Among the 109 laws to take effect Oct. 1, five of them deal with sexual offenses including Assembly Bill 97, which aims to eliminate the backlog of untested DNA rape kits.
That measure sponsored by Assembly members Teresa Benitez Thompson and Steve Yeager along with Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, all Democrats, received bipartisan support after records showed that, between Southern and Northern Nevada, there were more than 8,000 untested kits that could potentially solve sexual assault cases. Some of those kits were decades old.
That prompted Republican Assemblyman Ira Hansen of Sparks to demand, “how did something of this nature not get addressed?”
Thompson said it was a failure on every level but that AB97 was designed to fix the problem.
The portions of the law that took effect Oct. 1 include requiring the Northern and Southern Nevada forensic laboratories to test kits they receive within 120 days and enter the genetic market analysis in the FBI’s DNA index system.
The primary problem has been lack of funding. The Attorney General’s office testified those tests can range as high as $1,500 apiece.
The bill included $3 million to help with the cost and Attorney General Adam Laxalt pledged more than $3 million more from settlement funds to the effort. Since then, several million dollars more in grants has been received from the federal government to help with the cost. In addition, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., announced recently he is pushing for increased federal funding to increase rape kit testing nationwide.
AB243 also took effect on the first. That measure allows a victim of sex trafficking or involuntary servitude to petition the court to vacate a conviction for sexual violations or prostitution and to have those records sealed.
Similarly, AB260 allows a judge to suspend proceeding against certain defendants charged with solicitation for prostitution if they agree to a treatment program. It also increases the potential penalties for customers of prostitutes.
AB247 allows victims of harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking to terminate lease and other rental agreements early and prohibits a landlord from taking action against them.
AB391 creates the crime of bestiality (sexual acts with animals) in Nevada. The first offense would be a gross misdemeanor unless the animal was harmed or killed in which case it would be a Category D felony. Once convicted, the person would also be required to permanently forfeit ownership or possession of all animals and not reside in any house where an animal is present.
The law prohibiting marijuana products, specifically edibles, from being packaged so that they look like candy or anything else that may appeal to children. SB344 also prohibits advertising by medical or retail marijuana sellers that might appeal to children. The law puts limits on the quantity of marijuana that can be sold in a single package. It also requires medical marijuana dispensaries to provide written notification of requirements designed to keep marijuana products away from children and mandates that they sell lockable containers for their marijuana products.
SB57, which restructures the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway also took effect. The bill removes members representing Douglas, Lyon and Washoe County as well as those appointed by the Virginia and Truckee Historical Railroad Society, the Speaker of the Nevada Assembly and the Senate Majority Leader from the commission. The terms of those members expired Oct. 1 under the new law. Instead, the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau and Virginia City Tourism Commission would each get a seat on the board.