Nevada lawmakers are rounding the final turn and heading down the backstretch of the final full week of the 2013 session.
But there’s still plenty of jockeying going on as lawmakers and lobbyists jostle and maneuver in a mad dash toward the June 3 finish line. Here are five things to know when legislators begin the 17th week of the session Monday:
BUDGETS, BUDGETS, BUDGETS
Legislative money committees have held daily hearings for months, reviewing in painstaking detail the minutia that is state government. While funding for public schools, higher education and state employees has garnered the biggest headlines, Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees have also mucked through the weeds: replacing Tasers for public safety officers, new squad cars, boilers for a prison, computer replacements, software updates, building maintenance.
Those months of data drilling and number crunching come together this week with the introduction of major budget bills that will set out spending for the next two years. The five bills will lay out general appropriations, authorizations, capital improvements, public school funding and state workers’ pay.
More than a decade after Nevada voters approved medical marijuana, the Legislature may finally provide a way for patients to legally acquire the drug. SB374 was approved by the Senate Finance Committee last week and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate. The bill being shepherded by Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, sets up a structure for licensing and regulating medical pot growers, processors and dispensaries. It has bipartisan support in committee, suggesting passage is likely.
SCRAP THAT COAL
NV Energy’s plan to retire coal-fired power plants and pave the way for the state’s biggest electrical utility to transition to more renewable sources won unanimous approval by the Senate. On Monday, it will be heard by the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor. Under the bill, NV Energy will eliminate at least 800 megawatts of coal-fired electric generating capacity by Dec. 31, 2019. It also provides for the construction or acquisition of 350 megawatts of generating capacity from renewable energy and another 550 megawatts of capacity from other electric generating plants such as natural gas. One megawatt of power can supply about 600 homes during peak energy usage.
Both Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid support the plan.
FUN, FUN, FUN
Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick doesn’t like loopholes. Her admissions tax proposal to charge an 8 percent levy on just about everything from concert and movie tickets to golf and NASCAR races was supposed to replace the exemption-riddled live entertainment tax. But it ran into a buzz-saw of opposition. Republicans dubbed it the “family fun tax.” Kirkpatrick defended her bill as a way to start the discussion about closing exemptions. She’s been doing a lot of talking with a lot of folks who don’t like it. An amended version of the proposal — with exemptions — is expected to be introduced next week.
A bill mandating universal background checks for gun transactions cleared the Nevada Senate in a party-line vote. Next week it moves to the Assembly, where despite a Democratic majority, passage is hardly assured. SB221, sponsored by Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, requires a background check almost any time a firearm changes hands. Penalties for those who hand over weapons improperly include loss of gun rights for two years and, in some cases, prison. Opponents are rallying to try to kill it. One sportsmen’s group has launched an email campaign urging members to put pressure on Assembly members and the governor to defeat the bill.