There are only a few hours left before the Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn the session for 120 days until midnight, and lawmakers are battling the clock to pass the other big ticket items.
On Monday afternoon, lawmakers had brought forward bills decriminalizing tickets, moving the state to a presidential primary, and setting spending priorities for the state’s upcoming windfall of $ 2.7 billion in federal funds. of the American rescue plan.
The final hours of the Legislature have traditionally seen a host of last-minute amendments, compromises and changes to the law – which is already evident on Monday, with lawmakers authorizing nearly $ 8 million in funding to reimburse costs of DMVs recently declared unconstitutional, and an amendment keeping special tax districts in play for Clark County, but without the ability to use them for a potential major league baseball stadium.
The Nevada Independent covers all of the latest moves, votes and maneuvers of the 2021 Legislature. Here’s a look at the main votes and last-minute developments on the last day of the session:
The fifth time, it’s the charm of decriminalizing the tickets
After four unsuccessful attempts in previous sessions, AB116, a bill decriminalizing traffic tickets, authorized the legislature with a 20-1 vote in the Senate.
The bill would make traffic violations civil offenses and not punishable by prison. It adjusts the current practice where, if unpaid, minor traffic offenses become warrants that can lead to arrest and are punishable by six months in prison.
Although Sen. Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) has said he supports the policy behind the bill, he was the only senator to vote against the measure for some concerns about the ability of rural counties to implement it. .
“This is the fifth session that I can think of where we’ve tried to do this, so it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Hansen. “But we have to keep in mind that there are very small counties with very limited budgets and for them to be able to implement this is going to be very, very difficult.”
– Jannelle Calderon
Nevada joins and crosses primary states
The Senate voted 15-6 to pass AB126, which would end the Nevada presidential caucus and replace it with a primary election, and also aims to put the state first on the presidential primaries calendar – ahead of New Hampshire and Iowa.
Senator Keith Pickard (R-Henderson), who voted against the measure, had introduced a similar bill, SB130, this session to convert Nevada from caucus to primary but died in April. In Monday’s Senate vote, Pickard said that as he prepared his bill voters said they would not be happy to move the primary early in the year as campaign efforts during the December holidays could be “intrusive”.
“My constituents told me quite regularly that they didn’t like the idea of moving the primary until the start of the year because it meant we would campaign, knock on their doors and disturb them. during the holidays, ”he said.
Six of nine Republican senators voted against the bill, which previously received a 30-11 vote in the assembly.
– Jannelle Calderon
Federal COVID Assistance Allocation
With the time elapsed in the session, the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee moved forward on Monday SB461, a so-called “cascade” bill that sets priorities for spending billions in US bailout funds.
Many of these goals – which include replenishing the general fund to make up for lost income and boosting health care and education – were spelled out months ago in a framework document released by the governor and leaders. legislative.
“We’re on the 120th day, those dollars aren’t there, but we still know we have priorities in the state that we want to make sure this can be dealt with and that the legislature doesn’t slow down the process,” said the Assembly of Ways and Means. President Maggie Carlton (D-Las Vegas). “We don’t necessarily need to come back and come together for a day or two to do that, because there is a process by which we can put that in place to set our priorities so that these dollars can kick in as soon as they are. ‘they are here.
Carlton’s comments suggest that at least some of the work of distributing federal dollars will be done through work programs that go through the Legislative Assembly’s Interim Finance Committee, as opposed to a special session.
“That doesn’t mean we have to do it that way. Nothing prevents us from coming in and having a special session, ”she said in a later interview. “But … getting 63 of us together and lining up in this building is no small feat … so it’s just a way to make sure these issues are resolved.”
In the meantime, the bill allocates $ 335 million from the state’s $ 2.7 billion allowance through the American Rescue Plan to the Unemployment Trust Fund. That was depleted after closures linked to the pandemic pushed Nevada’s unemployment rate to around 30%.
