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Bills on drugs, speeding, taxes await lawmakers before deadline

Updated April 10, 2023 - 5:27 pm

The Nevada Legislature faces its first major deadline this week, a traditional culling of bills that will weed out less popular legislation and showcase the issues lawmakers believe should be considered as the 2023 session moves on.

But even if a bill dies by Friday — the deadline for bills to pass out of the committee to which they were originally referred — they may not be dead for the rest of the session. There are several ways a dead bill could be brought back to life before the session officially ends in early June.

Here’s a few of the things on the unusually busy schedule for the coming week:

Drugs!: Several committees are taking on various kinds of drugs, increasing penalties for violations or erasing them entirely. On Monday, the Assembly Judiciary Committee will take up Assembly Bill 413, which increases the civil penalty for growing, delivering, selling or advertising the sale of marijuana without a state license from $50,000 to $10 million, unless it’s an ounce or less. The bill also authorizes rewards for people who help state or local authorities bring a civil action against unlicensed violators.

Also on Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up a pair of bills that target fentanyl, which has been blamed for a spike in overdose deaths. Senate Bill 35 and Senate Bill 343 establish penalties for trafficking in fentanyl, based on the amount of the drug a person is caught holding.

Finally, on Thursday, the Senate Health and Human Services committee will take up Senate Bill 242, which authorizes research on psilocybin or psilocin — substances derived from so-called magic mushrooms — and the party drug MDMA. The bill would also decriminalize possession, use and manufacture of psilocybin for people older than 18, regardless of whether they are participating in a study of the drugs.

Speeding!: After a rash of deadly accidents in Southern Nevada with cars driven well over the speed limit, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday will take up Senate Bill 322, which would increase the penalties for reckless driving that results in death or substantial bodily harm. The bill would increase the penalty from one to 10 years in state prison if the driver was traveling at less than 50 mph over the posted speed limit, and eight to 20 years if the driver was traveling at more than 50 mph over the posted limit. In the latter instance, courts would not be able to grant probation or suspend a prison sentence.

The Review-Journal has reported extensively on several cases involving excessive speed that resulted in death, as well as drivers who clear their records to avoid losing their license.

Rent control: After the Culinary Union Local 226 tried but failed to pass a ballot initiative to enact a rent control measure in North Las Vegas last year, members have been lobbying to pass Senate Bill 426, which would cap rent increases at the cost of living. A hearing on the bill last week saw hours of testimony, including some tenants who said their rent had gone up, sometimes by hundreds of dollars. But a lesser-known bill — Senate Bill 371 — is up for a hearing on Wednesday in the Senate Government Affairs Committee. It would specifically authorize local governments in Nevada to pass rent control ordinances.

Dodging taxes: After the Review-Journal reported in May on Nevada missing out on taxing at least $27.5 billion in real estate transactions since 2007 after casinos formed LLCs to avoid the levies, Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager and Majority Leader Sandra Jauregui, both D-Las Vegas, sought legislation that would prohibit transfers to related entities to avoid taxes. Their Assembly Bill 448 is scheduled to be heard on Thursday in the Assembly Revenue Committee.

Contact Steve Sebelius at SSebelius@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283. Follow @SteveSebelius on Twitter.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the amount of real estate transfer taxes that were avoided by companies in Clark County. Legal maneuvers by businesses have prevented the county from collecting transfer taxes on at least $27.5 billion in real estate transactions since 2007.

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