Gun safety, education funding, voter registration among bill signings

Seal of Nevada
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LAS VEGAS, NV (KOLO) - June 14 is the last day for the Governor to sign or veto bills from the 2019 legislative session.

Governor Sisolak was in Las Vegas to sign a final round of bills. These are his comments on each, as prepared for delivery.

Assembly Bill 291/Gun Storage & Bump Stock Ban:

Good morning, and thank you all for being here. I’d like to thank Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui for her fearless leadership on Assembly Bill 291 and for bravely sharing her own personal story as a survivor of gun violence throughout this process.

I’d also like to thank our county coroner, John Fudenberg, for championing legislation that will increase access to services for first responders. John and his team had one of the hardest jobs on the night of 1 October, and I’d like to thank him and his staff for being here today.

I’d also like to thank the other leaders we have here today -- Speaker Jason Frierson, Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo, and Commissioner Justin Jones -- as well as all the community activists who have poured their heart and soul into curbing gun violence in our communities.

For the last 20 years we have lived with the reality of school shootings. And in October 2017, Nevada experienced the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history when a gunman opened fire on a concert in Las Vegas and, in a matter of minutes, killed 58 people and injured over 400.

This past session, Nevadans stood together and took bold action to try and prevent these tragedies in the future.

Assembly Bill 291 takes a comprehensive approach to preventing mass shootings and school shootings by establishing an Extreme Risk law, requiring responsible storage, and banning bump stocks.

Extreme Risk laws can help prevent mass shootings, school shootings, suicides, and more. That’s because perpetrators of mass shootings and school shootings often display warning signs before committing violent acts.

For example, students and teachers reported that the mass shooter in the February 2018 Parkland, Florida tragedy displayed threatening behavior. His mother had contacted law enforcement on multiple occasions regarding his behavior, and he was known to possess firearms. However, without an Extreme Risk law on the books, law enforcement couldn’t intervene.

In response to that tragedy, Florida passed its own Extreme Risk law. Interventions in other states with Extreme Risk laws have already prevented these potential tragedies.

Extreme Risk laws also empower family members to give someone they love a second chance to get the help he or she needs in a time of crisis. Tragically, a Nevadan takes his or her own life by firearm every 21 hours.

AB 291 will also require Nevadans to store firearms responsibly to prevent access to firearms by children. In up to 80% of incidents, shooters obtain their guns from home, their relative’s home or from friends.

This bill will also ban bump stocks, something I pledged to do when I was campaigning for governor. As Las Vegans know, the 1 October shooter used a bump stock to increase his efficiency and massacre 58 people.

Assembly Bill 534/Emergency Plans & Victim Services:

Not only are we here today to try and prevent future tragedies like 1 October, we’re also here to provide more assistance to victims, survivors, and those whose job it is to help them in the darkest of times.

On October 1, 2017, our state faced the unimaginable. Since then, we’ve learned many important and difficult lessons about how we can better serve victims.

We can’t overstate the important role our first responders played that night – law enforcement, medical professionals, and also those who work directly with victims and survivors to provide mental health services, legal assistance, and help navigating the victims compensation program.

It’s time to update our state and county emergency plans to include these critical victim services, and Assembly Bill 534 does just that.

Including in our plans a focus on the victims from the beginning will better allow our emergency response framework to help survivors and communities heal.

The 1 October tragedy also highlighted the services available to victims throughout the state. One of our primary programs – Nevada’s victims of crime compensation program – has paid out over $3.7 million to date to help victims and survivors from the tragedy, and the bill updates and transitions the program to enhance these services going forward.

I would like to thank the many victims’ advocates who worked on this legislation, including those present today: Michelle Morgando with the Victims of Crime Compensation Program, Ross Armstrong with the Division of Child and Family Services, and Tennille Pereira with the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center.

Senate Bill 463/Coroner's Offices' Mental Health:

A mass shooting shakes a community to its core and affects everyone -- not only victims and survivors, but those whose job it is to respond to the scene and conduct emergency response as well as the emotionally difficult work of identifying the deceased and notifying their loved ones.

This work can take a toll on one’s mental health, as the coroner can attest to in just a few minutes. That’s why I’m signing an important bill today, Senate Bill 463 that authorizes a county coroner to create a program to promote the mental health of his or her employees and any person impacted as a result of his or her job providing services in response to mass casualties, and a program that provides bereavement services to the public.

