Lawmakers push first bill introduction deadline

21 March 2023

Bill introductions during floor sessions on the first major deadline of the legislative session wrapped up around 3:15 p.m. on Monday.

That’s because legislative leaders suspended rules requiring legislators’ bills to be introduced by the 43rd day of the session (March 20), instead allowing the Legislative Counsel Bureau’s legal division to keep working throughout the week on drafting measures.

“It is our goal to have all personal member BDRs [Bill Draft Requests] introduced by Day 50, which is March 27,” Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas) said, before Assembly members voted to suspend their standing rules. “This will give our hardworking bill drafters a little more time to complete their work.”

Out of nearly 700 bills requested by members of the Legislature, lawmakers have introduced a little more than 500 as of Monday evening, including 61 on Monday. That leaves scores of measures to be drafted by legislative staff and introduced by the revised deadline of March 27, though some of the requested bills came during the interim from lawmakers who are no longer in the Legislature after being termed out or losing re-election, meaning those bills are likely abandoned.

Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) said in a statement that the deadline was moved because of “the number of bills that were not ready to be introduced today,” and because legal staff was “not going to be able to meet the deadline.”

What lawmakers will do about another bill deadline also slated for March 27 — the date by which they must introduce all other bills, except emergency measures and the major budget bills introduced near the end of the session — was not immediately clear. 

In 2021, lawmakers similarly booted the first bill introduction deadline by a week, but attributed the delay to challenges created by staffing restrictions necessitated by the pandemic. That session, legislators introduced a combined 55 bills on the original deadline date. 

By comparison, lawmakers in 2019 introduced 144 bills on the first deadline day, and in 2017, introduced 204 bills. The deadline was not postponed in either one of those sessions.

With pandemic restrictions no longer in place this session, it was not immediately clear why bill drafters this year required additional time to complete outstanding bill draft requests. 

During a joint budget committee meeting on Friday, LCB Director Brenda Erdoes called the deadlines a “perennial” problem even though the division grew in size over the years, in large part because of staff attorneys leaving for better paid positions after several years working at LCB.

“Bill drafting is a very interesting, I think, very rewarding legal job, but our pay just does not compete with the legal world,” she said.

Erdoes added that the deadlines for legislators and others to submit BDRs can contribute to the drafting delay, as “it just takes a few very large bills to really overwhelm the system.” 

Still, at least one legislator said it would be beneficial for the bill drafting process to be sped up.

“I think the public thinks occasionally that we are hiding the ball because bills come out late,” Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) said during the hearing. “And it doesn’t fare well for the relationship between the Legislature and the public.”

The dozens of bills introduced on Monday covered a range of subject areas, including: 

New gun restrictions — Jauregui sponsored a pair of gun bills, including AB354 — a measure that would make it a gross misdemeanor to bring a gun within 100 yards of an election site and cleans up language for the state’s ban on so-called “ghost guns.” She also sponsored AB355, which would ban the sale or possession of semiautomatic shotguns and rifles for anyone under 21.

Overhauling summary evictions — Bills introduced in both houses (AB340 and SB335) include nearly identical language, calling to repeal the state’s existing summary eviction process and overhaul it to require landlords to give tenants a certain series of notices before initiating eviction proceedings. 

Evidence-based sex education — Four Assembly Democrats co-sponsored a measure that would overhaul the state’s sex education requirements. AB357 would replace existing sex-ed requirements with a requirement for a “sexuality education” course, and swap a requirement for simply “factual” instruction with a course that is “factual and evidence-based.”

Election crimes investigators — Similar to a bill introduced last week by Assembly Republicans (AB326) proposing an election crimes unit within the secretary of state’s office, a new Senate Republican-sponsored bill, SB325, would create the “Unit for the Investigation and Prosecution of Election Crimes” within the attorney general’s office. It would review allegations of election irregularities.

Fourth Senate bill targets fentanyl — With bills already out from Attorney General Aaron Ford and Senate Republicans seeking to increase penalties for fentanyl trafficking, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) has introduced SB343, another bill proposing to establish the crimes of low-level, mid-level and high-level trafficking in fentanyl, including any mixture that contains the drug.

School boards and charter schools — Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas) sponsored SB344, a sweeping bill that would seek to curtail the ability of school boards, presidents and superintendents to limit public comment at meetings; require that future school superintendents have 10 years of experience in Nevada school districts; and prohibit county and city governments from sponsoring, operating or funding charter schools. 

Criminalizing car trackers — Amid reports that both the Reno mayor and a Washoe County commissioner were tracked through GPS devices placed on their car earlier this year, Assemblywoman Jill Dickman (R-Sparks) sponsored AB356, which would make placing such trackers a crime (and create escalating penalties based on first, second and third offenses). 

Closing the REIT Commerce Tax loophole — As real estate investment trusts (REITs) have come to dominate major land sales on the Las Vegas Strip, a bill from Assemblywoman Venicia Considine (D-Las Vegas), AB345, would close an exemption for REITs in the state’s Commerce Tax — essentially applying the tax to any REIT with over $4 million in annual gross revenue. 

Teachers get a boost for supplies — After a fund that reimbursed teachers for out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies was cut in 2021, lawmakers are looking at restoring that fund with SB339. The new fund would allocate districts $500 per teacher per year, and allow teachers to request additional reimbursements if any funds are left over.

Editor’s Note: This story appears in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2023 legislative session. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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