Redevelopment, parental rights, other bills pass legislative deadline

CARSON CITY — It was do or die time for many bills in the Legislature on Friday. Most did. A few died.

Lawmakers and lobbyists had some anxious moments as another deadline hit for bill passage that the Legislature has imposed on itself to ensure it finishes work by a June 3 deadline.

Bills extending the life of Las Vegas’ redevelopment agency and codifying parental rights were among those that survived the deadline. But a controversial religious freedom measure did not survive the day.

Bills that are not exempt due to financial considerations had to pass out of their opposite house committees, and not all of them survived the deadline.

Officials with the city of Las Vegas were happy when the Senate Government Affairs Committee voted unanimously in support of Assembly Bill 50, which would tack 15 years onto the life span of its downtown redevelopment agency. The agency, scheduled to expire in 2031, would live on until 2046 if the bill becomes law. The city sought an extension of the time limit so the agency could improve its financial situation by refinancing its long-term debt.

The committee approved a minor amendment that requires the redevelopment agency to advise the public 15 days in advance of its public meetings. The bill goes to the full Senate for a final vote.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee had a marathon session, holding hearings on two bills and acting on a dozen others.

An amended version of Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis’ parental rights bill won approval from the panel during the session.

Wording in Senate Bill 314 that had provoked opposition from groups concerned about the potential effect on protecting the rights of children was removed in the amendment crafted by Assembly Judiciary Chairman Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas.

Denis, D-Las Vegas, is seeking to put into state law language that says the right of parents to make choices about the upbringing of their children is a “fundamental right.”

The amendment, which replaces the original bill, included the fundamental right language. But a second section of the bill says that this right does not allow a parent to engage in the abuse or neglect of a child. It also says the right does not prohibit courts and government officials responsible for child welfare from acting within their authority. The bill will now go to the full Assembly.

In the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, members unanimously approved Assemblywoman Lucy Flores’ Assembly Bill 284 that would let domestic violence victims break rental leases without facing penalties of credit problems.

Republicans initially opposed the bill, but Flores, D-Las Vegas, backed an amendment that removes a volunteer for a domestic crisis program from the list of third parties qualified to assess whether a person has been abused and must break a lease. Their concern was that a volunteer might not have the proper training to determine if someone was faking abuse to break a lease.

The bill would require a victim to file a police report, secure a temporary restraining order or produce an affidavit signed by a responsible party before a lease could be broken. With the changes, an affidavit could be signed by physicians, nurses, social workers, the clergy, psychiatrists, or marriage therapists.

Senate Bill 49, dubbed the “Aurora Act” by Secretary of State Ross Miller, who sought the legislation to expand campaign and gift reporting by candidates and elected officials, also made it past another hurdle.

The Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee unanimously passed an amended version of the bill, which some supporters acknowledged was imperfect.

Committee Chairman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, called it a “milestone piece of legislation,” but Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said it was “a quarter stone” at best.

The reporting efforts need a lot more work, she said. While a good start at expanding transparency, “I don’t think it is soup yet,” Kirkpatrick said.

In one close 3-2 party-line vote, Democratic members of the Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 230 that calls for development of a new age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education curriculum for schools. The course would include discussions on abstinence, abortions, birth control, domestic violence and other subjects.

Republicans Don Gustavson of Sparks and Barbara Cegavske of Las Vegas opposed the bill on the grounds that local school districts already can make changes to sex education courses and that the state should not intrude on local matters.

One fatality was Cegavske’s Senate Bill 192, the Nevada Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which failed to see a vote in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It passed the Senate on a 14-7 vote but could not muster the Democratic support in the committee to get it to the Assembly floor.

Proponents said the bill would simply codify Nevada’s current rulings protecting religious freedom and set a high standard for government intervention, but opponents said it would open the door to lawsuits over reproductive rights issues.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at or 775-687-3900. Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.

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