Bills make it in under deadline
The last major deadline facing lawmakers passed relatively smoothly Friday — the final day to get non-exempt bills out of the second house.
The Senate finished just before 10 p.m. — more than an hour after the Assembly. Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said this was the first time in her six sessions that deadline was met without going until close to midnight.
It would have been 30 minutes sooner but the second-to-last bill sparked debate between Democratic and Republican lawyers over the subject of “spendthrift trusts.” Democrats Tick Segerblom and Aaron Ford, both of Las Vegas, said the bill was designed to prevent people from putting money into spendthrift trusts that they said were designed to block even child support payments in cases of divorce.
Republicans Mark Hutchison of Las Vegas and Greg Brower of Reno argued the measure would cripple an industry that brings millions to Nevada. They said Assembly Bill 378 tries to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, since there is no evidence of any attempt to prevent such things as child support using one of those trusts. In the end, it passed on a party-line vote — 11-10.
The passage of this final deadline focuses the remaining nine days of the regular session on the budget which, overall, is closing down almost entirely as recommended by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
In addition, two elections bills proposed by Secretary of State Ross Miller were approved — although watered down by amendments. Together they consolidate campaign finance reporting laws, ensuring that reporting for special elections matches that of general elections. One of the measures also makes clear that voter fraud is a felony in Nevada.
One big reason for that is the inability of Democrats to get and hold the two-thirds majority needed to pass measurers that would increase revenue for everything from education to infrastructure projects.
Democrats have already surrendered the $99 million bill that would have expanded all-day kindergarten and the plan to hike the payroll tax on business, generating several hundred million to beef up funding for education.
Two big pieces needed to complete the budget and end the session — both of which are exempt from the deadline — were introduced in the Senate Friday. Senate Bill 518 sets the contributions rates for the state worker health plan to match what was contained in the budget. The state share of that premium rate is $688.37 a month in 2014 and $695.35 in 2015.
SB519 authorizes the director of corrections to apply for Medicaid benefits for inmates who now qualify because of the Affordable Care Act. That is expected to save the state nearly $8 million over the biennium.
Still in flux are two bills that extend the sunsets on tax hikes approved in both the 2009 and 2011 sessions — worth about a half-billion dollars and included in the governor’s recommended budget to cover the shortfall in General Fund revenues.
Those measures will continue the increased rates for the Modified business Tax, Local School Support Tax, Business License Fee, advance payment of mining’s net proceeds tax and other increases as well as the transfer of the Governmental Services Tax to the General Fund instead of the Highway Fund.
This coming week will see the introduction of the package of bills that implement the budget and end the 2013 session. Those include the Appropriations Act setting out spending of state revenues, the Authorizations Act spelling out how federal and other funding is to be used, the Capital Improvement Projects budget, Distributive School Account funding for K-12 education and the Employee Pay bill that sets state worker pay.
All together, those measures define the $6.5 billion General Fund and $17 billion total spending package that constitute the state’s budget for the coming two years.
The constitution requires the education funding bill be approved first — usually about five minutes before the others are voted on.