Nevada Lawmakers Making Proposals for New Bills

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada lawmakers have begun submitting
proposals for new laws for next year's legislative session, including measures to improve patient safety following a hepatitis C outbreak centered at a Las Vegas endoscopy center.

Among the 160 measures on a list made public Tuesday are requests for a comprehensive study of state and local taxing and spending, measures to prohibit teens from using cell phones while driving, and proposals to have the Legislature meet every year instead of every two years.

The list, which will be updated weekly until the 2009 session begins on Feb. 2, provides a single descriptive line of proposed measures and offers a hint of what lawmakers want most to address.

Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, seeks a bill to examine whether surgical centers should be required to obtain national professional accreditation like hospitals.

"I'm leaning toward mandatory accreditation versus optional if it can be done at a reasonable cost," Gansert told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Her bill is one of many expected in response to a health alert prompted by the discovery that patients at clinics affiliated with the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada could have been exposed to hepatitis strains or the HIV virus through the reuse of syringes and medication vials.

Sens. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, and Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, are requesting a bill to look at a new way to pay for major road improvement projects.

Amodei said the idea is to authorize the Nevada Department of Transportation to create general improvement districts so that development projects that contributed to freeway or highway gridlock can be required to pay for improvements.

Right now, a major housing or commercial developer is not required to contribute to highway capacity improvements made necessary by a project, he said. The idea is to allow a property tax assessment, even after a project is completed, to generate funds to provide a new travel lane or interchange.

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, has asked for the study of state and local tax revenues. Other lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, have also called for such a review given the recent performance of the state's main revenues: casino and sales taxes.

Lawmakers are also interested in examining the way they do their business.

Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, is proposing a constitutional amendment to allow the Legislature to meet annually for 60 days, instead of the current system of 120-days in odd numbered years.

Others have proposed scheduling 120-day sessions in odd-numbered
years and 60 days in even-numbered years so budgets can be adopted
one year at a time.

Beers said asking the Economic Forum to predict tax revenues more than two-years into the future is unreasonable. Despite its best efforts, the forum in the past five sessions has significantly under-projected revenues twice, over-projected twice and come close once.

"From that I've concluded it's nearly impossible to forecast revenues 26 months in advance," he said.

Adopting state budgets annually would make spending plans more reliable, Beers said.

His proposal would pay lawmakers for the first 30 days of each annual session, so there would be no additional cost. Lawmakers are paid now for the first 60 days of a session.

Some of other measures sought by lawmakers are a requirement that people show photo identification to vote, a bill to allow police to stop motorists simply for failure to wear a safety belt, a requirement that health benefit plans provide coverage for acupuncture, and an amendment to the state constitution to provide for a statewide lottery.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)