevada students and labor groups. Earlier today, legislative money committees will hold a joint hearing on the higher education budget proposal to take public testimony.

Today also is the deadline for lawmakers to introduce bills they are sponsoring. Leaders of the Senate and Assembly warned their members on Friday to be prepared for evening floor sessions to get through the rush of introductions.

The Nevada Tax Commission holds an emergency meeting to discuss the lack of audits of the state's mining industry, an admission that cost the state's tax chief his job.

On Tuesday, subcommittees continue the discussion on higher education budgets, and the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee considers AB108, a bill that would remove voter registration deadlines and allow people to register and vote until polls close on Election Day.

The panel will consider AB301, involving restoration of civil rights for ex-felons to vote, serve on juries and hold public office.

On the Senate side, the Legislative Operations and Elections Commission will take up SB170, which would require backers of initiatives to form an organizational committee and file certain forms before gathering signatures.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee is set to consider several bills on hospitals' reporting of infections, and the Transportation Committee hears SB235, which would make failure to wear a seat belt a primary traffic offense in Nevada.

U.S. Sen. John Ensign, who is not seeking re-election in 2012, will speak to a joint session of the Senate and Assembly on Tuesday night. All members of Nevada's congressional delegation traditionally address lawmakers during the regular legislative sessions, which are held every two years.

Ensign acknowledged in June 2009 that he had an extramarital affair with Cynthia Hampton and is accused of helping her husband, a member of his congressional staff, obtain lobbying work with a Nevada company.

On Wednesday, Assembly Ways and Means considers AB192, which would add $2 to filing fees charged by city and county clerks . The money would be used to fund legal services for abused and neglected children.

The Senate Government Affairs Committee will discuss SB251, which would create a sunset commission to evaluate government programs and services and recommend which can be eliminated.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up several bills dealing with foreclosures, and the Senate Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on SB223 dealing with animal cruelty

A bill setting the stage for Internet gambling will be considered Thursday by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. AB258 would ask state gambling regulators to create rules for Internet poker operators and companies that make related equipment. It would prevent the Nevada Gaming Commission from denying a license to poker sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker just because they have been operating offshore in a legal gray area after a 2006 federal law effectively banned online gambling.

Assembly and Senate committees on Legislative Operations and Elections hit the road to hold a hearing Thursday night in Fallon on redistricting, which involves redrawing Nevada's voting districts every 10 years based on U.S. Census Bureau population figures. Lawmakers this session will carve out a fourth U.S. House seat.

Members of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance subcommittees will hold a public hearing in Fallon that night on K-12 education budgets.

On Friday, the Senate Education Committee holds a hearing on education bills, including SB229 to adopt a policy encouraging parental involvement in their children's education; SB230 prohibiting sale or offering of foods containing trans-fats at schools; and SB216 establishing reading skills development centers.