The 80th Nevada Legislature has adjourned |

The 80th Nevada Legislature has adjourned

By Geoff Dornan

Lawmakers finished the 80th legislative session Monday night after passing a series of bills making major policy changes in the state.

The Assembly finished with five minutes to spare before midnight. The Senate cut it much closer, completing its business at 11:59 p.m.

One of the biggest changes is the bill that gives collective bargaining rights to state workers.

During his campaign, Gov. Steve Sisolak promised to provide collective bargaining similar to what local governments throughout Nevada already have. It would allow bargaining not only for wages but benefits, workplace conditions and other issues as well. But the bill contains language that says any increases in pay and benefits are limited to the amount of money available

Opponents said the potential cost is still a half-billion dollars a session.

Lawmakers also approved a completely new formula for funding K-12 education proponents described as student centered, providing funding to students based on need instead of providing the money by district and school. They said that would ensure the students who need the added funding get it even if they aren’t in a Title 1 school. It also increases funding for English Language Learners, those on the edge of poverty, those with disabilities and others with special needs.

The new system will get a trial run over the next two years before actually replacing the historic Nevada Plan to make sure it actually works

Lawmakers enacted sweeping reforms to the state’s criminal justice system proponents say will save $550 million over the coming decade. The core of AB236 is designed to reduce the number of non-violent offenders and parole/probation violators that Nevada puts in prison. Supporters say the goal is to replace incarceration with rehabilitation and treatment. They point out that most individuals sent to prison are in for nonviolent offenses overwhelmingly the result of underlying substance abuse or mental health disorders. It also lowers the penalties for a long list of non-violent offenses and encourages the use of diversion and treatment.

They voted to remove the statute of limitations on sexual assault cases when there is DNA evidence available to find the perpetrator and decriminalized abortion in Nevada.

They also passed legislation that will compensate people who were wrongfully convicted of a crime and later exonerated. Those who served more than 20 years before being cleared would be entitled to $75,000 for each year as compensation. Lawmakers also passed a law mandating that law enforcement record interrogations to prevent abuses.

Democrats also approved plans to raise the minimum wage in Nevada in 75-cent increments until it hits $12 an hour in 2024.

Lawmakers approved a major bill designed to ensure that people can get access to public records.  The bill is designed to make sure governments at all level don’t stonewall those asking for records or attempt to overcharge for the records. The bill includes penalties for willful violations of the open records law.

The Democratic controlled legislature also reversed changes to prevailing wage ruled adopted by the Republican lawmakers in the 2015 session.

Finally, they voted to put a ballot question before voters that would enshrine protections against every kind of discrimination in the Nevada Constitution.

Lawmakers also approved legislation that would join the national movement to elect the president by the popular vote. Gov. Steve Sisolak vetoed the measure saying it would tie Nevada’s electoral college votes to the national vote even if Nevadans disagreed and that it would reduce the power of small states in favor of the most populous states.