Legislators approve nearly 80 bills

CARSON CITY — A bill that will allow seniors to receive high school diplomas even if they fall a few points short on a section of the state’s required proficiency exams won Assembly approval on a voice vote Saturday and moved to the governor for his signature or veto.

The vote on the diploma bill, Assembly Bill 456, came the same day the state Senate approved a controversial bill to allow those with concealed weapons permits to carry guns on college campuses.

The 15-6 vote on state Sen. John Lee’s Senate Bill 231, however, faces other hurdles. The proposal now goes to the Assembly where additional hearings and votes must be conducted before the Legislature adjourns by 1 a.m. June 7. Assembly Judiciary Chairman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said there may not be time to process the bill.

Gov. Brian Sandoval refuses to announce whether he will sign legislation, so it is not known if he will approve the diploma bill. Sandoval has proposed many education reforms, including ending social promotion and ensuring that third-graders can read at grade level. Seventeen of the 26 Republicans in the Legislature voted against the diploma bill.

An amendment approved Saturday would enact the bill as soon as Sandoval signs it. Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said the change might help a few students who are in danger of not receiving their diplomas in June.

The state Senate and Assembly approved nearly 80 bills Saturday as legislators rushed to clear the dockets before the 1 a.m. June 7 adjournment. Both houses intend to work through the Memorial Day weekend.

Most remaining bills must pass out of both houses by Monday, or they are dead for the session. The guns on campus bill was exempted from that requirement.

The diploma bill faced intense criticism. Clark County School District officials expect only 100 more students a year would receive diplomas if the bill passes. That group includes a large number of students who fail the math portion of the four-part proficiency exam while doing well on the other sections.

To qualify for a diploma under the bill, a student would need to have a 2.75 grade point average, have completed all course requirements and have a good attendance record with no current discipline problems.

During hearings, some Republicans railed against the bill.

“We need a diploma that means something,” said state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. “In my opinion, you are lessening the value. The public expects some standards.”

Lee’s guns on campus bill would strike a state law that requires people with weapons permits to first get permission from the college president or campus police to carry guns on campus. Lee, D-North Las Vegas, and assault victim Amanda Collins argued the restriction turns campuses into “defenseless victims zones” because criminals fear no resistance.

The bill won support from all 10 state Senate Republicans, but just five of the 11 Democrats. Getting a favorable vote in the Assembly may be more difficult since the Democrats have a 26-16 membership advantage over Republicans.

Opponents argued the bill would make colleges less safe by increasing the number of weapons on campus.

Other noteworthy bills to receive final approval Saturday included:

■ SB277 from state Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, passed the Assembly un­animously. The bill specifies if a teenager uses a cellphone, computer or other device to send a sexual image, then that child will be considered “a child in need of supervision,” who can be dealt with by a court. The juvenile will not be considered a sex offender who must register with police.

■ SB299 won Assembly approval on a 31-11 vote. The bill regulates breeders of dogs and cats. The bill requires these breeders to secure permits from counties and cities and stipulates their facilities must be inspected periodically. The bill was introduced by state Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas.

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