Cracking down on sex-trafficking in Nevada is the aim of an omnibus bill discussed with a religious lobbying organization the morning the 77th Legislature convened.
At a pre-session breakfast Monday, members of the Religious Alliance in Nevada heard from Chief Deputy Attorney General Michon Martin on that bill, and from other speakers on both education and Obamacare impacts. The sex-trafficking measure is Assembly Bill 67.
"Unfortunately," said Martin, "we have sex-trafficking here."
She said it happens when adult sex workers are intimidated by pimps, but also with the under-aged who are forced by adults into being sex-working victims.
"That's rape," she said, repeating those two words for emphasis as she described 15-year-old victims first assaulted by older persons and then pressured into sexual acts with others as well.
Martin, a Carson City product who was in the Bay Area for years but returned to Nevada, said Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto backs the omnibus bill putting teeth in the state pandering law, which has produced a revolving door for pimps who prey on adults or children.
With tougher sentences by broadening and modernizing pandering language into a law to combat sex-trafficking, along with other changes, Martin said pimps can be taken "off the streets for a generation."
Though Martin wasn't preaching to the choir, she certainly had empathetic ears among the religious group at the breakfast. Members of RAIN openly have been advocating for the legislation.
The group includes members of the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian and United Methodist faiths in Nevada. The event was at Carson City's downtown Presbyterian Church.
On a different issue, State Sen. Debbie Smith of Sparks said Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and Democrats in the legislature "have some common ground" on education issues, but cautioned: "I'm not sure that we have a lot of agreement on the 'when.'"
She said, for example, reading by third grade is foundational and so Democrats are looking for full-day kindergarten rather than lack of uniformity on that across the state. She said some have full-day, some have "pay for K" and some have no access to kindergarten.
"I believe that is blatantly unfair," she said. She said Democrats don't want to wait a decade for "full-day K."
She also said though there is some $50 million new money for education in Sandoval's budget plan, and it "feels much better" entering this legislative session than recent sessions, prior budget decisions were painful and at some point education needs more help.
She pegged state cuts in education, from kindergarten through postsecondary, at $1 billion during in the past five years.
The RAIN group also heard from Mike Willden, director of state Health and Human Services, who praised Gov. Sandoval for taking political heat on the decision for Nevada to opt into the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
"I know he took a beating on the politics, ...(on) the choice to opt in," said Willden. He said Nevada gets less than 80 cents back on federal income tax dollars, but this will increase what comes back to the state.
"My hat's off to Gov. Sandoval for making what I believe is the right choice," he said.