CARSON CITY — The Legislature is in its final week, turning its focus mostly to approving spending bills that comprise the state budget. But a number of important policy bills remain, many of them on the priority list the ruling Democratic caucus circulated early in the session.
Chief among those for progressive and union groups is a promise from Democratic legislative leadership and Gov. Steve Sisolak to give state workers the right to collectively bargain.
The bill to do that, Senate Bill 135, got a hearing in early April and was approved by a Senate committee soon after. But since, it’s been only crickets as the bill has sat in the Senate Finance Committee.
Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, the bill’s sponsor, said Tuesday he has not been part of negotiations on the bill in recent weeks.
“But I keep hearing words from other individuals who have had continued discussions. I’m confident, and I’ve been offering whatever assistance I can toward getting this bill passed,” Parks said.
Union groups, some of the Democrats’ biggest allies, have this month been pressing lawmakers to pass the bill, hosting press conferences in both Las Vegas and Carson City to bring attention to the bill.
But the biggest question remaining on collective bargaining is whether there is money to fund it. The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce says in a study that the move could add $1.7 billion to the annual cost of state government in 20 years.
Harry Schiffman, president of AFSCME Local 4041, which represents about 17,000 state employees, said in an emailed statement that “we anticipate state employees winning collective bargaining this session.”
Beyond that issue, here’s a look at some of the biggest bills still remaining in the final week of the Legislature, and where they stand.
■Gun control: A bill requiring background checks for private gun sales passed early in the session, but a more expansive measure, Assembly Bill 291, is getting amendments ahead of a scheduled Wednesday hearing. The bill is the Legislature’s main response to the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting. Proposed changes would remove a provision to let municipalities enact local gun laws and add “red-flag” language to let authorities seize weapons from potentially violent people. It would keep its proposed ban on bump stocks, devices that vastly increase the firing rate of semiautomatic weapons.
The bill passed the Assembly and is scheduled for a hearing in a Senate committee Wednesday morning.
■Criminal justice reform: Assembly Bill 236, the omnibus criminal justice reform bill, would reduce several penalties for non-violent offenses and is aimed at reducing Nevada’s overcrowded prison population. The bill has been pared down significantly from its original form. The bill was approved by the Assembly on a party-line vote Tuesday and still needs to be approved by the Senate.
■Raising minimum wage: (Assembly Bill 456 and Assembly Joint Resolution 10) Both proposals would raise Nevada’s minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2024, but in different ways. AB456 would raise it to $12, or $11 if health insurance is offered, incrementally over a five-year period. AJR10 increases the wage to $12 regardless of insurance and would need to be approved by lawmakers this session, again in 2021 and then approved by the voters in the 2022 election. Both were approved by the Assembly on party line votes Tuesday and still need to be approved by the Senate.
■Revamped K-12 funding (Senate Bill 543): One of the most ambitious undertakings of the session, SB543 would completely rewrite Nevada’s 52-year-old K-12 education funding formula, with a focus on providing more transparency and providing more funding for English language learners, at-risk students and students who are gifted and talented. The bill got amendments on the Senate floor Tuesday.
■Marijuana regulation (Assembly Bill 533) Sisolak’s proposed overhaul to how marijuana would be regulated in the state. The bill would create the Cannabis Compliance Board, which would handle both the regulation and enforcement of Nevada’s legal marijuana industry. The bill would have allowed for the board to license marijuana consumption lounges, but that was removed in an amendment last week. It would also ban local governments from allowing lounges. The bill still needs to be approved by both houses.
■Campaign finance reform: Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro has a yet-unseen campaign finance reform bill in the works. Details about it are scant. She said Monday it was still being prepared.
■Affordable housing: One bill aimed at spurring affordable housing development died on the Assembly floor Friday, and another awaits action in that house. Senate Bill 448 would set aside $10 million in state funds for affordable housing tax credits, potentially supporting development of 600 homes. It passed the Senate unanimously and is now parked in the Assembly’s Ways &Means Committee after passing its initial hearing.
■Public records: Senate Bill 287 would add some muscle to state laws on public records access and aims to make it easier for requesters to get a timely response. The bill ran into a lot of opposition from government agencies. It saw proposed amendments in committee but still was not able to pass muster and was moved to another committee without a vote pending more work. It remains there with no hearing yet scheduled.
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