More than 200 new Nevada laws take effect July 1

CARSON CITY — More than 200 new laws take effect Wednesday, with a big chunk of them implementing Gov. Brian Sandoval’s sweeping education reforms and a $1.1 billion tax package to pay for it.

But there are other measures kicking in as well, affecting state workers, collective bargaining, smokers, businesses, school buses, divorces and drivers.

The focus of the 2015 legislative session that ended June 1 was Sandoval’s ambitious education agenda designed to raise Nevada’s chronically underperforming education system to new standards and prepare children in the classroom for high-tech jobs of the future. Sandoval called it the “education session.”

A second-term Republican, Sandoval proposed and lawmakers approved measures and funding for Zoom schools, Victory schools, an Achievement School District and turnaround schools.

Zoom schools were established in 2013 to increase funding and resources for schools with high populations of English language learners. The program was expanded to more schools this year, with $100 million in total funding over the two-year budget cycle.

Victory schools, identified in the poorest neighborhoods throughout the state, also are entitled to additional funding. Other persistently underperforming schools can be taken over by the state and placed in an Achievement School District patterned on a charter school model.

For the first time the state will fund $10 million for gifted and talented students.

Charter schools assume a new emphasis in the state’s education system, and millions of dollars are earmarked for teacher scholarships and pay incentives to lure teachers to hard-to-fill jobs.

Sandoval’s overhaul of education comes with an overhaul of the state’s tax structure. For the first time in state history, lawmakers approved a gross receipts tax on big companies with revenue of $4 million or more.

That new tax kicks in Wednesday, though the tax payment won’t be due until August 2016. That tax comes with higher rates of the modified business tax assessed on payroll and an increase to $500 from $200 for corporation business license fees.

Smokers will shell out more for cigarettes beginning Wednesday when the state tax-per-pack jumps from 80 cents to $1.80.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

Republicans in control of both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office for the first time in decades had union influence and public employee benefits in the cross hairs throughout the session, though the more onerous proposals from a union perspective were scuttled.

But local governments will now be required to release proposed contracts with collective bargaining groups at least three days before voting on the measures in an open meeting.

Additionally, another law makes 25 percent of a local government’s ending fund balance off limits to arbitrators and fact finders when determining a local government’s ability to pay should negotiations prove futile. That provision does not apply to school districts.

PUBLIC WORKERS

Public employees hired after Wednesday will have new criteria for retirement benefits. For one thing, they will lose benefits from the Public Employee Retirement System if they are convicted, plead guilty or no contest to a felony related to their duties, though they would receive back any contributions they made, without interest.

The law also reduces to 2.25 percent from 2.5 percent the multiplier used to calculate retirement allowance, and disallows factoring “purchased time” in calculating a workers’ years of service for benefits.

Judges, who did not pay into their own retirement, are now required to pay half of the contribution. The multiplier for determining monthly benefits for judges is also reduced to 3.1591 percent from 3.4091 percent.

The multiplier for determining monthly benefits for judges also will be reduced to 3.1591 percent from 3.4091 percent.

State workers, who have gone without a raise since the recession put a chokehold on government coffers and state spending, will get a 1 percent pay bump, though it will be eaten by higher contribution rates into the retirement system. Workers will see a 2 percent raise come July 1, 2016.

State government employees also will no longer have to wait 90 days to be eligible for state group health insurance. Under a new law, they will be eligible immediately if hired on the first day of the month; or on the first day of the month immediately following their date of hire.

MISCELLANEOUS TIDBITS

■ It should take a little less time to get to those sporting events and field trips on a school bus under a new law that lets school buses travel at the posted speed limit. Existing law restricts school buses to 55 mph.

■ Filing a motion to modify or enforce terms of a finalized joint petition for divorce will cost an extra $129 under a new law that will raise money for state courts. If a response or opposition is filed, tack on another $57. In Clark County, tying the knot could also cost more. A law authorizes the County Commission to raise the cost of a marriage license by $14 to promote wedding tourism.

■ Drivers who ignore roadblocks set up because of flooding could be liable for the expense of the emergency response to get them out of trouble or the cost of having their vehicle removed. There is an exemption, however, for someone who skirts a roadblock in a good-faith effort to help someone else in danger.

■ The third Wednesday in March during regular legislative sessions is hereby designated as Veterans Day at the Legislature. The new law also expands bidding preferences for Nevada disabled veterans on public contracts and authorizes the governor to name state buildings, parks, monuments and other public facilities in honor of fallen Nevada service members killed in action.

■ Nevada gains a new judicial district when the calendar turns to July. A new law carves out the 11th Judicial District, shuffling counties from two other rural districts. Mineral County was removed from the Fifth Judicial District, while Lander and Pershing counties were taken from the Sixth District. Mineral, Lander and Pershing now make up the 11th Judicial District Court.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.

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