Expanding access to mental health care is a top priority of mine, and this bill allows local coroners to provide much-needed mental health services to their team and their community in the wake of a tragedy.

Senate Bill 543/Education Funding:

Good morning, and thank you all for being here. I’d like to thank Senator Joyce Woodhouse and Senator Mo Denis for their leadership on this incredibly consequential and complex legislation that will completely change the way we fund education in this state.

Nevada’s current education funding formula, known as the Nevada Plan, was put into place in 1967, more than 50 years ago.

Nevada’s population is nearly seven times what it was back then, and Clark County alone was a fifth of its current size in terms of population.

Our school districts look much different today, not only in terms of population, but also in terms of demographics.

It’s clear that Nevada’s current funding formula is no longer serving the needs of all students and educators, and it hasn’t been for many years.

That’s why this session, we moved to overhaul Nevada’s decades-old funding formula to ensure that our education dollars are equitably distributed to our public schools and all of our students are getting their fair share.

Senate Bill 543 creates a new, modernized funding formula called the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan specifically named to reflect its design for our education dollars to follow the students and taxpayer dollars to be spent in a targeted manner to make sure all of Nevada’s children have access to a quality education.

The Pupil-Centered Funding Plan has four guiding principles: it was designed to be transparent, student-centered, classroom focused, and modernized to reflect geographic diversity.

Nevada’s K-12 education funding plan should be transparent, so it is clear to everyone how much money from multiple sources – state, local and federal – that Nevada is directing to K-12 education and how every dollar is being spent.

Each and every student in our state is unique and has different needs. The new funding plan is student-centered because it recognizes that there is a cost difference in each student’s path to a quality K-12 education, and it accounts for those differences in the allocation of resources.

The new plan is classroom-focused by placing more of our dollars with the student in the classroom.

And the new plan takes a modernized approach to education funding to reflect our state’s geographic diversity. Nevada is a vast state, and a one-size-fits-all solution will not adequately serve the needs of our students and educators.

It took a lot of work to get us here today, and I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish in such a short time. This is certainly the beginning, not the end, of an extremely consequential process, and I look forward to working with school districts and legislators in the interim as we implement this new funding plan.

Assembly Bill 345/Voter Registration:

Good morning, and thank you all for being here. I’d like to thank Speaker Jason Frierson for his leadership in shepherding this landmark voting rights legislation through. I’d also like to thank our Clark County Registrar, Joe Gloria, for his leadership and commitment to empowering Nevadans to make their voices heard at the voting booth.

I’d also like to thank the Department of Motor Vehicles for hosting us today, and for their partnership in implementing automatic voter registration, which Nevada voters overwhelmingly passed last fall.

In 2018, the voters spoke loud and clear that they’re in favor of making it easier for all eligible Nevadans to vote. This bill I’m about to sign will do just that.

Assembly Bill 345 is a voting rights package that codifies electoral best-practices that will empower Nevadans with greater access to their right to vote while securing our elections.

This bill expands Nevadans’ access to the voting booth through a number of ways:
○ Implements automatic voter registration, which overwhelmingly passed by a vote of the people in 2018.
○ Allows county and city clerks to designate vote centers where anyone registered in their county or city may vote, regardless of their specific polling location.
○ Extends deadlines so that voters can register online up to the Thursday before Election Day.
○ Creates the ability for Nevadans to register on the day of an election. This will combat voter suppression by preventing Nevadans from being turned away because of clerical errors or missing arbitrary deadlines.
○ Allows anyone to request absentee ballots for all elections, rather than having to request every election. This is a huge benefit for our servicemembers and their spouses deployed overseas, folks with disabilities, and the elderly.

Sadly, we are seeing other states across the country passing sinister voter suppression measures meant to block certain voters from exercising their rights and making their voices heard.

I’m proud that, once again this year, Nevada is bucking a disturbing national trend and, instead, leading the way in voting rights and election security.

The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, and with this new law, we are continuing to expand access to the polls for all eligible voters in Nevada so they can play a part in our democracy.

