weather icon Clear

Nevada Legislature wraps up ‘great session’

Updated June 6, 2017 - 1:44 am

CARSON CITY — Nevada lawmakers gave final legislative approval Monday to a package of bills that resolved a stalemate over the budget and signaled the 2017 Legislature would end without chaos by midnight.

The Assembly’s approval of three key bills needed to bring the session to a close came swiftly and without discussion Monday afternoon, about 12 hours after they were voted upon in the Senate.

Republicans and Democrats came to terms to pass Senate Bill 546, a key budget bill that was held hostage over a Republican push for education savings accounts — a voucher-like program pushed by the GOP and opposed by the Democratic majority.

The logjam broke Sunday night with a deal that revived Senate Bill 487, a bill to tax and regulate Nevada’s budding marijuana industry, and included Senate Bill 555 committing a one-time $20 million infusion of tax credits to support a scholarship program for under-advantaged youth.

Last hours

All three bills cleared the Senate late Sunday in rapid succession. The Assembly followed suit Monday afternoon. (Wes Rand/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

“Nevadans expect their legislators to stand up for their values while finding common ground and reaching across the aisle for the good of this state,” Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, said in a statement in the wee hours Monday. “I’m proud that we’ve been able to work in a bipartisan fashion to close out this session with these important pieces of legislation.”

SB546 is the capital improvement project that authorizes tens of millions of dollars in public works projects over the upcoming two-year budget cycle that begins July 1. Although four other budget bills cleared both chambers along simple majority, party-line votes, SB546 required a two-thirds majority because it also contains reauthorization of a 17-cent property tax assessment to pay for bond obligations.

Democrats lacked the votes needed to pass it without Republican support, and the standoff cast doubt over whether the session would end on time. Pressure mounted when Gov. Brian Sandoval on Friday said he would not call a special session to give lawmakers more time to resolve the conflict.

Sandoval praises session

Late Monday, the two-term Republican governor praised accomplishments made during the 120-day session and called the process a “good compromise” while expressing disappointment that ESAs failed.

“We fought hard and I’m as disappointed as anybody, and it’s just one of those things that didn’t work out,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we are still going to be able to have a $20 million investment that goes toward those Opportunity Scholarships.”

He added, “At the end of the day, it’s not about money. It’s about kids and now these kids — more kids in our state — will have access to the school of their choice.”

Though Republicans had hoped the governor would threaten to veto the budget unless it included $60 million for ESAs, Sandoval said it became clear Democrats would not budge in their opposition.

“I didn’t want to take a position that basically dug me in,” Sandoval said. “And at the end of the day, the way the session ended I didn’t want to essentially shut down Nevada government.”

He continued: “We worked really hard on trying to come up with a compromise with the Democrats on ESAs, but at some point, it became very clear that the Democrats weren’t going to support that.”

Sandoval was joined by Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, and Assembly Minority Leader Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, at a bill-signing ceremony Monday at the Capitol. Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, who voted against the budget bills, did not attend.

Sandoval touted the passage of legislation to help veterans, especially approval of the projects bill that includes $36 million for a northern Nevada veterans home in Sparks. A groundbreaking ceremony is planned June 17.

“Personally for me it’s a great session,” Sandoval said.

He also highlighted renewable energy bills, workforce development, funding to construct the UNLV medical school, efforts to combat Nevada’s opioid crisis and creation and funding of a new state park that opens up 12,000 acres along the Walker River near Yerington.

“There’s a lot to talk about here,” he said.

Sandoval signed four bills — the state worker pay bill that includes 2 percent raises in each year of the biennium, the $5.1 general fund appropriations bill, a K-12 education funding bill totaling $2.3 billion and an authorization bill for agencies to spend roughly $20 billion from non-general fund sources.

The total amount of the general fund will take some time to calculate. Legislative fiscal staff and the budget office will add up spending that was included in separate bills outside the overall general appropriations bill.

Solar will return

Sandoval said Monday he intends to sign a bill that supporters expect will bring the rooftop solar industry back to Nevada.

Assembly Bill 405 will make it worthwhile for homeowners to invest in rooftop solar and participate in net metering. Net metering is the term for when people with rooftop systems get a credit for the excess energy they return to the grid.

“Nevada has always been a place, and will continue to be a place, that leads the county with regard to our renewable resources,” he said.

A statement from Tesla said the bill will not only bring back solar energy to Nevada and enable the industry to innovate and grow sustainably, it will create thousands of jobs and bring millions of dollars in economic benefits to the state.

“Tesla will begin selling rooftop solar and residential storage products in Nevada, and we look forward to bringing even more jobs to the state in the years ahead to help provide residents with affordable rooftop solar and energy storage choices,” the statement said.

The rooftop solar industry ground to a halt in Nevada when new, lower rates for net metering took effect in 2016. The new measure is expected to reverse that decision.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter. Sean Whaley contributed to this report.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Lawsuit challenges Nevada’s new diabetes drug disclosure law

Two pharmaceutical groups have filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of a bill passed by the 2017 Nevada Legislature requiring disclosure of the pricing of diabetes drugs.

Nevada Legislature approves final payment for ESA software

The final action on Nevada’s controversial private school choice program came Thursday when the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee approved $105,000 to pay off the remaining costs incurred by a vendor who was working on the development of software to implement the program.

Recall targets a third Nevada senator

A third recall petition against a female Nevada state senator was filed Wednesday.

Federal government approves Nevada’s education plan

Nevada is among four states to get U.S. Education Department approval of its plan as required under a new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.