Gaming industry, progressives can claim victories after session | NevadaAppeal.com
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Gaming industry, progressives can claim victories after session

Matt Woolbright
The Associated Press

Nevada lawmakers needed several extra hours early Tuesday morning to finish the state’s legislative business for the next two years. Now that the session is over, it’s clear who is leaving Carson City smiling and who isn’t.

Perhaps the biggest winner of the 2013 Legislature is none other than the Silver State’s largest industry — gambling. Specifically, the bigger, non-restricted gambling establishments.

In the first three weeks of the session, lawmakers teamed with Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to rush through AB114, which legalized online gambling in Nevada. There was little to no debate on the bill, which was designed to beat New Jersey to the punch and allow interstate Internet gambling.

As the session drew to a close, lawmakers exempted complimentary meals that casinos dole out for distinguished guests and employees from state taxes as part of a settlement, and another measure restricted the growth of smaller gambling institutions by outlawing sports betting kiosks in bars and taverns.

Nevada has traditionally been a conservative state in nearly all aspects, but progressives gained substantial ground in the past four months with Democrats at the helm of both houses in the Legislature. Lawmakers began an effort to legalize same-sex marriage, possibly within four years, and the state hate-crime statues were expanded to include protections for transgender people.

On the last day of the session, lawmakers passed legislation establishing the framework for medical marijuana dispensaries for medical pot card holders and another bill mandating universal background checks on all gun purchases. But both face uncertain odds at the governor’s desk.

Those votes came three days after Sandoval signed a bill giving driver’s authorization cards to illegal immigrants.

The Republican governor also signed into law SB177, which allows counties to pass laws prohibiting teens from smoking or using tobacco products.

Nevada’s other dominant industry, mining, seems to be the first place lawmakers look when extra cash is needed for the state budget. The 77th session did nothing to change that trend.

For the second consecutive session, lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment removing language that prevented raising the net proceeds tax on minerals. After identical resolutions clear two Legislatures — they do not need the governor’s support — the amendment will be voted on by the people.

That means voters will be able to remove mining’s constitutional tax protection at the polls next year.

Another tax initiative — a 2 percent business-margins tax — also will be on that ballot. In an effort to defeat that measure, Senate Republicans surprised many by proposing a tax increase on mining.

Traditionally, Republicans were staunch defenders of mining, but that changed this year. However, Democrats did not want to see the margins tax defeated because of a Republican legislative maneuver, so mining dodged the Senate Republicans’ tax attack.

Progressive animal-rights groups began the session with high hopes of ending black bear hunts, outlawing horse tripping and cattle prodding in the animals’ faces, and reforming state trapping laws.

Lawmakers passed all three bills, but each was heavily amended. The passed versions maintained the intents of the proposed bills, but the effectiveness at mandating action was largely stripped. The trapping-reform bill, SB213, was close to a compromise, but most animal-rights supporters were disheartened by the result after the amendment was adopted.

A bill allowing the state to enter into contracts with animal-advocacy groups for the management and care of wild horses was a significant achievement for the group, and another bill prohibiting breed discrimination of dogs also was passed through.

Many votes in both houses were unanimous, and rarely in the Assembly were votes nail-biters — largely due to an 12-seat advantage for the Democrats. That means Republican priorities were largely doomed from the outset. Some — such as AB143, which would have allowed concealed guns to be carried on college campuses — got hearings, but didn’t get votes. Others dealing with reforming the public employees’ retirement system and teachers’ compensation issues weren’t even discussed.

A top priority for the GOP was fixing the state’s construction-defects law, but that bill didn’t get a hearing until day 119 of the 120-day session. It died the next day.