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June 4, 2013
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Sandoval calls special session to wrap up bills

Gov. Brian Sandoval called Nevada lawmakers back to work early Tuesday to finish five matters that failed to get done before the 2013 legislative session ended at midnight Monday.

In a proclamation issued four hours after the session ended, Sandoval ordered lawmakers to consider four bills, including one to authorize the Clark County Commission to raise the sales tax rate to fund more police officers.

Shortly before 9 a.m., the lawmakers pass all 5 bills they had to deal with in special session called overnight.

Other bills involve implementing class size reduction policy, charter school accounts and economic development tax abatements.

Sandoval’s chief of staff Gerald Gardner said another bill to provide $2 million to Teach for America lacked support in the Assembly for passage. Teach for America is a nonprofit organization that recruits recent college graduates and professionals to teach in urban and rural schools for two years.

Clark County has worked with the organization since 2004 and said the additional money would have supported the hiring of 50 new teachers in at-risk schools. But some Democrats were opposed to targeting state money to a specific group.

So lawmakers instead will be asked to appropriate the money to the state’s Millennium Scholarship fund instead.

In his proclamation, Sandoval set a time limit for the special session, from 4:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Monday night marked a crazy finish to a regular session that will be remembered for the expulsion of a troubled lawmaker, historic votes on gay marriage, driving privileges for illegal immigrants, gun control and unrealized ambitions of tax reform.

In between there were fights and oratories over sports bets, election bets, dangerous dogs, state dogs, state cocktails, tax credits, tax abatements, local government, the federal government and raw milk.

But the last few hours were frenzied, leaving bills to die in the chaos.

Hectic madness came to a stunned halt when a clerk in the Senate counted down the seconds to the deadline and declared time was up.

The session began Feb. 4 and was limited to 120 days. The first weeks dealt with the expulsion of Steven Brooks, who became the first legislator expelled in Nevada since statehood after a string of public incidents and arrests.

It was the first session since the Great Recession put Nevada’s economy in a vise grip that testimony in money committees wasn’t dominated by doom, gloom and finding more places in the budget to cut.

Nevada’s mining industry, a frequent target when lawmakers go looking for money, was in the bulls-eye. Legislators gave final approval to SJR15, a proposed constitutional amendment to lift the 5 percent cap on net proceeds of minerals, a move that would allow the Legislature to adjust the tax rate. That measure will be on the 2014 ballot for voter ratification.

Mining, however, dodged a broadside from six Senate Republicans led by Minority Leader Michael Roberson of Henderson, who pushed a measure to double the net proceeds tax and put it on next year’s ballot, too, as an alternative to a business tax alternative already headed to voters. Roberson’s bill never received a hearing.

Lawmakers debated taxes but failed in the end to pass tax reform. Democrats promised a top-to-bottom review of Nevada’s tax structure beginning on Day One. While the reviews took place, they were doomed from the start. After announcing early on he’d extend $630 million in expiring taxes, Gov. Brian Sandoval promised to veto other hikes. GOP lawmakers quickly lined up with him. Lacking a two-thirds majority to pass taxes or override a veto, Democrats were fouled.

The 2013 session also exhibited new twists on social issues.

A proposal to repeal Nevada’s constitutional definition of marriage and legalize gay marriage spurred soul-searching debates late one night on the Senate floor.

“I’m black. I’m gay,” declared Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, thrusting the North Las Vegas Democrat into the national spotlight. The Legislature approved SJR13, which would abolish the Protection of Marriage Act ratified by voters in 2002 and declare Nevada will recognize all marriages regardless of gender. If approved again by the 2015 Legislature, it will go to voters in 2016.

Tens of thousands of people will be able to drive on Nevada roadways under a bipartisan bill authorizing driver privilege cards for people in the country illegally.

Sandoval, Nevada’s first Hispanic governor signed SB303 surrounded by Democratic and Republican legislators and members of Nevada’s growing Hispanic community.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jun 4, 2013 11:47AM Published Jun 4, 2013 11:47AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.