CARSON CITY — Nevada lawmakers will start their fourth week of the 2009 session on Monday with a review of a plan to create a forced savings account to ensure more stability in the state budget, now being hammered by a global economic downturn.
Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said her Assembly Bill 165, up for review in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, is part of an effort to “help eliminate the boom-bust revenue cycles that have plagued the state for years.”
Also Monday, the state Senate Judiciary Committee will review a proposed constitutional amendment to adopt a so-called Missouri Plan system of appointing District Court judges and state Supreme Court justices.
In Nevada, judges and justices run in competitive elections. Senate Joint Resolution 2 won approval from lawmakers in 2007 and must get their approval again this session before going to a public vote in 2010.
Proponents argue that forcing judges to raise money for elections creates a perception that the judicial system is unfair and corrupt. Judges typically raise money from the legal community, lawyers who have cases before them.
Also Monday, legislative budget panels will review agency spending plans for several officials, including the state’s attorney general, lieutenant governor, treasurer and secretary of state.
On Tuesday, a Senate-Assembly subcommittee will review deep budget cuts proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons for Nevada’s cultural affairs programs. Those cuts would reduce state library hours and close some museums.
Critics of the reductions argue that they would hurt tourism and disproportionately affect rural areas and low-income Nevadans.
Senate Legislative Operations and Elections will take up Senate Bill 104, which would rewrite part of the state’s ethics-in-government laws. Under the bill, responsibility for observing a one-year “cooling off” period before state regulators can take jobs in industries they once oversaw would be shifted from the industry to the former regulator.
Also Tuesday, the Senate Taxation Committee will get reports on the potential fiscal impact on local governments and school districts resulting from uncollected service taxes. The panel will hear from representatives of state agencies, police, cities, counties and school boards.
On Wednesday, Senate and Assembly commerce-labor committees will review bills aimed at ending Nevada’s status as the state with the nation’s highest home foreclosure rate. The proposals include one to ensure adequate notice of an impending foreclosure and another to make lenders keep foreclosed homes in decent shape so they don’t decrease property values and attract criminals.
The Senate Government Affairs Committee will be given reports on employee pay levels, benefits and retirement plans. Senate and Assembly panels dealing with human services will review various mental health services provided by the state.
On Thursday, mental health services will undergo another review in a joint Senate-Assembly budget subcommittee.
Legislators already have said they won’t go along with reductions in such services proposed by the governor if the cuts jeopardize the health and safety of communities.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on more than a dozen bills, including Senate Bill 82, which would allow no-warrant seizures of funds on prepaid debit cards as a way to track down terrorists and drug dealers.
The plan has been opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and by public defenders as a violation of constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee has scheduled votes on five bills, including Assembly Bill 88, which would enable Nevada authorities to prosecute people who view child pornography.
The state now can prosecute those who download images from the Internet onto their computers, but not those who view them.
Lawmakers have expressed concerns that the proposal could be used against people who unintentionally go to an Internet porn page.
Also Thursday, an Assembly committee will consider Assembly Joint Resolution 3, which would amend the Nevada Constitution to restrict use of eminent domain to acquire property for public use. The plan, subject to approval by voters in 2010, would change an eminent domain plan approved by voters in November.
On Friday, a Senate-Assembly budget subcommittee will review deep cuts proposed by the governor for the state’s higher education system. Witnesses will include the system’s chancellor, Jim Rogers. If the cuts are approved, the state’s universities in Reno and Las Vegas could see cuts of about 50 percent.
Also Friday, another budget subcommittee will review the state Conservation and Natural Resources Department.
Proposed cuts in the department’s budget could mean limited state park operations, closure of a camp for prison inmate firefighters and an end to a commission that protects Nevada’s wild horse herds.