Bill mandating advocates for abused children passes Senate

Legislation mandating independent advocates for abused or neglected children in court proceedings passed the Senate on Tuesday on a party line vote.

While Republicans who addressed Senate Bill 292 all said they fully support the policy of requiring independent legal counsel for children in cases involving termination of parental rights, they said the obvious budget impacts haven't been addressed.

Clark County officials say the bill could cost them up to $10 million a year to provide either a lawyer or an advocate for children in those cases. Washoe County officials say it will cost them $2 million and, according to Carson City Senator Mark Amodei, the state will face a $1 million annual bill to cover those costs in the rural parts of the state.

He, Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, and Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, all urged the bill be given an exemption and referred to Senate Finance to review the potential costs and how to cover them.

"There are a lot of wonderful things in this legislation," said Cegavske, calling for a fiscal note and referral to Finance. "This is an issue that is huge. We need to be responsible enough to send it to finance."

Majority Leader Steven Horsford and Sen. Terry Care, both D-Las Vegas, said there was no more time to hold the bill since Tuesday was the deadline for legislation to clear the house of origin. They told the rest of the Senate the issue of whether the bill was an unfunded mandate on county governments could be taken up in the Assembly.

The final vote was 12-9 with Democrats supporting the bill and Republicans opposed.

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