Legislators Take Action on Many Measures

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Facing a deadline, Nevada lawmakers voted Tuesday to approve dozens of bills, including proposals to make English the state's official language, make driving without a seat belt a primary offense and give casino dealers and other tip-earners more control over their tips.

The Senate voted 19-2 for SB325, a proposal by Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, declaring English as the official state language. Only Sens. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, and Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas voted against the bill.

Even though the bill had been watered down - among other things, a section mandating state publications be published in only English was removed - Coffin said it would still enable racism and used "code language that calls out the worst instincts."

"This is lipstick on a pig," said Coffin, who's of Hispanic descent. "This bill is useless. It only serves to inflame racial hatred. I urge my colleague to change their minds. Do not send this to the Assembly. Do not embarrass the Senate."

Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said she was satisfied that amendments had made the bill "meaningless," and that passing it could avert the passage of a stronger English-only bill.

In a last-minute maneuver, the Assembly revived a dead measure that targets a change in tip-pooling policy by executives at the Wynn Las Vegas megaresort last year. The plan was amended into AB248 and approved Tuesday by the Assembly on a 42-10 vote.

The plan was opposed the Wynn, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Nevada Restaurant Association and the Nevada Hotel and
Lodging Association, which said it would take away business autonomy and ultimately harm those who make few tips.

There also was concern that it would impact the hundreds of other tip pooling arrangements in small restaurants throughout the state.

The Senate voted 11-10 to pass SB42, which makes not wearing a
seat belt in a moving vehicle a primary offense, allowing officers to cite drivers for that offense alone.

The bill was approved after senators heard a final plea from Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, who sought the vote after the measure was rejected on another vote late Friday.

The proposal has come up several times in past sessions, but only this year did it have the support of all state law enforcement agencies, Nolan said. If the bill passes the Assembly, Nevada will join 25 other states that make seat belt enforcement a primary offense. Only New Hampshire has no seat belt law at all.

Tuesday was the last day for Assembly bills to cross over to the Senate and for Senate bills to move to the Assembly. Most of the measures that didn't make the move were dead. Exceptions include proposals that are in Senate or Assembly money committees or that
survived as amendments to bills that are still alive.

On Monday and Tuesday, about 200 measures moved from one house
to the other, while fewer than 20 died as a result of inaction or actual losing votes.

Among the bills that passed were several measures strengthening
requirements for ballot initiatives. They included SB489, which prohibits threatening activists gathering signatures for petitions; and SJR3, a proposal to change state rules on signatures needed in each county to get an initiative on the ballot.

Also among the approved ballot petition measures were AB517, AB604 and AB606. The bills say someone may not be paid based on how many signatures are gathered for certain petitions, and someone who
solicits signatures must be a resident of Nevada in certain cases.

Other bills that passed included:

  • SB274, which allows the state engineer to fine those who
    violate water laws up to $10,000 per day; and SB405, which passed
    Monday, affecting rules followed by the state engineer in
    considering considers water protests.
  • SB280, which requires all health-care providers other than
    hospitals to provide patient bills within 120 days.
  • SB302, which bans Nevada-based credit card companies from using
    "universal default clauses" in credit card contracts.
  • SB354, a school safety bill that mandates drug testing,
    psychological evaluation and a felony penalty for anyone caught
    with a firearm on a school campus.
  • SB438, which passed on a 13-8 vote late Monday, allowing
    counties to let private companies to operate jails.
  • AB142, which requires a course in ethics for newly elected or
    appointed officials and newly registered lobbyists.
  • AB477, which says landlords of manufactured home parks must pay
    to move a tenant if the park is sold or closed and must reimburse
    the tenant $5,000 or pay the market value of the home, whichever is
  • AB369, which establishes procedures for the release of someone
    who is committed to a mental facility after being found not guilty
    by reason of insanity.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)