Bills on women's issues won strong support in 2019 Nevada Legislature

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada's female-majority legislature wasted no time in advancing issues important to women during the 2019 session.

The list includes taking the first step to enshrine equality protections — not only for women, but other groups — in the Nevada Constitution. Senate Joint Resolution 8 would ban discrimination based on race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry or national origin as well as gender.

The measure won strong support in both the Senate and Assembly. It will return to the 2021 Legislature for a second vote and, if successful, go on the 2022 ballot to amend the constitution.

SB179 also won approval this session. It decriminalizes abortion, removing what were described by advocates as archaic provisions that allowed for penalties against a woman for a self-induced abortion and rules mandating doctors confirm and record the age of the patient.

The bill, signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak, doesn't change the voter approved rules for when a woman can have an abortion. That's still the first 24 weeks. Abortions after that period are only permitted if the mother's life or health is endangered.

SB94 provides grants to local governments and non-profit groups to provide contraceptives.

Several bills were passed dealing with domestic battery, stalking and harassment. The most comprehensive is Assembly Bill 60

That measure increases penalties for battery, for battery involving a victim more than five years younger than the perpetrator and pregnant victims. It also includes sex trafficking crimes under the law.

The penalty rises to a Category B felony after the third instance or, in the case of a pregnant victim, after the second offense. It also doubles the minimum jail time for any second offense domestic battery from 10 to 20 days.

Joining that measure is AB410 extending the length of a temporary protective order for domestic violence from 30 to 45 days along with AB41, expanding and strengthening the confidential address program designed to protect victims — 90 percent of them women — from future attacks.

SB173 will allow victims of sex trafficking to seal or wipe clean their conviction record if they were charged with prostitution.

SB166 raises penalties for paying women less to do the same work. It allows the award of back pay for up to two years, as well as other economic damages and allows the imposition of civil penalties. Like the others, that bill has been signed into law.

SB312 also won approval. It requires companies that have more than 50 employees to provide paid leave for workers and ensures they can use that leave without providing their boss a reason. Violations could net a business fines up to $5,000.

Finally, AB142 eliminates the statute of limitation for sex crimes. It allows prosecution no matter how long ago the crime occurred when there's DNA evidence available. Supporters have long argued that especially young victims of sexual assault take years to come forward to admit what happened to them.

The governor also signed the measure making a search warrant for DNA testing valid up to six months instead of the 10 days allowed for other search warrants.

In addition, the governor signed AB176, the Sexual Assault Survivor's Bill of Rights.

Nevada this year became the first state in the nation to ever have a majority female legislature. In the Assembly, 23 of 42 members are women and in the Senate, 10 of 21 for an overall total of 33 out of 63 legislators.


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