Nevada Legislature Week 17: Big decisions as time runs out
May 26, 2015
Nevada lawmakers are entering their final full week of the 120-day legislative session, and there's major work yet to be done.
While they have approved much of their spending plan, they still need to finalize the other side of the equation — what taxes will they implement and extend to put the dollars behind their budget?
Contentious policy issues remain unresolved. Will a cap on rooftop solar installations go away before the limit brings the solar industry to a standstill? Will Nevadans be choosing their next president through an old-fashioned caucus or a much broader primary election?
Here's a look at the top things to watch in Week 17 of the Nevada Legislature.
TO THE WIRE ON TAXES
Gov. Brian Sandoval wants to raise or extend $1.1 billion in taxes during the next two years to pay for an ambitious slate of education initiatives, and a newly reworked version of his original tax shows he's not afraid to accept others' ideas to get more votes.
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But members of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee gave a cautious reception Thursday to Sandoval's hybrid "Nevada Revenue Plan," which combines his ideas with those of Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman and Republican Assembly leaders Paul Anderson and Derek Armstrong. The Republican duo declined to say whether they're on board with the measure, and taxation committee chair Armstrong questioned whether specific elements of the reworked bill were the best routes to broaden Nevada's tax base.
Two-thirds of the Republican-dominated Assembly will need to sign on to a tax plan for it to pass, and the decision is expected to come down to a handful of GOP lawmakers who could go either way. If a tax doesn't pass, lawmakers will have to reopen their finalized budgets and start slashing programs.
Nevada Republican lawmakers have tried several times this session to quietly bury AB405, a bill that requires doctors to notify a girl's parents before performing an abortion on a minor. On the Assembly side, they unsuccessfully tried to downgrade it from a bill to a study, and on the Senate side, they let it languish in the Finance Committee — a notorious graveyard for bills.
But after clamoring from abortion foes, the bill was moved into a more sympathetic committee and is scheduled for a public hearing on Monday.
Proponents say parents should be informed when their daughter is about to undergo an invasive medical procedure, and they argue family members need to know so they can help during an emotional crisis. But Democratic opponents say the notification could endanger girls who live in abusive homes, and it could drive them to desperate lengths to keep their pregnancy secret.
HEAT'S ON SOLAR
Advocates for rooftop solar installations have been grousing against a 3 percent state cap on net metering, which allows people with their own solar systems to sell excess power they generate back to NV Energy. Rapidly expanding companies such as Solar City say they will hit the cap within the year, and it will bring their industry to a standstill.
Opponents at the utility say net metering could subsidize solar customers at the expense of traditional customers.
A compromise measure that came up for a hearing last week, SB374, would kick the debate about cost-shifting from the Legislature to the experts at the Nevada Public Utilities Commission. NV Energy is on board with the idea, although solar companies say they want more concessions in the bill.
The measure is scheduled for a vote Monday in the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee.
PRIMARY OR CAUCUS?
National political junkies have their sights set on Nevada, which is looking to scrap the old-school caucus system it uses to choose presidential nominees and switch to a primary election. Proponents of the bill, SB421, say the primary format will get more voters involved in the political process and will further raise Nevada's profile as an essential campaign stop for candidates.
While moderate Republicans favor the switch, Democrats tend to oppose it. They say the bill's plan to move all primary elections, including those for state Legislature, up from June to late February will kick off campaigns well before the holidays and send candidates knocking on doors during the Christmas season.
Republican Assemblyman Lynn Stewart proposed an amendment that would allow state and local primary elections to stay in June, but said any deal on the bill would come this week.