CARSON CITY, Nev. — Shaking his head and looking down one of his signature patterned bow ties, the Democratic leader of the Nevada Senate said last week there was no version of a program to spend public dollars on private schooling that he could imagine himself supporting this session.
Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford’s personal grappling was the epitome of a Democratic legislative majority so fundamentally opposed to giving families hundreds or thousands of taxpayer dollars apiece to move their children from public to private schools that they decided this week to effectively trade several of their policy priorities for the death of Education Savings Accounts.
Lawmakers have sent the bulk of the state budget to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. But with ESAs off the table, a massive funding shortfall caused by the political fallout and significant energy and health-related bills yet to pass out of the Legislature, lawmakers are expected to work until their constitutionally mandated Monday night deadline to finish business.
Meanwhile, Sandoval is taking action on hundreds of bills. He signed 19 bills on Saturday, vetoed two others and signed 35 bills on Sunday.
One veto struck down a proposal that would have kept more information on retired public employees from being accessible to the public. Sandoval said in a veto message the public-private balance of records is delicate and supporters failed to show Senate Bill 384 was necessary.
Here’s a look at some of the bills signed into law Saturday and Sunday:
RESTORE VOTING RIGHTS FOR FELONS
Sandoval reversed his opinion on similar legislation he vetoed in 2011 by signing a bill from Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to allow nonviolent felons to vote and serve on juries in civil cases immediately upon release from probation or parole. Violent offenders would get those rights two years after release.
Frierson served as a deputy to then-Attorney General Sandoval from 2003-2005.
OPEN DISCUSSIONS OF PAY
Nevada employers must allow workers to publish and openly discuss their pay as well as their coworkers’ pay without fear of retribution under Assembly Bill 276, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel of Henderson. It takes effect immediately and intends to prohibit employers from firing people who ask about the fairness of their pay.
Sandoval vetoed Senate Bill 397, which would have similarly allowed workers to discuss compensation, but went further to let the state’s Equal Rights Commission to take action against businesses found to have violated fair pay laws. He says such disputes should be resolved through the courts, where a defendant’s due process rights are fully protected and high-stakes litigation can be adjudicated.
BAN THE BOX
Nevada will outlaw questions about criminal charges and convictions on applications to work at state and local government facilities under Assembly Bill 384 from Democratic Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson, who aims to give offenders a better shot at successfully re-entering society.
Government hiring managers can, beginning next year, conduct and consider the results of background checks once the applicant gets a final interview or job offer. They can rescind the offer after considering the applicant’s age when they committed a crime and the severity or frequency of their crimes.
BIRTH CONTROL, HEALTH SCREENINGS
Nevada becomes one of the first 10 states to allow women to pick up 12-month supplies of birth control at a time under a law intended to decrease health risks and unintended pregnancies associated with gaps between prescriptions. Democratic Sen. Julia Ratti’s Senate Bill 233 prohibits co-pays on contraception and hormone replacement therapy. It also mandates private insurers, not Medicaid, cover screenings for diabetes, blood pressure abnormalities and depression; all federally recommended vaccinations; and counseling for breastfeeding, domestic violence and sexually transmitted diseases.
All public and private school employees and volunteers, not just teachers and administrators, must now report any suspicions of child abuse or neglect. Republican Sen. Heidi Gansert says that with Senate Bill 287, she aims to limit schools from “passing the trash” or overlooking wrongdoing by school personnel.
People can legally free their dogs, horses and any other “animal accompanying a person” from hunting traps, as well as remove traps that pose a safety risk to people or their animals, under Senate Bill 364. Democratic Sen. David Parks’ measure also requires traps be placed no closer than 200 feet from a road and mandates that unlicensed traps bear the name of the owner. The issue of trapping drew hours of testimony at the Legislature this session.