CARSON CITY – Lawmakers voted to decriminalize minor traffic offenses, stave off pandemic-caused evictions and put Nevada at the front of the presidential primary calendar with action Monday on some of the last big bills of the session as they worked toward a midnight adjournment for the year.
The session’s signature heavy lift, a rewrite of taxes on the mining industry to channel more money to education, also passed its first house vote in the Assembly, 28-14. The tax measure, which required a two-thirds majority, now moves to the Senate.
“This legislation is a win for the future of Nevada’s economy and our children’s education,” said Assemblyman Tom Roberts, R-Las Vegas, one of two Republicans who voted with Democrats to approve the bill and send it to the Senate.
Still remaining before the Legislature were additional voting and criminal justice reforms, a change to allow cannabis lounges and required budget bills.
Assembly Bill 116, a long-sought reform to decriminalize traffic tickets in the state that has failed to pass the Legislature four times previously, carried the Senate 20-1 after similarly lopsided passage the Assembly. The bill reclassifies infractions such as speeding as civil penalties instead of misdemeanors.
“It is well past time that we make the move from criminal traffic offenses to civil,” Sen. Dallas Harris, D-Las Vegas, said in presenting the bill for a vote. “There are plenty of people whose lives have been derailed by a missed court date on a simple speeding ticket. And so it’s it’s time to put an end to that.”
The Senate also approved the presidential primary bill, Assembly Bill 126, on a 15-6 vote. In addition to replacing the state’s presidential caucuses, where candidates are chosen by party delegates, the bill would hold primaries open to all party-registered voters on the first Tuesday in February of a presidential election year. On a 12-9 party line vote, the body also approved Assembly Bill 432, expanding the state’s automatic voter registration to be available in additional state and tribal agencies.
The session’s major voting reform bill, Assembly Bill 321, was scheduled for a vote later in the day. The bill would make permanent universal mail-in voting instituted last year during the pandemic, among other reforms intended to improve ballot access.
Also passing in the Senate on a 17-4 vote was Assembly Bill 486, an attempt to forestall a pending potential flood of pandemic-related evictions when current moratoriums expire. The state’s moratorium ends Monday and a federal moratorium at the end of June. The bill also aims to help tenants get access federal rental assistance.
The mining tax bill, Assembly Bill 495, would create a new tiered tax structure for larger gold and silver mining companies, sending those funds along with additional existing mining tax revenue directly to education. The bill could inject more than $300 million into the education system over the next two years.
Democrats need at least two Republican votes in each chamber to pass the bill.
One of those amendments would direct $15 million in federal relief dollars to the state’s Charter School Authority to fund learning loss grants, an olive branch to swing that support for the bill.
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, called it “a hell of an amendment,” but stopped short of committing to a yes vote before he could see the bill’s language in the Senate.
“When you add some of the other provisions that are being discussed to help education in our state, it looks pretty good to me,” Kieckhefer said
In the Assembly, Senate Bill 448, a wide-ranging energy bill, passed 32-10 with little comment. The bill aims to increase clean energy investments to help Nevada reach its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century. A major component requires NV Energy to complete its Greenlink Nevada project by 2028, about three years ahead of schedule. The project calls for two new 525-kilovolt transmission linking eastern, western and Southern Nevada.
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