Senate Bill 504/Census Count:

Good afternoon and thank you all for being here. I’m thrilled to be here alongside my wife Kathy to sign two bills that will have a huge impact on our communities of color, especially the AAPI community, here in Nevada. I’d also like to thank Congresswoman Dina Titus and Lieutenant Governor Kate Marshall for joining us.

Earlier this year, I signed an executive order to establish Nevada’s Complete Count Committee, which will oversee all outreach and coordination among public and private sector organizations in the state to encourage Nevadans to participate in the 2020 census.

And to demonstrate my commitment to ensuring every Nevadan is counted in the 2020 Census, I included $5 million in my budget for Nevada’s complete count efforts.

I am proud today to sign Senate Bill 504, which fully funds my recommended budget for our 2020 Census Complete Count Committee.

Nevada has experienced a population boom in recent years, which is why it’s more important than ever that each and every Nevadan be counted. From July 2010 to July 2018, Nevada added over 300,000 people to its population – that’s a growth of over 12 percent.

From 2017 to 2018, Nevada was the fastest-growing state in the country, with a 2.1 percent increase in population.

And as you all know, the AAPI community is the fastest-growing population in Nevada, and comprises 10 percent of the population of Clark County.

Our population is incredibly diverse, which is why it’s important to ensure everyone is counted so we can make sure federal dollars go towards the communities who need it most and those communities that are often under-counted.

At stake this census are more than $675 billion in federal funds, grants, and support to states, counties, and communities based on census data. That money goes toward schools, hospitals, roads, public works, and other vital programs.

Nevada will rely on the 2020 census to determine funding needs for infrastructure projects, economic development programs, job training, schools, and other activities for the next decade.

On the flip side, Nevada risks losing out on at least tens of millions in federal dollars if our population is undercounted in the 2020 census.

We simply can’t afford to leave any household uncounted. Success of the census – and a complete and accurate count of every Nevadan – depends on community involvement at every level.

The Complete Count Committee will work to develop a Complete Count Plan to include proposed education, outreach, and promotional activities for Nevada’s census, as well as funding needs to ensure as complete a count as possible of all Nevadans, including strategies to reach hard-to-count populations and areas.

Over the next several months, Nevada’s committee will oversee the state’s entire complete count effort to ensure that every Nevadan is counted, every community is adequately represented in our state legislature and in Congress, and every available dollar goes toward funding services for Nevada’s communities.

Immigration-Related Bills (see hyperlinks for bill details):

Good afternoon and thank you all for being here. I’d like to thank Senator Mo Denis, Assembly members Edgar Flores, Selena Torres, and the entire Nevada Hispanic Caucus, along with Assemblyman Alex Assefa, for their support and efforts in the legislature, and Congresswoman Dina Titus for joining us and for her leadership on behalf of all Nevadans.

I’d also like to congratulate Councilwoman-Elect Olivia Diaz on her recent history! I’m so excited for the amazing things she will do for Las Vegas!

I couldn’t be more proud to sign into law today several bills that will have a huge impact on our immigrant community.

The success of our state is rooted in our ongoing commitment to welcoming and integrating new, aspiring and visiting immigrants into the Nevada family. Today, I’m thrilled to sign Senate Bill 538 to strengthen that commitment and establish one of my priorities this session, the Governor’s Office for New Americans.

With the Office for New Americans, I want to empower new and aspiring Americans to be economically self-sufficient, break down bureaucratic barriers to their success, and allow them to further contribute to our state’s economic growth – all while promoting their important contributions to our state.

Immigrants are an important part of Nevada’s economic success and social fabric. Beyond enriching our state with diversity and a wide range of cultural traditions, immigrants are a fundamental part of our thriving economy, especially our robust tourism industry.

Immigrants also play an important role as drivers of job growth—they start businesses at far higher rates than the U. S. population overall.

The Office for New Americans, or ONA, will help new and aspiring Americans participate fully in civic and economic life by empowering the entrepreneurial spirit of our immigrant communities, while promoting Nevada as a welcoming state for new, aspiring and visiting immigrants.

ONA will be the coordinating office for all executive branch agencies that are responsible for services for immigrants and all programs concerning immigrant entrepreneurship, licensing, workforce training, education, housing, health care, and quality of life.

The office will also connect immigrants to business resources that harness their skills and other workforce development programs that promote self-sufficiency.

