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Legislature Wraps Up Work On Historic Session

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Nevada State Legislature

The Nevada State Legislature has wrapped up its 2015 session. So what was accomplished?

There was plenty to criticize about the 2015 Legislature.

Most of the state now knows the names of lawmakers who loudly boasted of all they would do – then did very little.

Despite all that, the Legislature made history this year when it passed the Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $1.1 billion budget package. The budget increases taxes and fees to pay for more education funding.

Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist Steve Sebelius told KNPR’s State of Nevada that the governor’s budget will do what the governor said it would.

“I think it will ultimately improve education,” Sebelius said.

Sebelius said the money will go to all kinds of programs, including Zoom Schools, which target English language learners, efforts to make sure students can read by third grade and give more resources to schools with higher poverty levels.

He pointed out there are some items that were passed that people in education are not happy about but overall “the governor got most of what he wanted.”

One of those items is school choice bill, which allows parents to take their students out of public schools and have that per-pupil spending used for a private school. Reno Gazette-Journal columnist Jon Ralston said a lot of people outside the state are looking at the bill passed here.

Support comes from

“The school choice bill is getting wide national attention,” Ralston said, “It is one of the most dramatic school choice bills in the country in terms of what it will allow parents to do with their children.”

There are a lot questions about what exactly it will do to public schools, but everyone agrees it is going to have an impact.

Besides promised improvements to education, one of the biggest changes to come out of the session is to the state’s tax structure.  Ralston doesn’t believe lawmakers “fixed all the problems with the tax structure” but made strides in that direction.

“The plan which the governor proposed, which had three prongs, is going to go a long way and is really unprecedented,” Ralston said.

Ralston called getting the gross revenue tax passed “a remarkable achievement, given the makeup of the legislature.”

The public may not see a real impact from the tax increases, according to the long-time columnist. He said the tax increases were minimal.  

“Some very far right folks might claim that and do their chicken-little dances from now until the election, but that’s not what’s going to happen,” Ralston said.

Sebelius was actually surprised that lawmakers made the kind of changes they did. He expected only incremental changes like those done in past sessions.

“Frankly, I was wrong,” Sebelius said.

The governor was able to get nearly everything he wanted without making too many serious sacrifices.

Said Ralston: “I never seen such a thing and to have that happen in a year in which the Democrats got wiped out at the polls in 2014, it is really a stunning political and policy story.”

He said the people who had promised to stand in the way of the governor’s plans really ended up not doing much.

“Michel Fiore and her team behaved so foolishly and short-sightedly throughout the session that they essentially marginalized themselves and became irrelevant on any issues they really cared about”

In the end, more than half of the Republican Assembly Caucus voted for the tax plan. 

Bills Moving to Gov. Brian Sandoval's desk:

Nevada lawmakers have approved a measure requiring all Nevada Highway Patrol troopers to wear portable body cameras by 2016.

The so-called Pop Tart gun bill, which prohibits schools from disciplining students for simulating firearms is going to the governor's desk. 

The Choice Scholarship bill also moved ahead. It allows private companies to donate scholarships to private schools in exchange for a tax abatement.

Right-to-try bill allows terminal ill patients to try an investigational medication or medical device even if it has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

A bill to increase the maximum speed on Nevada roads to 85 miles an hour. 

A bill that would increase maximum prison sentence for drivers who leave the scene of an accident that results in bodily injury or death of another person was approved.

Dead Bills

Nevada lawmakers failed to approve a number of revised regulations to ride-hailing companies like Uber.

State lawmakers killed a measure that would have changed Nevada's presidential caucus to a primary election. 

A bill to change overtime rules and raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour for people who don't get health insurance through their employer died.

The controversial campus carry bill died in the Senate.

Bill that would have restricted people convicted of domestic violence from owning or possessing firearms. 

A proposal requiring doctors to notify a girl's parents before performing an abortion on a minor was never brought up for a vote in the Senate after passing the Assembly.

Guests

Steve Sebelius, political columnist, Las Vegas Review-Journal; Jon Ralston, political columnist, Reno Gazette-Journal and host Ralston Live. 

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