Deadlines, election reforms, speed limits, out-of-state car registrations and voter photos await lawmakers when the 6th week of the Nevada Legislature gets under way Monday.
Here are five highlights of the legislative agenda for the upcoming week:
Secretary of State Ross Miller has taken a lot of flak from his own Democratic colleagues over his proposal to add voter photos to county poll records - his alternative to other voter ID measures around the country that require a voter to carry a voter card in order to cast a ballot. Miller says his goal is to update an antiquated system that now relies on poll workers checking signatures when a voter goes to the polls. Under his plan, Department of Motor Vehicles' photos of registered voters would be electronically transferred to county election departments and contained in election poll books at voting locations. Election workers could then match the photo with the voter. If a voter doesn't have a license or government ID, an election worker would take his or her photo to be added to the database.
Republicans are open to the idea but Democrats bristle, saying Nevada's election procedures work well and there's no evidence of voter fraud. While it appears that Miller's bill, SB63, has little chance of passage, it will get a hearing Thursday before the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections.
Miller also wants to tighten campaign finance laws and prohibit public officers or their immediate family members from accepting gifts valued at more than $3 - roughly the price of a large cup of joe at a neighborhood coffee house. SB49 also defines lobbyists or their clients as "restricted donors" who would fall under the law. The measure also seek disclosure within 72 hours of any campaign contributions or expenditures greater than $1,000, and requiring candidates to report the balance in campaign accounts annually. Under existing law, an ending fund balance is not required, making it difficult for the public to know how much cash-on-hand a candidate has. That bill will be heard Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections.
Another bill on that committee agenda is also likely to draw a packed house of lobbyists. SB203, with bipartisan sponsors, would require lobbyists to file quarterly reports on their wining and dining activities when the Legislature is not in session. Under existing law, they are only required to file monthly reports when the Legislature is in session every other year for 120 days.
Drivers on wide open highways could put the pedal to the metal under a bill that could raise the speed limit on certain roads. SB191 sponsored by Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Reno, would authorize the Nevada Department of Transportation to up the speed limit to 85 mph from 75 mph on open stretches of roadway, such as Interstate 80, which spans 410 miles in Silver State. Another proposal, SB204, would establish a "next-of-kin" registry within the Department of Motor Vehicles, so officers could contact relatives if a loved one is involved in a traffic wreck. Both bills will be heard Wednesday in the Senate Transportation Committee.
Non-residents who work in Nevada would have to pay $150 to operate their vehicles in the state. AB166, up for discussion Thursday in the Assembly Transportation Committee, requires nonresidents to register their vehicle within 10 days of starting employment. Owners would also have to show their vehicles have been smog tested, and the registration would be good for one year. Fees would go into the state highway fund. Failure to register would be a misdemeanor and carry a $300 fine for a first offense and $500 for a second and subsequent violation.
Out-of-state businesses also would have to register any vehicle they own that is used in Nevada. Under AB167, businesses would pay a fee of $200, plus $150 for each vehicle. Failure to do so could cost a $500 fine for a first offense, and $750 for repeat offenses.
Because both those bills include new fees, passage requires a two-third vote in both the Senate and Assembly.
Friday is the deadline for lawmakers to approve the business tax initiative pushed by the teachers' union. Nobody expects that to happen. Instead, the initiative to impose a 2 percent tax on businesses grossing more than $1 million annually is headed for the ballot box in 2014, where voters will decide its fate. But that doesn't mean the margins tax initiative won't command attention in the remaining months of the legislative session. Republicans in the Senate say they'll propose a competing measure targeting the mining industry - a move denounced by their GOP colleagues in the Assembly and opposed by the governor. Tax talk is still very much alive.