Nevada Legislature hits midpoint | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada Legislature hits midpoint

BRENDAN RILEY
Associated Press Writer

The ninth week of the 2007 session, which starts Monday, is a good news-bad news point for Nevada lawmakers. By Friday they’ll be halfway through the session – but also working without pay.

Legislators can meet in regular session for only 120 days, and Thursday is the 60th day. Besides being the midpoint, it’s also the last day for their $138 daily pay. After that, they’re down to a per-diem allowance until the session ends in early June.

Other key developments include the scheduled start of budget closings by money committees on Tuesday. But that’s been complicated by Gov. Jim Gibbons’ move to make nearly $112 million in agency budget cuts, which will require many adjustments in his spending plan for the next two fiscal years.

On Monday, committees will review dozens of bills in various committees, including AB149 in Assembly Ways and Means, which would allocate $2 million to expand abuse prevention and education programs; and SB370, in Senate Finance, which revises the eligibility requirements for students who get one of the state’s Millennium Scholarships.

Assembly Judiciary considers AB300, which would change the law that doubles prison sentences if a gun or other deadly weapon is used to commit a crime. Under the change, the add-on sentence could be no more than five years. The panel also takes up AB428, to protect Nevadans from identity theft.

Senate Judiciary considers SB542, which would increase the value of property protected under Nevada’s homestead exemption law from $350,000 to $550,000.

Assembly Health and Human Services debates several bills dealing with protection of children, including AB263 which would make some improvements in reporting by child welfare agencies when a child in state custody dies or nearly dies due to abuse or neglect. However, critics say the plan has too many exemptions.

Senate Human Resources and Education will discuss various bills dealing with students, including SB313, a Democrat-sponsored plan calling for full-day kindergarten; and SB284, authorizing schools to impose fees for students participating in organized sports activities.

Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor considers AB178, which would increase the cap on systems eligible for net metering to 5,000 kilowatts; and AB277, broadening tax breaks for businesses that utilize geothermal energy.

On Tuesday, besides the usual batch of committee hearings, the lawmakers are scheduled to hear a speech from U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Senate Commerce and Labor considers SB409, which requires health insurance policies to provide coverage for a vaccine to protect against cervical cancer; and Senate Judiciary considers SB471, requiring a DNA sample of sex offenders upon release from prison.

Assembly Taxation considers AB487, which would exempt professional baseball events from the state tax on live entertainment; and Senate Taxation considers SB506, which would change the way that snuff is taxed.

Senate Legislative Operations and Elections considers SB489, which prohibits threats against people who are gathering signatures on petitions; and Senate Transportation and Homeland Security reviews SB392, a proposal for toll roads and toll bridges.

An Assembly Health and Human Services subcommittee discusses AB146, which would require the state to set up a Web site and phone services to give Nevadans information on hospital costs and quality.

Assembly Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments discusses AB593, which, among other things, says incremental pay raises for state lawmakers must be in line with those of state employees.

A select panel on corrections debates AB509, which would allow the release of inmates who aren’t considered threats to society after they’ve served their minimum sentence. That’s aimed at easing prison overcrowding.

On Wednesday, Assembly Commerce and Labor reviews AB329, AB440 and AB375, all aimed at helping Nevadans who lose their homes because they can’t pay their mortgages.

Assembly Judiciary takes up AB353, providing for restoration of parental rights by a judge if it’s in the best interests of a child and the child isn’t likely to be adopted.

Senate Finance reviews the governor’s Washington, D.C., office, and SB461, which provides $3 million for advance planning for a new staff office building for legislators.

Senate Judiciary plans a work session on SB237, which would make Nevada recognize certain states’ concealed weapon permits; and SB302, which would stop credit card companies from raising interest rates when consumers fail to make car payments or pay power bills on time; and SB302, a controversial bill to protect rights of grandparents to see grandchildren.

Bills dealing with identity theft and parental rights also are on the panel’s agenda.

A Senate Government Affairs subcommittee discusses SB123, which would require government agencies to follow strict timelines when responding to public records requests.

Senate Human Resources and Education takes up SB405, which would continue part of the restrictions on participants in water appropriation hearings approved in 2005. The Assembly has a rival bill to erase the 2005 restrictions.

On Thursday, Assembly Government Affairs considers AB557, which mandates pre-employment drug tests for all state employees; and Senate Commerce and Labor takes up SB318 and SB546, dealing with mortgage lending.

Senate Judiciary reviews SJR9, to set up an intermediate appeals court; and SJR2, changing Nevada’s system of electing judges. Both are proposed constitutional amendments.

Assembly Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments plans a work session on AB142, which would impose tighter controls on lobbyists who try to influence Nevada decision-makers. The panel also discusses AB605, updating laws against a public official’s use of state equipment or personnel for campaign activity.

Senate Legislative Operations and Elections considers SB495, another change in ethics-in-government laws. A discussion on electronic voting machines also is scheduled.

Also Thursday, lawmakers will hear from Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev.

On Friday, Assembly Judiciary considers AB519, which limits a judge’s ability to seal public records without first holding a hearing.

Senate Judiciary debates SB299, which provides that the mother of an unborn child and the child constitute separate and distinct victims for purposes of prosecuting any criminal offense.

Assembly Government Affairs debates AB442, upgrading Nevada laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation; and Senate Government Affairs reviews SB325, making English the official language of the state.

Assembly Health and Human Services discusses AB410, dealing with immunization of children; and AB575, repealing an obsolete statute on county workhouses for indigents.