Nevada Legislative Briefs

Nevada Legislature 2003
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Nevada lawmakers keep working on budget differences

Nevada lawmakers continued efforts last night to compromise on a nearly $5 billion state budget for the next two years -- narrowing a $230 million gap in Senate and Assembly plans for education funding to just $30 million.

Concessions that narrowed the budget gap included a decision by
Democrats to give up on an all-day kindergarten plan. That saved
about $24 million.

But Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins says he's still pushing for teacher incentives and bonuses - also multimillion-dollar items in
the schools budget.

Key legislators, including Perkins, Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio and several other top Republicans and Democrats huddled behind closed doors in Raggio's office to work on a possible deal.

Until last night, the impasse had continued despite the dwindling number of days in the 2003 session. By law, the session must end next Monday.

ada tax bill headed to full Senate

A package of new and increased taxes on services, businesses, and entertainment is headed to the full Senate after a panel gave final approval to its plan.

The measure raises $560 million in new money for Nevada over the next two years.

But key lawmakers say it falls at least $250 million short of what's needed to fund the state budget.

A number of floor amendments are expected as senators try to add-on other proposals that were rejected in the tax panel.

It's unclear exactly when the full Senate will vote on the legislation.

The bill now includes brand-new state taxes on live entertainment, home sales, and services such as car repair. It doubles taxes on cigarettes and alcohol and takes more money from the state's biggest casinos.

Any tax plan would also need Assembly approval. But Assembly leaders are pushing a far larger tax plan. And Governor Guinn says he'll veto the Senate service tax plan.

Assembly approves lowering Nevada's DUI standard

The Legislature is moving forward with a bill reducing Nevada's drunken driving level to .08.

The bill is meant to comply with a 2000 congressional act establishing .08 as the national drunken driving standard.

The Assembly has passed the bill 33-to-nine with debate focusing on both the public policy and the federal mandate.

Several lawmakers say Nevada shouldn't bow to the will of Congress. The state would lose more than $28 million in federal highway funds if it doesn't enact the change.

Other legislators say the measure is needed and would save lives. They say lowering the DUI standard would act as a deterrent to keep drunk drivers off the roads.

The bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

Bill would help spot cancer growth trends in Nevada

Governor Guinn has signed into law a bill to help ensure future Nevada cancer clusters are identified more quickly than one that killed three people and sickened 13 others with ties to the Fallon area.

The measure requires the state health officer to analyze reports from health facilities to determine whether there are cancer growth trends, and to investigate any trend.

The bill won support during the session from Jeff Braccini, whose four-year-old son Jeremy was the most recent Fallon child to be diagnosed with leukemia, in December 2001.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been unable to identify an environmental cause of the Fallon-area cases of acute lymphocytic leukemia. It's the most common form of childhood cancer.

Final approval in Nevada Legislature for mass quarantines

The Nevada Legislature has OK'd a bill letting public health officials detain and quarantine large groups of people to stop virus outbreaks or other emergencies.

Senators agreed with Assembly amendments from the ACLU and the measure heads to the governor for his signature.

It expands the ability of hospitals and state health officials to restrain and isolate people who may spread a virus or disease.

They're now allowed to do so with individuals, but not groups.

The legislation includes provisions allowing for outside communication and quick judicial intervention for people held against their will.

A court order is needed for hospitals to give people medical treatment against their will.

Proposed Nevada budget helps some social services

Low-income mothers, seniors and people with mental health problems would all benefit under the proposed $4.8 billion budget nearing final approval in the Nevada Legislature.

But social service advocates are cautious, saying lawmakers must still approve a tax program with enough money to finance the programs.

The budget includes money for a suicide prevention program; expansion of the state's Senior R-x drug purchase program; and an increase in the state's Check-Up program that provides insurance for children of the working poor.

Lawmakers also are recommending a $32 million, 150-bed psychiatric hospital at the Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Center.

The Legislature is reopening Summit View Youth Correctional Center in North Las Vegas, and more staffers were approved for youth reformatories in Elko and Caliente.

Nevada Senate panel advances NHP radio fix

The state Senate is set to review legislation authorizing $16 million to help fix the Nevada Highway Patrol radio system.

The bill appropriates money from the state's highway fund and general fund. But it isn't final.

The NHP could face a big federal fine because of a costly mistake by the agency.

It contracted with Motorola to build a new computer radio system activated three years ago.

But nobody ever applied for needed federal frequency licenses, and now the NHP is supposed to get off those frequencies next month.

The mistake will force the highway patrol to switch to an old communications system or build a new one. The Senate bill would help them do that.

Nevada lawmakers could get paid for each session day

Get paid for each day you work. It's a novel idea in the Nevada Legislature, but state lawmakers say it's about time.

The Nevada Constitution now limits lawmakers' pay to 60 days per session. And it allows for expenses of up to $60 dollars per session for postage, phone calls and newspapers.

The Senate has now approved a constitutional amendment that'd let the lawmakers get more money for stamps and get paid for each day of the 120-day session.

The change is far from final. It'd have to be approved by the Assembly and again by the 2005 Legislature before heading to the ballot for a final voters' OK.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)