Governor signs bills on economy, education, cannabis

Photo courtesy Governor's Office
By  | 

CARSON CITY, NV (KOLO) - Governor Steve Sisolak has signed five bills designed to boost education funding and school safety. His office says the bills are among his pledges to provide a three-percent raise to educators and increase school supply reimbursements by 80 percent.

The Governor signed the measures alongside State Superintendent Jhone Ebert, Senator Marilyn Dondero Loop, and Nevada Department of Education (NDE) staff in Carson City.

“As governor, improving our public schools is my top priority, and I’m beyond proud to be able to make good on my pledges to deliver a well-deserved raise for our hardworking educators and provide larger reimbursements for school supplies,” Gov. Sisolak said. “This legislative session, we funded the largest education budget in state history, enhanced funding for school safety, gave educators a raise, put more money towards classroom supplies, increased the per-pupil expenditure, and moved to overhaul Nevada’s 50-year-old funding formula.

“Though there is more work to be done in the interim, I’m proud of all we were able to accomplish for our educators and students,” Gov. Sisolak continued. “I’d like to give a special thanks to our new superintendent, Jhone Ebert, for her leadership in seeing these major priorities through. With this boost in funding, we’re putting Nevada’s schools back on track and setting our students up for a lifetime of success.”

Bill descriptions:

Assembly Bill 309 requires school districts that have collective bargaining agreements with educators to reserve enough money to provide agreed-upon salary increases to employees. This bill also authorizes counties to elect to levy a new sales tax to fund such education-related initiatives as early childhood education, adult education, truancy reduction, homelessness reduction, teacher recruitment, and workforce development. Furthermore, AB309 gives school districts more flexibility in how to spend certain funding.

Senate Bill 89 enhances the SafeVoice Program, formerly known as Safe To Tell, which enables anonymous reporting of any threatening or dangerous activity at a public school. This bill also forms a statewide committee on school safety, spearheaded by the governor, that will make recommendations to the legislature. Furthermore, SB89 strengthens requirements for school- and district-level emergency response plans, requires each school district to have a school safety specialist, and provides greater empowerment to school police officers.

Senate Bill 324 renames the Teachers’ School Supplies Reimbursement account to the Teachers’ School Supplies Assistance Account and expands the options for teachers to access these funds, which increase under the approved budget from $100 to $180 per teacher. This was the estimate based on the number of teachers in January 2019. NDE will recalculate the amount based on the number of teachers and funded amount.

Senate Bill 551 retains the existing Modified Business Tax rate and directs additional funding toward education, including school safety initiatives, and Opportunity Scholarships, a program that provides a tax credit for businesses that donate towards private school scholarships for low-income students.

Senate Bill 545 directs all revenue from the 10 percent tax on retail sales of marijuana in Nevada into the Distributive School Account. Previously, this revenue went toward the state’s Rainy Day Fund. This provides an additional $120 million funding boost for K-12 education over the biennium.

Governor's Prepared Remarks on Other Bill Signings 6/12/19:

Senate Bill 135:

Good afternoon and thank you all for being here. I’d first like to thank President Lee Saunders of AFSCME for flying out to join us today for this special event. I’d also like to thank all the members of organized labor who are here today. Nothing makes me prouder than being in a room that proves Nevada is union strong!

In my State of the State address, I made two important commitments to our state workers -- that they would receive a three percent raise, and that they would be empowered to bargain collectively in the years ahead.

I’m proud that we were able to get funds for a pay raise for our state workers included in the final state budget this session.

Our state employees enable us to provide medical and social services to our people, assist new businesses, and keep our roads and highways safe.

During The Great Recession, many of them took pay cuts — or went without salary increases -- but they continued to faithfully serve Nevada. Their skills, knowledge, experience, and devotion have been invaluable to our state.

And today, with my signature on Senate Bill 135, state workers will have a seat at the table for the first time in Nevada history.

By passing this bill, we are empowering Nevada’s public service workers – corrections officers, nurses, and the people who fix our roads and take care of our veterans – to have a stronger voice for safer, stronger and healthier communities. In the end, all of Nevada’s communities and the economy will be stronger for it.

