173 new laws take effect today | NevadaAppeal.com

173 new laws take effect today

by Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

A total of 173 new laws take effect in Nevada today, including hard-fought changes in the Public Employee Benefits Program.

Assembly Bill 286 mandates that local governments and school districts begin contributing to what it costs their retirees to get insurance from the benefits program.

In addition, both state and local governments are now required to “commingle” the experience of their active and retired members so they pay the same rate. This prevents the retirees from being charged many times what it costs active workers to get health coverage.

Testimony given during the Legislature included some retirees saying they were being hit with double, triple or higher increases. Some said they were paying upwards of $1,900 a month for benefits because they receive no subsidy from their former employer and are rated separately from younger, healthier active workers.

The legislation also allows retirees who left their old coverage plan with a local government to go back to that plan under the new rules.

That and many other pieces of legislation have been largely overlooked since the end of the session because of the furor over tax increases approved by lawmakers.

Several parts of the tax plan also take effect today, including a real estate transfer tax of $1.30 per $500 of value when a piece of property is sold, a modified business tax of 0.7 percent on gross wages paid and a similar payroll tax on financial institutions set at 2 percent of wages.

A number of other new laws taking effect deal with crime. The most sweeping piece is Assembly Bill 250 by Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, creating a crime of “terrorism” in Nevada. The bill sets stiff penalties for every level of involvement in terrorism from the acts themselves to aiding and concealing acts of terrorism or making terrorist devices such as bombs.

Penalties for felonies committed as acts of terrorism would be doubled. The sentence would be life in prison for many acts resulting in death or substantial bodily harm.

AB250 also requires resorts to develop emergency plans and provide them along with building plans and lists of emergency equipment to ensure the resort industry is prepared as well as law enforcement.

Assembly Bill 33 doubles penalties for having a methamphetamine lab in any residential area or within 500 feet of a business, school, church, park or residence or for operating a drug lab in the presence of anyone under age 18.

Assembly Bill 78 mandates life without parole for repeat sex offenders against children. Assembly Bill 53 enhances penalties for assaults when a health-care worker such as a paramedic is the victim.

But Assembly Bill 15 outlaws the death penalty for a person who is mentally retarded. Assembly Bill 17 raises the rate of pay for defense lawyers appointed to handle murder cases.

Assembly Bill 60 prevents developmentally disabled or mentally incompetent juveniles from being certified as adults in criminal cases.

Several other laws were approved by the 2003 Legislature dealing with domestic violence, including Assembly Bill160, which is designed to help domestic violence victims get child support while remaining hidden from their abuser.

Assembly Bill 107 doubles the penalty an abuser faces for committing a felony such as battery while violating a restraining order for domestic violence or harassment. In cases of attempted murder, battery with a deadly weapon or causing substantial bodily harm, the law prohibits probation or a suspended sentence.

Assembly Bill 331 creates a way for children to get a protective order against an accused molester. And Senate Bill 43 enacts the Uniform Child Act providing alternative ways for children to testify in court.

Senate Bill 269 instructs judges to review and modify alimony or child support payments when there is a change of 20 percent or more in the individual’s gross monthly income. That review would come whether the income went up or down.

There are several laws taking effect today many people aren’t aware of — including the Assembly Bill 226 requiring adult passengers in taxicabs wear seat belts. If the cabbie is stopped and the passengers aren’t belted up, passengers face a $25 fine.

And Assembly Bill 444 toughens up penalties for unsafe driving in road construction areas. Increased penalties include fines up to $1,000 and 120 hours of community service or six months in jail if the driving violations result in injury or property damage.

Senate Bill 307 requires restaurants to post warnings about the risks of drinking alcohol while pregnant and Senate Bill 315 bans cigarette machines from areas where people under age 21 are allowed.

A number of laws were enacted to try strengthen consumer protection and mandate corporate accountability. Senate Bill 124 is designed to protect Nevadans from Enron-style business practices. Assembly Bill 284 is aimed at predatory lending practices involving the elderly. Senate Bill 8 increases penalties for employers who violate occupational safety rules, resulting in the death of an employee.

Senate Bill100 sets up a commission to handle complaints involving common interest communities.