Second major legislative deadline hits Tuesday
April 19, 2015
The 2015 Legislature faces its second major deadline this week — bills must be voted out of the house where they originated before midnight Tuesday or they die.
The exceptions, of course, are those granted a waiver by leadership of both houses or those labeled exempt because they have a financial impact on the state budget.
The Senate made significant progress toward processing its remaining legislation Thursday and Friday.
Majority Leader Michael Roberson said earlier in the week he intended to get through the pile by midday Friday so they could adjourn for the weekend.
The goal of both houses was to avoid Saturday-Sunday meetings so the legislative Legal Division could work through the weekend drafting amendments to the remaining bills that must be processed.
Roberson did just that with just 47 Senate Committee measures left needing amendments prepared by Monday.
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The Assembly had a bit more trouble on Friday, working into the evening before adjourning. An exact total of the measures needing amendment remaining in the lower house wasn't available but observers guesstimate that number at about 60.
Those totals, however, don't include amendments sought by individual legislators.
By the end of Tuesday, there will probably be 150 casualties on top of the 246 measures that died because they didn't escape the April 10 committee passage deadline.
As of Friday evening, lawmakers had passed a total of 310 bills through at least one house. Senators approved 179 of those and the Assembly 131.
There were more than 150 bills exempt from the deadline as of Friday — 89 parked in Senate Finance and 67 in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.
In addition, a total of 20 measures had been granted waivers from the deadline.
The remaining bills, however, include the most controversial and contentious measures including the elephant in the room — Governor Brian Sandoval's business license tax that will provide $438 million to balance his $7.3 billion General Fund budget.
SB252 needs a two-thirds vote to get out of the Senate and has been stalled for a couple of weeks by both Democratic and conservative Republican resistance.
Sandoval says he's optimistic Nevada lawmakers will reach a deal to fund the state's budget with only slightly more than a month to go in the state Legislature.
The popular Republican governor told The Associated Press despite skepticism over his plan to raise businesses license fees and other alternative plans proposed by lawmakers, he remains confident that legislators will see the need to increase revenue and fund K-12 education in Nevada.
"I'm going to give it everything I've got to make sure that something happens to fund education in Nevada because I think it's absolutely critical," he said.
Sandoval has focused much of his attention on getting a tax package through skeptical Democrats and firebrand anti-tax conservatives, and said he's working with legislative leaders to get the measure passed with the state's constitutionally required two-thirds majority vote.
"As a Republican, this is not orthodox," he said of the tax plan. "But at the same time, it's my job to be honest with the people of the state of Nevada."
Democratic Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said Democrats haven't committed to a specific tax plan and needed to continue vetting the governor's budget.
"I've been working on tax policy for many years to fill loopholes and make things broad-based, and we'll continue to have conversations across the aisle," she said.
Though the Republican governor rarely comments on pending legislation, Sandoval has called for changes to the state's collective bargaining and public employee retirement systems. He said he wants lawmakers to propose changes both unions and businesses can live with.
"I want it to be reasonable; I want it to be something that has some consensus with organized labor and with the business community," he said.
A story in the Las Vegas Review Journal on Saturday quotes Roberson and his counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford, as saying they are talking and expect a vote on the business license fee Monday or Tuesday.
That negotiation almost certainly includes a number of other proposals still bouncing around in the session but, exactly what is in the mix isn't known since those discussions aren't exactly held in public.
Democrats vehemently oppose a variety of bills including the plan effectively turning the Public Employees Retirement System into a 401K going forward, changes to employee health benefits and collective bargaining rules.
While they don't want to be seen as voting against the tax providing more money for K-12 education, that bill is the best leverage they have right now to have an effect on those issues.
Then there are the conservatives who simply don't believe the governor's tax plan is the way to go.
How it all plays out will be revealed this week and help set the tone for finishing the 2015 Legislature.
However, Sandoval said he was happy with legislation that has reached his desk so far, including bills designed to curb frivolous lawsuits on construction defects and extending school bonds to help build new schools in Las Vegas and Reno.
"I don't want to jinx anything," Sandoval said, "but I feel good given where we are with a little more than 40 days left."
Riley Snyder writes for The Associated Press. Geoff Dornan can be reached at email@example.com.