The amount will bring the trust fund to the point where it will not take out a loan, tax analysts have said. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, employers had to pay higher tax rates for years to repay a debt to the federal government; the allocation will ensure that tax rates do not increase for debt service.
“It will be one of the little things we can do not to add this more thing to this bill as everyone is trying to get out of the pandemic and come back to square one in the future,” Carlton said. “It will be one way to reduce the effects of the pandemic on everyone who contributes this month.”
Treasury allows states to use US bailout money to pay off their unemployment trust funds at pre-pandemic levels, but Nevada’s trust fund was nearly $ 2 billion before the pandemic – which means that the state could potentially use almost all of its federal allocation for it. goal.
But, said Carlton, “It’s a balancing act and there’s been a lot of trouble across the state and all the different sectors and we’re trying to impact all the different sectors. “
– Michelle Rindels
A heated debate on how to reimburse the DMV technology fee of $ 1 per transaction found to be unconstitutional was ultimately resolved in the form of an amendment to another bill.
Over the weekend, members of the Ways and Means Committee questioned whether the $ 7.8 million allowance to reimburse $ 5 million in expenses to Nevada motorists should be made immediately or could wait until some anything more profitable can be found. Lawmakers are looking to repay the money after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that a 2019 fee extension must pass by a two-thirds majority (there was a vote below that threshold).
They chose to add an amendment with the attribution to SB457, a bill that otherwise allows more of the state’s road fund to be used for administrative costs and has now passed both chambers.
“Last night with time constraints and with people getting their feet on stuff, it was like, ‘we can’t wait, we have to pay for this,'” said Carlton. “This is not a political discussion. You can no longer make hay out of it. We just have to move on and do our job. “
– Michelle Rindels
Clark County obtains STAR exemption; Discussions about stadium a nearly derailed
An effort to finally phase out often-criticized special tax districts that use a portion of sales tax for bond repayments has received a last-minute amendment requested by governments in southern Nevada – although lawmakers have taken steps measures to ensure they cannot be used for a potential major league baseball stadium.
AB368, sponsored by Democratic MK Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D-Reno), is said to require the Department of Taxation to disclose information on Tourism improvement districts – geographic areas where a public-private partnership is created using a portion of sales tax dollars to help finance construction and bond payments.
These deals, funded by Sales Tax Anticipation Revenue (STAR) bonds, were used in the mid-2000s to help finance the construction of several developments in northern Nevada, including Cabela’s and Outlets at Legends – deals criticized by the following, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal, for not having incorporated enough accountability measures into projects.
Benitez-Thompson – who said his mother was fired by the city of Reno after the municipality was forced to use general funds to make bond payments on a STAR bond project – submitted an amendment conceptual to the bill phasing out all wording for STAR Bond. tax funding, effectively canceling the program.
But it raised concerns from local government officials in southern Nevada, who on Monday morning had an unusual back-and-forth with the six conference committee members over a request to exempt the county. Clark’s Bill. Conference committees are appointed when the Assembly and Senate disagree on an amendment, but are often also used to push for last-minute changes to legislation on the last day of the session.
Lobbyist Warren Hardy, representing a consortium of governments in southern Nevada, said there was interest in enabling STAR Bonds and Tourism Improvement Districts as a “tool in the toolbox” for developers. – potentially including Oakland A’s, which have publicly floating in motion the professional baseball team in Las Vegas.
But the idea of using STAR bonds for a stadium pushed lawmakers to the conference committee.
“I’ve been very clear on how these things are to be done… if we’re going to do Huntridge (theater), a small non-profit organization, things like that, I think that’s where these funds are. could really work, ”Ms. Maggie said. Said Carlton (D-Las Vegas). “But if we talk about a stadium and try to pay for it, I have a lot of trouble moving up to that level.”
After a little debate, the conference committee (with the implicit blessing of the lobbyists in Southern Nevada) agreed to move forward on the bill with an amendment allowing only the extension of STAR obligations in Clark County, and hitting the existing tongue which allows the proceeds of the bond to help pay for a professional sports stadium.
– Riley Snyder