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Lawmakers Brace For End Of Session

In this July 8, 2020, file photo is the Nevada Assembly meeting on the first day of the 31st Special Session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nev.
(David Calvert via AP, Pool, File)

In this July 8, 2020, file photo is the Nevada Assembly meeting on the first day of the 31st Special Session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nev.

There’s less than a month left in the legislative session.

But the vast majority of bills that have been introduced so far still haven’t faced their final vote, and there’s a deadline this Friday they have to clear to remain viable.

All bills have to be passed out of committee in their second house or they’re effectively dead, which means Assembly bills have to be passed by Senate committees and vice versa.

That is a big lift for legislators because there are a lot of bills left to be heard, amended and passed to various committees.

On top of that, Assembly doesn’t meet again until Wednesday and the Senate until Thursday. The schedule is likely because they want to give lawmakers more time in committee to process pending bills and move them forward.

State Sen. Melanie Scheible from Las Vegas is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She made her feelings about the time limits clear to her colleagues during the committee meeting Monday. 

“It is deadline week, but you guys already know that. So I just want to remind everybody that brevity is a virtue,” she said, “I’m not sure who said it, but I’m saying it now.”

Scheible was talking about the testimony portion of committee hearings. Her committee had four bills in that phase Monday alone.

There are some caveats to the Friday deadline. First of all, bills can always come back through a variety of ways. So, nothing is really dead until the bitter end, which is sign-or-die day on May 31.

Lawmakers can also vote to move the deadline if they feel pressed for time, meaning deadlines are more like guidelines than hard and fast rules.

Finally, lots of bills that could have a financial impact on the state can be declared exempt from deadlines so budget committees can weigh their impact as budgets get finalized toward the end.  

Three important bills have already been declared exempt:

AB116 – which would decriminalize minor traffic violations.

AB151 - would remove the threat of license suspension for unpaid traffic fines.

AB230 - would stop minors from automatically being tried as adults for certain crimes.

These are all Assembly bills so the important Ways and Means Committee has to weigh what those bills could mean to the state budget.  

Overall, the Legislature is trying to get through a lot. The State Senate suspended some of its rules to allow bills to be introduced and voted on more quickly, prepping to process lots of legislation

A bill that has been getting a lot of attention that is still alive is a police reform bill AB268, also known as “Miciah’s Law.”

It would require police departments to adopt written use of force policies and publicly post them online.

It would require cops with crisis intervention training to respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis, and it includes language about de-escalation in those cases, as well.

It was sponsored by Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner, who is a Republican from Reno.

The bill was inspired by the police killing of Miciah Lee, an 18-year-old Black man from Sparks. He was shot during a mental health crisis in January 2020. He was threatening suicide and had a history of bipolar disorder.

His mom, Susan Clopp, gave emotional testimony in support of the bill on Monday. 

“They should’ve utilized time, remained in a safe covered position while attempting to talk to Miciah in a manner designed to lessen his anxiety. So that we could’ve had a peace and safe self-surrender,” she said.  

Another bill that is getting a lot of attention is a bill that would ban ghost guns. A hearing on that is scheduled for Tuesday.

Ghost guns are sold as incomplete kits, without serial numbers or background checks. Gun control advocates say it can be a way for someone who is prohibited from owning a gun to get it and use it in a violent crime.

The bill goes before Senate Judiciary Tuesday afternoon.

The state efforts coincide with federal action.

The Department of Justice announced a proposed rule to reclassify ghost guns as full firearms. They would still available to purchase, but they would be sold with a serial number and buyers would have to go through a background check. It would also require owners and sellers to retroactively add serial numbers to any preexisting ghost guns.

Much of the legislative session has centered around the state budget and just how much the state would lose because of the pandemic.

The U.S. Treasury just released guidance on how states can use federal funding provided to the states through the most recent relief package. Now state officials can start planning that out.

Nevada is getting $2.7 billion, and there will be potentially billions more going straight to local governments.

State Democratic leaders including Gov. Steve Sisolak, Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro set forth priorities in the Every Nevadan Recovery Framework that came out last month.

Those priorities include healthcare access, education support, infrastructure and budget shortfalls at the state level.

The federal money outlook is coming on the heels of good news from the state Economic Forum, which provides estimates of state revenue for every session. The forum anticipates Nevada will bring in about $9.1 billion over the next two years.

That is a big improvement from what was original predicted in December of last year when the forum predicted the state would bring in about $8.5 billion.

Bert Johnson, Legislative Reporter, KNPR

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Bert is a reporter and producer based in Reno, where he covers the state legislature and stories that resonate across Nevada. He began his career in journalism after studying abroad during the summer of 2011 in Egypt, during the Arab Spring. Before he joined Nevada Public Radio and Capital Public Radio, Bert was a contributor at KQED and the Sacramento News & Review. He was also a photographer, video editor and digital producer at the East Bay Express.