Liability plan gets do-over

CARSON CITY — Legislators on Saturday unpassed and changed a bill that they previously had approved, hoping to avoid a threatened gubernatorial veto.

Assembly Bill 483 combined an increase in the limit on the homestead exemption, which had been sought by Gov. Jim Gibbons, with a doubling of the cap on state and local governments’ liability in lawsuits.

Gibbons previously vetoed another bill that doubled the cap, from $50,000 to $100,000. In an unusual move, the Assembly on Friday took back AB483, which already had passed both houses of the Legislature and had been forwarded to the governor.

The homestead exemption is the limit on the amount of a home’s price that can be protected from creditors. On Saturday, the Assembly Judiciary Committee amended the bill to increase the exemption from the $350,000 in current state law to $550,000.

The committee’s amendment would raise the liability cap to $75,000 starting Oct. 1 and $100,000 in 2011.

The amended bill also incorporates a provision to protect tenants’ security deposits when a landlord’s assets are seized.

Judiciary Chairman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, noted that the panel heard horrific stories from people who won lawsuits against governments but could recoup only $50,000.

After the committee approved the amendment, the full Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 41-1. Assembly Minority Leader Garn Mabey, R-Las Vegas, said he voted against the bill because he objected to raising the liability cap.

The bill was sent Saturday afternoon to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The governor supports the bill in its amended form, spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin said.

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