This office is designed to empower new and aspiring Americans, or immigrants, to achieve their potential in Nevada. This office will serve all Nevadans, regardless of legal status.

By focusing on economic and civic integration, ONA will help immigrants ascend the economic ladder and break down bureaucratic barriers that hinder economic self-sufficiency.

One of those barriers is the way our current occupational licensing system works. That’s why I’m also signing Assembly Bill 275, sponsored by Assemblywoman Selene Torres, which allows individuals who are not citizens or legal permanent residents to obtain an occupational or professional license.

Currently, Nevada occupational licensing boards only consider applicants with Social Security Numbers.

This can prevent many immigrants from being to apply for a license, either because they are undocumented or because they are in the process of obtaining a Social Security card.

This bill allows state licensing boards to accept a federal taxpayer identification number issued by the IRS as proof of identification for those who do not have a Social Security Number.

In 2017, former Gov. Brian Sandoval signed AB27 into law, which allows individuals who are not citizens or legal permanent residents to obtain a teaching license.

This would build and expand upon that previous legislation, while keeping all federal regulations and laws in place.

Another obstacle to economic success can be the language barrier. That’s why I’m signing another bill by Assemblywoman Selena Torres today, Assembly Bill 219, which requires the principals of public schools that demonstrate low achievement for students who are English learners to develop a corrective action plan to get those students back on track.

This bill also allows English learning students to enroll in a different public high school if their current school’s ELL plan is not meeting the student’s needs.

I’m also signing a bill that would increase public safety by benefiting victims of crime who happen to be undocumented. These individuals often avoid reporting crimes due to fear of exposure to immigration authorities.

Assembly Bill 336, sponsored by Assemblyman Edgar Flores, will codify and standardize the process for those seeking a certification from law enforcement that is necessary to apply for a u-visa.

Doing so will facilitate relief to undocumented victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other serious crimes.

I’d also like to acknowledge another important bill I signed into law earlier this month that will offer a huge benefit to our Puerto Rican community and Nevadans who hail from other U.S. territories.

Senate Bill 396, sponsored by Senator Mo Denis, clarifies existing law concerning identification accepted by the Nevada DMV for a Nevada driver’s license.

This bill specifies that driver’s license applicants may use an identification card issued by any state of the United States, the District of Columbia, and any identification from the following U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

I want to be clear that these bills are not the end, but critical first steps to improving the lives of immigrants in Nevada. I look forward to continuing to work with my Office for New Americans, stakeholders and legislators to find additional ways to protect immigrants in our state.

Assembly Bill 236/Criminal Justice Reform:

Good afternoon and thank you all for being here. I'd like to thank the elected officials and community members present today, including Speaker Jason Frierson, Attorney General Aaron Ford, Assemblyman Steve Yeager, Assemblyman William McCurdy, Mr. DeMarlo Berry, Justice Kristina Pickering, and the many relatives and loved ones of our friend Tyrone Thompson.

I'm here today to sign several important bills that will make a huge difference in the lives of everyday Nevadans, restore justice that's long overdue, and empower our communities, especially communities of color.

The 2019 legislature was an ambitious one to say the least, and one of the most significant achievements to come out of this session was an overhaul of our criminal justice system aimed at reducing prison population and recidivism rates.

Nevada currently has over 13,000 inmates in prison, and its incarceration rate is 15 percent higher than the national average.

Assembly Bill 236 is an omnibus criminal justice reform bill that reduces penalties for some lower-level crimes and aims to increase access to diversion programs that offer offenders treatment and services in lieu of time behind bars.

The bill enshrines many recommendations developed during the interim by criminal justice leaders and the Crime and Justice Institute, which projected that implementing all the changes could cut prison costs by hundreds of millions over the next decade.

This bill makes changes to a number of nonviolent crimes, including drug offenses.

As a result of decades of heavy-handed policies during the so-called War on Drugs, our nation's prison population ballooned dramatically, to the tune of a 61 percent increase.

And as an unfair result, people of color have been disproportionately incarcerated for drug-related offenses, even though drug use rates do not differ significantly by race or ethnicity. In fact, almost one in three people arrested in our country for a drug law violation are African-American.

This bill lowers possession of a controlled substance to a misdemeanor for the first two offenses and gives judges more discretion in sentencing for drug trafficking offenses.

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