Associated Press Writer
Nevada lawmakers start their fourth week of the 2009 session today with a review of a plan to create a forced savings account so there’s more stability in the state budget, now being hammered by a global economic downturn.
Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said her AB165, up for review in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, is part of an effort to “help eliminate the boom-bust revenue cycles that have plagued the state for years.”
The state already keeps a rainy day fund but this plan likely would increase the amount of money put aside as savings.
Also today, the Senate Judiciary Committee reviews a proposed constitutional amendment to adopt a so-called Missouri Plan system of appointing District Court judges and Supreme Court justices.
Currently in Nevada, judges and justices run in competitive elections. SJR2 won approval from lawmakers in 2007 and must get their approval again this session before going to a public vote in 2010.
Proponents argue that forcing judges to raise money for elections creates a perception that the judicial system is unfair and corrupt.
Typically judges raise money from the legal community ” lawyers who have cases before them.
Also today, legislative budget panels review agency spending plans for several officials, including the state’s attorney general, lieutenant governor, treasurer and secretary of state.
On Tuesday, a Senate-Assembly subcommittee reviews deep budget cuts proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons for Nevada’s cultural affairs programs ” cuts that would reduce state library hours and close some museums. Critics of the reductions argue that they’d hurt tourism and disproportionately affect rural areas and low-income Nevadans.
Senate Legislative Operations and Elections takes up SB104, which rewrites part of the state’s ethics-in-government laws.
Under the bill, responsibility for observing a 1-year “cooling off” period before ex-state regulators can take jobs in industries they once oversaw would be shifted from the industry to the former regulator.
Also Tuesday, Senate Taxation gets reports on the potential fiscal impact on local governments and school districts resulting from uncollected service taxes.
The panel will hear from representatives of state agencies, police, cities, counties and school boards.
On Wednesday, Senate and Assembly commerce-labor committees will review bills aimed at ending Nevada’s status as the state with the nation’s highest home foreclosure rate. The proposals include one to ensure adequate notice of an impending foreclosure and another to make lenders keep foreclosed-upon homes in decent shape so that they don’t decrease property values and attract criminals.
Senate Government Affairs gets reports on government employee pay levels, benefits and retirement plans; and Senate and Assembly panels dealing with human services will review various mental health services provided by the state.
On Thursday, mental health services will undergo another review in a joint Senate-Assembly budget subcommittee. Legislators already have said they won’t go along with reductions proposed by the governor in such services if the cuts jeopardize the health and safety of Nevada communities.
Senate Judiciary is scheduled to vote on more than a dozen bills, including SB82 which would allow no-warrant seizures of funds on prepaid debit cards as a way to track down terrorists and major drug-dealers. The plan has been opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and by public defenders as a violation of constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
Assembly Judiciary has scheduled votes on five bills, including AB88 which would enable Nevada authorities to prosecute people who view child pornography. Currently, the state can prosecute those who download images fro the Internet onto their computers, but not those who view them. Lawmakers have expressed concerns that the proposal could be used against people who unintentionally go to an Internet porn page.
Also Thursday, Assembly Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments considers AJR3, which amends the Nevada Constitution to restrict use of eminent domain to acquire public property for public use. The plan, subject to final approval by voters in 2010, would change an eminent domain plan approved by voters in November.
On Friday, a Senate-Assembly budget subcommittee reviews deep cuts proposed by the governor for the state’s higher education system. Witnesses will include the system’s chancellor, Jim Rogers. If the cuts are approved, the state’s universities in Reno and Las Vegas could see cuts of about 50 percent.
Also Friday, another budget subcommittee will review the state Conservation and Natural Resources Department. Proposed cuts in the department’s budget could mean limited state park operations, closure of a camp for prison inmate firefighters and an end to a commission that protects Nevada’s wild horse herds.