I was heartened to hear the stories of state employees throughout this process, some of whom are in this room today, who stood together to testify in the legislature about how important their work is to them and what it means to the communities they serve.

It’s clear that for these public service workers, the work they do every day for the Silver State isn’t merely a job, it’s a calling. At times, the essential work they do can go unrecognized and even be thankless. That’s just one reason why this bill is so important. It’s about respect for state workers and finally giving them the voice at the table that they deserve.

This bill is not the end, but it is a critical first step. I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders and legislators in the interim toward greater empowerment for our hardworking state employees in the years to come.

Assembly Bill 456, Senate Bill 312, Senate Bill 166:

Good afternoon and thank you all for being here. I’d like to acknowledge the sponsors of these important bills for their leadership -- Senator Pat Spearman, Senator Joyce Woodhouse, and Speaker Jason Frierson. I’d also like to thank all our tireless community leaders for joining us, who have been advocating for these critical economic justice issues for a long time.

I am about to sign three pivotal bills into law that will have a real, tangible impact on the lives of working Nevadans. These bills are about fairness and dignity for the working men and women of this state, and I’m so honored to have the opportunity to sign them into law today. Assembly Bill 456 raises the minimum wage by 75 cents each year beginning on January 1st until it reaches $12 an hour.

As a state, we have not made any significant changes to our minimum wage rates in over a decade -- and that changes today.

Currently, Nevada’s minimum wage is $7.25 if the employer provides some level of health care coverage, or $8.25 if no health care is provided.

The minimum wage was originally intended to give full-time workers the capacity to support themselves and their families. But we all know that the current minimum wage is insufficient to support a working family, let alone empower them to reach the middle class.

The minimum wage is a floor for hourly wages – not a ceiling. Keeping working Nevadans stuck in a ten-year-old minimum wage erodes the real value and purchasing power of the wages of hardworking Nevadans.

But with this bill, hundreds of thousands of working Nevadans will see a difference in their paycheck -- extra hard-earned money they can use to put food on the table, save for their kids’ education, and re-invest into the economy.

And while higher wages are essential to helping working families reach the middle class, we know that a family’s economic security can be totally derailed by an unexpected illness that forces a caregiver to stay home from work.

That’s why I’m also proud to sign Senate Bill 312 into law today -- because working families shouldn’t have to pick between putting food on the table and taking care of their health or their sick loved ones.

The United States is severely behind other industrialized nations when it comes to providing sick days to workers.

Almost half a million workers in Nevada can’t take paid time away from work to recover when they are sick or a parent or child is sick. These workers often have to risk their jobs or lose a month’s worth of groceries when they or a family member gets sick.

Sick days make it so we can get the medical care we need -- or provide it to a dependent child or parent -- without risking our job or our paycheck, giving us all time to recover and help keep our workers, our families, and our communities healthy.

That’s why earned paid sick days are good for small businesses -- because they keep workers healthy, improve productivity, and decrease turnover costs.

Now, it’s no secret that women are, more often than not, the caregiver who has to miss work to tend to a sick loved one. Sadly, even in 2019, women still face a gender pay gap of 80 cents per dollar on average. And for women of color, the gap is even worse -- 61 cents for black women and 53 cents for Latinas.

That’s why today I’m honored to sign Senate Bill 166, which strengthens existing state employment discrimination laws by implementing, at the state level, the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

Under this bill, Nevada employees who believe they have been discriminated against in the workplace can turn to specific federal guidelines when bringing forward a claim for employment discrimination.
This bill increases and strengthens the remedies available to the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, which oversees employment discrimination complaints, and the employee when it’s been determined that she has been paid unfairly due to her gender.

But equal pay isn’t just a women’s issue -- it’s a family issue. Pay equity—or the lack thereof—impacts men, women, and children; it affects retirement savings; and it impacts the general stability of our working families.

A loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars -- or even over a million -- over a woman’s working lifetime can mean barriers to homeownership. It can mean financial obstacles to their children’s education. And it can mean a less secure retirement. All of this impacts not just the woman herself, but her entire family and her community.

All of these bills I’m going to sign today will have a real, measurable impact on Nevada families. When I ran for governor, I wanted to make a difference in the lives of everyday, working Nevadans, and these new laws will do just that. Today, the hardworking men and women of this state will finally see the economic justice they deserve.

Senate Bill 448, Senate Bill 425:

Good afternoon and thank you all for being here. I’d like to thank Senator Julia Ratti and Nevada HAND for being here to celebrate the signing of two important bills to expand affordable housing. I’d also like to acknowledge Senator Nicole Cannizzaro, who couldn’t be here today, for her leadership on Senate Bill 425.

As I said in my State of the State address, our state is experiencing incredible economic success -- and we remain the fastest growing state in the nation.

But with new jobs and economic growth comes an added challenge: ensuring everyone who wants to live and work here can afford to do so.
To that end, I included in my recommended budget funds to create a new program that will offer $10 million of state tax credits per year for the creation and preservation of affordable housing.

Today I’m proud to sign Senate Bill 448 into law, which does just that.
Nevada is facing a historic housing crisis. A severe shortage in affordable housing options and skyrocketing housing costs are pushing too many Nevadans further into poverty and closer to the edge of homelessness.

Forced to pay far too much on rent, families are stretching their dollar by accessing food pantries, delaying medical care, and going without other critical needs. Thousands of students face huge barriers to academic achievement as their families bounce from place to place struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

To put this in perspective: Nevada ranks last in the country in terms of affordable rental units available to extremely low-income individuals. And nearly half of all Nevada renters are cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than the recommended 30 percent of their monthly income on housing costs.

And without increased investment, this crisis will only get worse and we will not be able to address the severe shortage of affordable housing options impacting hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.

SB448 will create the Nevada Affordable Housing Tax Credit Program. Over the course of 4 years, this program will create $10 million annually in dollar-for-dollar state tax credits available to private developers to encourage the development of more affordable housing units and take steps to stem this crisis before it gets worse.

But there are still some Nevadans who need a bit more help, and for whom stable housing is even more difficult to obtain and sustain. I’m talking about vulnerable populations like those with serious mental illness, intellectual or developmental disabilities, the elderly, and the chronically homeless.

In Nevada, community-based housing models provide housing and different levels and types of supportive services to these vulnerable populations. While many of these community homes are safe, clean, and provide adequate support, many others are tragically deficient and are leaving our vulnerable neighbors even more at risk.

Senate Bill 425 expands the federal funds the state receives to assist with housing and supportive services to better serve these vulnerable populations by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to pursue additional Medicaid waivers to enhance funding for home and community-based services.

With this bill, Nevada will be able to offer more and higher-quality supportive services to individuals who are most at risk -- those with severe disabilities and the frail, elderly population.

Having a safe and stable place to call home is critical for every Nevadan. These two bills I’m about to sign will fill a critical need here in our communities and expand access to affordable housing for Nevadans across the state.

Cannabis Bill Signings:

Governor Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 533, which creates the Cannabis Compliance Board, one of the governor’s top priorities for the 2019 legislative session.

“Our marijuana industry is now a key part of our state economy, and to make sure it stays that way, we must hold it to the highest standard while empowering the industry to continue thriving,” Gov. Sisolak said. “Nevada’s first-ever Cannabis Compliance Board will ensure this critical part of our state’s economy is positioned to become the gold standard for the nation.”

Gov. Sisolak also signed multiple bills that aim to remove economic barriers to legal cannabis users and individuals with prior cannabis convictions. Assembly Bill 132 makes Nevada the first state to ban employers from refusing to hire job applicants who test positive for marijuana during the hiring process. This bill contains notable common-sense exceptions for certain professions, such as public safety and transportation. Assembly Bill 192 provides for a process by which individuals may petition to have their criminal records sealed if their conviction was for an offense that has later been decriminalized, such as a marijuana conviction.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019