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Nevada Legislature wrap-up

The 76th session of the Nevada Legislature ended June 7. Lawmakers faced the difficult task of balancing the state’s budget in a sluggish economy that saw record unemployment and foreclosure rates. Some called it the "tax or ax" session — meaning several state-funded programs were slashed to save money elsewhere.

Gov. Brian Sandoval was seen by lawmakers and others as "politely ruthless," getting what he wanted while still being able to work across the aisle. Sandoval signed the bills listed below into law.

Key bills that passed the Nevada Legislature

SMOKING BAN: Assembly Bill 571, which would allow bars that permit smoking to serve food, was passed by both the Assembly and the Senate. The bill modifies the 2006 Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits the smoking of tobacco products in most public places and indoor places of employment to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke.

CELLPHONE USE AND TEXTING: Senate Bill 140 would prohibit texting and hand-held cellphone use by all drivers beginning Jan. 1. Under the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, violations would be a $50 penalty for a first-time offense, $100 for the second and $250 for the third and subsequent offenses.

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS: Three bills were signed into law that prohibit discrimination against transgender people. AB211 prohibits job discrimination; SB331 prevents discrimination in public places such as restaurants and stores; and SB368 prohibits discrimination in the sale and rental of housing and property. The laws become effective Oct. 1.

EDUCATION REFORM: The Senate passed two education reform bills. AB225 requires teachers who have received unsatisfactory evaluations for two consecutive years to lose tenure. AB229 changes the probationary period from two years to three years and does not allow any years to be waived. Most teachers receive tenure after one year.

TOLL ROADS: Senate Bill 506 would allow the Department of Transportation to work with private interests to construct a toll road around Boulder City. The idea came from bottlenecks and traffic jams created with the opening of the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge near Hoover Dam.

ANIMAL CRUELTY: Senate Bill 223 was approved by legislators, who make it a felony punishable by a year or more in prison to deliberately torture or maim an animal. Forty-four states have felony animal cruelty laws.

SEXTING: SB140 treats "sexting" or the texting or emailing of sexual images by minors as a noncriminal act. A judge will determine the penalty for a young violator. If an adult sends sexually explicit texts to a minor, he could face child pornography charges and would be required to register as a sex offender. The new law states that children do not often realize the consequences of sexting.

The Nevada Legislature offers an online search to inform voters who represents them in the state Assembly and the Senate.

To find out who your representatives are, visit mapserve.leg.state.nv.us/website/lcb/viewer.htm, and enter your street address and ZIP code. Select your representative’s highlighted name to access a contact information database.

Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@viewnews.com or 383-0492.

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