Lawmakers face deadline with minimum wage bills in balance
By ALISON NOON
Lawmakers have planned for a jam-packed week of hearings and committee votes as they approach their first strict deadline.
The Democratic-controlled statehouse must move all bills through policy committees by the end of Friday or put them out of contention. Several top issues are on the verge of dying.
Here is more on measures heading toward an uncertain future:
At the start of the session, Democratic leaders promised to make raising the minimum wage a top priority, but their two major wage proposals stalled just two weeks after the opening bell.
Nevada’s minimum wage matches the federal rate of $7.25 per hour, though employers must pay a higher rate of $8.25 per hour if they do not provide health benefits.
Senate Bill 106 would raise the minimums by 75 cents every year for five years until they reach $11 and $12 an hour. Assembly Bill 175 would raise them $1.25 every year for six years until they hit $14 and $15 an hour.
Although the measures have been debated in public hearings, no votes were scheduled to move either forward by Sunday.
PLAYING POLITICS WITH RAPE KITS
The legislative majority’s feud with one of the state’s top Republican officials has come to a head in bill maneuvering.
GOP Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Democratic Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson both sought legislation before the session began — when policy proposals are confidential — to address a backlog of sexual assault evidence.
Both of their bills would require that police transmit rape kits to laboratories or hospitals within 30 days and that doctors test the kits within 180 days of receiving them. Both would require the labs to report data from the kits annually.
Additionally, Benitez-Thompson’s proposal would direct a state commission to study the data, while Laxalt’s would streamline the process of reimbursing entities that do the testing.
Lawmakers have scheduled only the Democratic measure, Assembly Bill 97, to move forward.
The attorney general’s Assembly Bill 55 is receiving the silent treatment after Democratic lawmakers repeatedly griped about Laxalt not attending budget or policy hearings this session.
Like the heads of many other state agencies in Nevada and across the country, Laxalt has sent his office’s budget experts and policy advisers to discuss those details.
Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and 23 Democratic committee leaders have the discretion to kill bills by refusing to give them a hearing.
Most proposals that had not been scheduled for a hearing by Sunday will head to the recycling bin at the end of the week. Barring any late schedule changes, those include policies to:
— Eliminate plastic bags from checkout counters within five years, Assembly Bill 344 from Democratic Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui of Las Vegas.
— Require the state to provide parents of stillborn babies with birth certificates, Senate Bill 296, a bipartisan and bicameral measure.
— Lower the legal gambling age from 21 to 18, Assembly Bill 86 from Republican Assemblyman Jim Wheeler of Minden.
— Abolish Nevada’s closed primary election system, Senate Bill 103 from Republican Sen. James Settelmeyer of Minden. Ford, the Senate majority leader, recently told reporters: "We don’t feel that it’s worthy of a hearing, simple as that."
— Create the state’s first wholesale tax on electricity production, specifically on renewable energy, Senate Bill 336 from Republican Sen. Joseph Hardy of Boulder City.
— Qualify barbed-wire fencing as a sufficient warning against trespassing on land, just as "keep out" signs or orange-tipped posts constitute legal barriers, Senate Bill 475 from the Republican-led interim committee on public lands.