Nevada legislators take action on many measures |

Nevada legislators take action on many measures

Associated Press

Facing a deadline, Nevada lawmakers voted Tuesday to approve dozens of bills, including proposals to make English the state’s official language, make driving without a seat belt a primary offense and give casino dealers and other tip-earners more control over their tips.

The Senate voted 19-2 for SB325, a proposal by Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, declaring English as the official state language. Only Sens. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, and Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas voted against the bill.

Even though the bill had been watered down – among other things, a section mandating state publications be published in only English was removed – Coffin said it would still enable racism.

“This is lipstick on a pig,” said Coffin, who is of Hispanic descent. “This bill is useless. It only serves to inflame racial hatred.”

Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said she was satisfied that amendments had made the bill “meaningless,” and that passing it could avert the passage of a stronger English-only bill.

The Senate also passed two conflicting bills dealing with higher education aid for illegal immigrants. SB52, approved on a 15-6 vote, allows illegal immigrants to get Millennium Scholarships if they sign an affidavit verifying that they will apply for citizenship as soon as they are able. If they don’t apply, they must repay any benefits.

The Senate voted 17-4 for SB415, which bans illegal immigrants from receiving any state benefits for higher education, including scholarships, loans, and in-state tuition. Senate Democrats tried but failed to include an affidavit provision similar to the one in SB52.

“Many of these children were brought to this country by acts not of their own choosing,” said Sen. Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, who opposed SB415. “But the children are the ones that are going to be hurt.”

In a last-minute maneuver, the Assembly revived a dead measure that targets a change in tip-pooling policy by executives at the Wynn Las Vegas megaresort last year. The plan was amended into AB248 and approved Tuesday by the Assembly on a 32-10 vote.

The plan was opposed by the Wynn, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Nevada Restaurant Association and the Nevada Hotel and Lodging Association, which said it would take away business autonomy and ultimately harm those who make few tips.

There also was concern that it would impact the hundreds of other tip pooling arrangements in small restaurants throughout the state.

The Senate voted 11-10 to pass SB42, which makes not wearing a seat belt in a moving vehicle a primary offense, allowing officers to cite drivers for that offense alone.

The bill was approved after senators heard a final plea from Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, who sought the vote after the measure was rejected on another vote late Friday. Nolan said that while the proposal has come up several times in past sessions, this was the first year it had support from all state law enforcement agencies.

If the bill passes the Assembly, Nevada will join 25 other states that make seat belt enforcement a primary offense.

Tuesday was the last day for Assembly bills to cross over to the Senate and for Senate bills to move to the Assembly. Most of the measures that didn’t make the move were dead. Exceptions include proposals that are in Senate or Assembly money committees or that survived as amendments to bills that are still alive.

On Monday and Tuesday, about 200 measures moved from one house to the other, while fewer than 20 died as a result of inaction or actual losing votes.

Among the bills that passed were several measures strengthening requirements for ballot initiatives. They included SB489, which prohibits threatening activists gathering signatures for petitions; and SJR3, a proposal to change state rules on signatures needed in each county to get an initiative on the ballot.

Also among the approved ballot petition measures were AB517, AB604 and AB606. The bills say someone may not be paid based on how many signatures are gathered for certain petitions, and someone who solicits signatures must be a resident of Nevada in certain cases.