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Hearings heat up as committee bill deadline approaches

Updated April 5, 2021 - 7:59 am

CARSON CITY — The focal point of most legislative activity moved this week from chamber floors to virtual committee rooms, with lawmakers taking up marquee bills on voting rights, capital punishment and cannabis laws.

That hearing activity is expected to intensify in the week ahead as lawmakers face a Friday deadline for bills to pass the committee to which they were originally referred. If bills fail to meet the deadline, they’re considered dead for the rest of the session.

Majority Democrats stoked the media’s attention ahead of a Thursday hearing on Assembly Bill 321, which would make mail-in voting permanent and establish it as the preferred method of casting ballots. Republicans sought to slow that momentum in committee and in media statements, sowing doubt about election security. GOP-backed bills instead are aimed at tightening voting procedures in Nevada, reflecting national party efforts across the country.

Lawmakers also heard a proposal to abolish capital punishment and commute death sentences to life without parole, again tapping into a divisive national issue. Supporters of Assembly Bill 395 cited the death penalty as inhumane, a costly and ineffective deterrent rooted in long-standing systemic racism, while prosecutors argued for retaining it in the interest of delivering justice to the families of victims.

The Legislature bookended the week with hearings on setting a new legal standard for driving while under the influence of marijuana and opening lounges for recreational marijuana use, as the state continues to address the ramifications of legalized casual use.

Another bill is aimed at garnishing casino winnings from people who owe child support, similar to how lottery winnings are withheld. Gaming interests were cool to the proposal.

More than 75 bills are scheduled for hearings next week, and more likely will be added.

Monday

The Assembly Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear Assembly Bill 425, a broad rewrite of the laws on civil forfeiture in criminal cases. Forfeiture has been an issue nationally and in Nevada, where some law enforcement agencies have been accused of abusing the process.

The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee is scheduled to hear Senate Bill 386, a “right to return” initiative that would require employers in the hospitality and travel sectors to offer employees furloughed or laid off during the pandemic their former jobs back.

The Senate Growth and Infrastructure Committee is scheduled to hear Senate Bill 382, which would revise requirements for setting energy-efficiency goals for electric utilities, and Senate Bill 383, establishing new rules for electric bike classification, required equipment and operation.

Tuesday

The Assembly Judiciary Committee has Assembly Bill 440 on its agenda, which would require law enforcement officers to issue citations in lesser misdemeanor cases instead of making an arrest.

The Assembly Government Affairs Committee has several bills related to affordable housing and redevelopment on its agenda. Assembly Bill 331 and Assembly Bill 334 would provide new procedures and funding methods to induce developers to build affordable housing. Assembly Bill 335 would revise rules for employment plans that are submitted as part of redevelopment plans in Las Vegas, requiring them to note how the plan will involve local small businesses, among other changes.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled to hear Senate Bill 396, which would authorize for-profit health benefit plans to buy prescription drugs from the same state list used by nonprofit and public plans and authorize the state to enter into interstate agreements for collaborative drug purchasing.

The Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee is supposed to consider Assembly Bill 432, which would expanded automatic voter registration services now available at the Department of Motor Vehicles to additional state agencies.

Wednesday

The Assembly Government Affairs Committee will take up Assembly Bill 376, which would bar state and local agencies from participating in immigration enforcement activities. Critics say the bill would create a sanctuary state, while supporters say it helps keep trust between police and local immigrant communities.

Thursday

The Assembly Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear Assembly Bill 296, which would criminalize the act of “doxxing,” or publicly disseminating potentially harmful sensitive personal information about someone without their consent.

And Assembly Bill 396, also before the Judiciary Committee, would revise provisions for use of deadly force by law enforcement and redefine the criteria for a justifiable homicide defense.

Carson City Journal is a weekly feature that summarizes the major events happening in the capital during the 2021 legislative session and provides a look at what’s coming next.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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