First budget bills of special session get a vote |

First budget bills of special session get a vote

After five days, lawmakers in the 31st Special Legislative Session finally voted on two bills, passing them late in the evening and sending them to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 1 dealing with cuts to Capital Improvement Projects and SB2 relaxing the rules for receiving the Millennium Scholarship were the two least controversial measures in the package that must cut $1.2 billion out of the fiscal 2021 budget.

The two measures were approved unanimously by both the Senate and Assembly.

SB1 cuts $72.6 million from the planning, construction and maintenance budget approved by the 2019 Legislature. The biggest single chunk of that reduction was the elimination of the $20 million budgeted to build the shell of the UNLV Engineering Academic and Research building.

The bill also pulls back a significant amount from the 2019 General Obligation Bonding program, repurposing that money into projects to free up some $39 million more in General Fund cash.

Another casualty was the exterior renovation of the state Capitol which has long suffered from neglect and has leaky windows and storm drain gutters among other issues. The bill pulls back  $1.4 million of the $1.85 million budgeted for that work.

Like SB1, SB2 was also approved unanimously. With the system of higher education basically shut down, lawmakers agreed it would be practically impossible for students to maintain the grade point average and total number of credits per semester needed to keep the scholarship. The legislation allows the Board of Regents to temporarily waive the eligibility requirements so that students don’t lose the scholarship. It was approved with an amendment that gives the regents more time to report their actions to the governor and lawmakers and directs that some one high up in NSHE be made available to provide that report and answer questions.

“Students should not be penalized for something that was out of their control,” said Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas.

Any waiver would automatically sunset July 1, 2021.

Still in the hopper are several measures including AB3, the 80-page piece of legislation that spells out exactly which executive branch programs and agencies would be cut and by how much.

Lawmakers in both houses have already had extensive presentations on the different pieces of AB3 and they are expected to take up the bill Wednesday.

The Assembly also has AB1, the bill that imposes the day-per-month unpaid furlough on state workers and lets the state off the hook on one month of its share of state worker health benefits premiums.

In addition, the Senate still has to pass SB3, the measure that will order the state’s mines to not only pay their Net Proceeds of Minerals tax this year but pre-pay next year’s tax, and, for one year, double the General Fund’s share of the Governmental Services Tax from 25 to 50 percent to help cover the shortfall.