For months, lawmakers engaged in a political battle that came down to the final hours of the Nevada Legislature. And now, days since sine die, the 2017 session is over and a handful winners and losers stand out.
Of course, the biggest fight was over Education Savings Accounts, which would have allowed parents to use public school money to send their children to private schools. But there were plenty of other issues during the 2017 session: state parks, criminal justice, labor and equality and the emerging recreational marijuana industry were among the many topics of the 120-day session.
Whether the proposal sailed through the Legislature quickly or was part of a protracted battle, Gov. Brian Sandoval has noted that the Legislature did plenty of work besides fight over ESAs, which failed.
“This is a session that I didn’t get everything I wanted specifically ESAs, but other than that, if you look at the State of the State, we were able to accomplish everything else,” Sandoval told reporters.
Here are some of the winners and losers from the 2017 session of the Nevada Legislature.
Reformed felons: Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford made justice reform measures a priority. Bills passed included legislation to restore a felons’ voting rights and serve on jury duty in civil trials.
State parks: Nevada will add two state parks: the Walker River State Recreation Area in Lyon County and Tule Springs State Park in North Las Vegas. And, fifth-graders get free annual passes to state parks.
Gov. Brian Sandoval: Save for the big priority (see losers), the Republican got pretty much everything he outlined in his final State of the State speech: a new cyber-defense office, two state parks and money for a veterans home and an engineering school at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Women: Women won time and again. Lawmakers approved a measure pushed by Sens. Yvanna Cancela and Joyce Woodhouse that will let voters decide in 2018 if female hygiene items should be exempt from sales tax. Other measures include access to a 12-month supply of contraceptives and provisions for nursing mothers in the workplace.
Marijuana industry: Whether you’re a hippie who’s been toking up the 1960s or looking to light up for the first time, marijuana will soon be available in retail dispensaries throughout Nevada. Several measures made it through the session, including one officials hope brings a windfall to the state budget — a 10 percent tax on retail pot sales.
Veterans and military members: The Legislature passed more than a dozen veterans-related bills, ranging from finances to medical treatment, but the big win is the $33 million approved to build a veterans home in northern Nevada.
Losers of the 2017 session
ESAs: To be sure, Education Savings Accounts were the biggest losers of the session. The proposal, which began at $60 million, would have allowed parents to use their child’s public school funding for private school tuition. But Democrats refused pared down the proposal to $45 million, then eliminated the money altogether.
Death penalty opponents: Nevada hasn’t carried out an execution since 2006, but it is an option. A bill that would have banned the death penalty, including for the 82 inmates on death row, failed to make headway in the Legislature after an emotional committee hearing with testimony from both sides.
The taxi industry: A bill supported by the taxicab industry would have required Uber and Lyft drivers to purchase much more insurance than they currently do, among other requirements. The bill sparked claims that Assemblyman Richard Carrillo was paid off by the taxi industry and generated much debate but ultimately fizzled.
North Las Vegas Constable Robert Eliason: The bill from Sen. Mo Denis would have let Eliason stay in office without the certification he has been required to have for more than two years. The measure would have had many twists and turns, including amendments to exempt and include North Las Vegas in the law, but the measure died.
Younger gamblers: Sorry, kids. You still have to wait until you’re 21 to legally gamble in the Silver State. A bill would have dropped the legal gambling age to 18, based on the premise that 18-year-olds can serve their country in the military. The bill died.
Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas: Manendo, accused of sexual harassment involving lobbyists, lost a leadership position and was admonished on the Senate floor by Majority Leader Aaron Ford, who said Manendo “has developed a reputation of harassing and intimidating young women.”
Contact Ben Botkin at email@example.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.
Reporters Sean Whaley and Scott Davidson contributed to this report.