CARSON CITY — The state Senate on Monday approved two of three bills aimed at protecting the rights of transgender people in Nevada.
Senate Bills 368 and 331, which would outlaw transgender discrimination in housing and public accommodations, were approved on votes of 13-8 and 11-10. Senate Bill 180, which would make it a hate crime to attack someone based on gender identity or expression, failed 10-11, with Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, joining 10 Republicans in opposition.
“I view this bill as not being about creating special rights,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, during the debate on the three bills. “It is about explicitly extending equal protection of law to those who are often the target of discrimination.”
The Senate postponed a decision on Senate Bill 140, which would prohibit using cellphones and other handheld electronic devices while driving.
After questions on the floor bill sponsor Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, asked for more time to clarify how the bill would affect the use of global positioning systems and other devices.
SB140 and other nonbudget bills have until today for “first house” passage, meaning the bills need to be out of the chamber in which they originated or they are considered dead.
Activists in favor of the transgender bills said although they were disappointed in the failure of SB180, which had support from Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, they were happy the Senate pressed forward with the other measures.
“It is a big, big victory for the community,” said Jan Gilbert, a lobbyist for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.
The bills now go to the Assembly, which recently voted 29-13 in favor of Assembly Bill 211, which would outlaw employment discrimination against transgender people.
The Assembly also voted on a number of bills in advance of the looming deadline:
■ Voted 41-1 for a bill that strips mining companies from using the power of eminent domain to acquire private property to use to develop mines. Only Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, voted against Senate Bill 86. The bill already has been approved by the Senate and now goes to the governor for his signature or veto.
■ Approved AB59, which allows $500 fines to be levied by the attorney general’s office against public officials who willfully violate the open meeting law. The public bodies also must announce at their next meeting that they have been found to have violated the open meeting law. Members voted 32-10. All the no votes were cast by Republicans, although Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, and Assemblyman Mark Sherwood, R-Henderson, voted for the bill.
■ Approved AB433, which prevents local governments from taking adverse actions against employees who run for public office. Members voted 26-16 along party lines.
■ Killed AB299, which would have created a lower cost auto insurance program for low income people. The bill received a 26-16 vote for approval, but needs a two-thirds majority to pass. Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, who voted with the Republicans, called for the Assembly to reconsider it today.
■ Unanimously approved AB6, which allows victims of sexual trafficking to petition judges to have their criminal offense vacated. During a hearing, Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, said young boys and girls often are treated like slaves by pimps and forced to have sex 12 to 15 times a night with strangers. Once they are free of the traffickers, Hambrick said, they often cannot get straight jobs because of their criminal records. This bill will allow them to start their lives anew, Hambrick said Monday.
■ Unanimously backed AB37, which allows state offices to be open at times other than 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The offices might be open on Saturdays and other hours, as is the case in some Department of Motor Vehicles offices, as long as they remain open at least 40 hours per week.
■ Approved AB346, introduced by Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, which would give governments 12 months from the time they approve a resolution to build a project to begin formal eminent domain proceedings or face legal action from property owners.
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