Nevada lawmakers face looming deadline
Associated Press Writer
With a procedural deadline looming, Nevada lawmakers are tackling some 200 bills that must move ahead by midnight Tuesday or be buried.
The deadline sparked an exercise in speed-legislating on Monday, with the Assembly passing nearly 20 bills and more than twice as many amendments in under five hours of floor session – with most bills whizzing through with no debate, discussion or dissent.
The Senate kept pace, passing more than 20 bills and working late into the evening.
A Senate sales tax holiday proposal proved the most divisive issue of the day. In a party-line vote, SB167, backed by Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, was moved to the Finance Committee instead of getting a floor vote that could have advanced it to the Assembly.
Senate Majority Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said he wanted to keep the bill alive but moved it to Finance because it has a fiscal impact and by Senate rules must be heard by that committee.
Carlton accused Republicans of trying to kill the bill.
“I do not agree that going to Finance was to keep it alive, I would be surprised if this bill emerges from Finance. They don’t want to put their votes on the record for some reason,” she said.
Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins’ own sales tax holiday bill passed unanimously in the Assembly. AB320 would suspend sales taxes for three days in August on school supplies and computers.
Perkins, D-Henderson, saw more resistance from Republicans on his AB418, a half-cent sales tax increase in Las Vegas that would pay for 1,700 more police in Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City and Mesquite. The proposal was endorsed by voters by a slim margin in November.
Seven Republicans voted against the bill, which passed 35-7. Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said several lawmakers in his caucus had talked with constituents and found that the tax increase had lost support since the fall.
“People saw the surplus, people saw the property tax bills come out and there were a whole lot of folks who were dissatisfied,” he said. “All the sudden it was like, why did we vote for new taxes?”
Republicans in the Assembly also opposed AB353, a proposal requiring major hospitals to increase the discount given to uninsured patients from 30 percent to 50 percent. It also forced hospitals to report on their discount policies and post them on their Web sites.
Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie said the bill was an effort to “level the playing field” for the uninsured.
But Assemblyman Garn Mabey, R-Las Vegas, said he thinks hospitals do enough to care for indigent patients and, following the high-profile dispute with the Health Services Coalition in Las Vegas, the hospitals were “getting a bad rap.”
The Assembly also passed:
n AJR5, a constitutional amendment requiring more signatures for initiative petitions to qualify for the ballot. The proposal would require signatures be counted by congressional district, rather than county. It also would prohibit a measure that failed by a wide margin from being reintroduced in the next election. Eleven lawmakers, largely Republicans, voted against it.
n AB340, creating a hotline for reporting low-interest loan abuses and fraud. It allow cities to limit the number of payday loan businesses in one neighborhood. And it requires lending companies to notify consumers that advances on income tax rebates, known as RALs, are loans with interest.
n AB120, requiring doctors to report to their licensing board on all injuries and deaths that occur during office-based surgeries, was approved 36-6.
The Senate passed:
n SB238, letting Nevada utilities raise natural gas rates without going through a public hearing each time, was approved 18-2. The bill lets Nevada utilities adjust rates quarterly, with a yearly review by the Public Utilities Commission and an annual consumer session for the public. Las Vegas Democratic Sens. Terry Care and Dina Titus voted against the measure.
n SB247, sponsored by Titus, imposing a 10 percent live entertainment tax on admission, refreshments and merchandise at adult-oriented establishments such as strip clubs – but not brothels. Separate live entertainment taxes would still be charged on entertainment offered in casinos, but not on sporting events and some other venues.