2019 Nevada Legislative Session
Update #17

Carson City, Nevada
May 10, 2019


This edition of our newsletter is dedicated to the memory of Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson (Dist. 17 - Clark Co.), who unexpectedly passed away on Saturday, May 4, 2019. Rest in Peace, Assemblyman Thompson. You will truly be missed by all who knew you and by future generations who will benefit from your tireless and selfless work.


Today is the 96th day of the 120-day session. Our next deadline is May 17, 2019 when all bills must be passed out of their second committee. As you know, some of our bills are in the "money" committees of Assembly Ways and Means or Senate Finance. Those bills are exempt from the May 17 deadline. We are being informed that those committees will likely not schedule any bills to be heard until after May 17, due to the need for the committees to close out all of the budgets. That process has been slowed due to the recent passing of Assemblyman Thompson and the cancellation of some meetings that were scheduled for last Saturday (the day he passed away) and Saturday, May 18 (the day set for his services in Las Vegas).

Here is a quick summary of many of the bills we have presented or are watching:

ASSEMBLY BILLS

Assembly Bill (SB) 102. This bill was sponsored by Assemblyman John Ellison and is assigned to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It seeks an enhanced criminal penalty for those who harm or kill the spouse or a child of a peace officer, firefighter or EMT due to their relationship to the peace officer, firefighter or EMT. We support this bill. The bill passed from the Assembly floor by a vote of 40-0 (2 absences) and we were asked by the bill sponsor to present the bill with him before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 26, 2019. The bill was well received and we don't envision any problems getting this bill to the finish line.

Assembly Bill (AB) 143. This is our bill to place DPS Capitol Police where they belong as DPS-II officers for purposes of compensation and benefits. Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui is sponsoring the bill and it is assigned to the Assembly Government Affairs Committee. The bill passed its first Committee on March 29, 2019. It was then moved from the Assembly floor on April 1, 2019 and was referred to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee . Yesterday, we were informed that the Ways and Means Committee will likely schedule it for a money hearing the week of May 20, 2019. In order to get around the fiscal impact, we will be showing the Committee that the money can be funded be either decreasing Buildings and Grounds reserves or by increasing the rent paid by the state agency occupants of buildings where Capitol Police resides. Assemblywoman Jauregui continues to champion this bill and is dedicated to seeing it to the finish line.

Assembly Bill (AB) 183 . This bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Danielle Monroe-Moreno ands is assigned to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It requires state and local prisons, jails and detentions facilities to be under the administrative and operational control of the state or local government and not by private entities. We support this bill. It passed out of its Committee with amendments and passed from the Assembly floor by a vote of 29-12 (1 absence). It was heard before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, May 6, 2019.

A ssembly Bill (AB) 260. This bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Roberts and is assigned to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Current law requires confidentiality among peer support counselors and their public safety personnel. This bill removes the authorization of a court to issue an order or subpoena requiring the disclosure of confidential communications made during such a peer support counseling sessions. In other words, if it's confidential, it remains confidential. We support this bill. It passed through the Assembly floor unanimously and was heard before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 29, 2019. It was scheduled for a work session on May 3, 2019 but was removed from the calendar due to some questions from Senate Committee members that may have been prompted by unhappy Public Defenders offices who want to have access to your peer support conversations if it helps defend their clients. We're working to resolve those issues.

Assembly Bill (AB) 291 . This bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui and is assigned to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It will prohibit devices attached to semiautomatic firearms that approximate the rate of fire of a machine gun (exempting law enforcement and military carrying out official duties); it reduces the allowable concentration of alcohol in the blood to possess any firearm from .10% to .08%; and it repeals state preemption of the authority over counties, cities and towns regarding firearms purchases, possession, transfers, registration, etc. (in other words, counties, cities and towns would have the authority over these issues and could regulate as they see fit). This bill underwent extensive amendments that clarified the semiautomatic firearm parts that were to be included in the bill, and while it maintains state preemption, under these amendments County Commissions can enact ordinances that are more stringent than state law. We opposed this bill, although we do support the reduction from .10% to .08% alcohol concentration issue. The amended bill passed out of the Committee on April 12, 2019 and from the Assembly floor on April 23, 2019 by a vote of 28-13 (1 absence) and is now on to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It has not yet been scheduled for a meeting.

Assembly Bill (AB) 382 . This bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno and is assigned to the Assembly Government Affairs Committee. It would require an even-numbered year compensation survey for all DPS officers and dispatchers only . Th e bill was amended to remove certain data that was to be reported. It was again amended on April 19, 2019 to add Corrections officers. W e testified in full support of the bill. We are committed to supporting any reasonable legislation that seeks to improve the wages, benefits and working conditions of our state law enforcement folks, no matter who proposed the bill. The amended bill passed out of its Committee and was referred to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on April 22, 2019. It has yet not been scheduled for a hearing in Ways and Means.

Assembly Bill (AB) 492. This bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Roberts and is assigned to the Assembly Commerce and Labor and Labor Committee. It expands compensation for post traumatic stress disorders suffered by first responders, including dispatchers, crime scene investigators and coroners, and expands upon the types of stressful events that can be compensable in workers compensation claims. A few language changes were made to strengthen the bill and we fully support it. It passed out of its Committee with amendments, passed from the Assembly floor and passed from the Assembly floor on April 23, 2019 by a vote of 36-5 (1 absence). It is awaiting a hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor, although there are fiscal notes on the bill so it could move to the money committee if it is deemed eligible.

SENATE BILLS

Senate Bill (SB) 111 . This bill revises the percentage of the employer's budgeted ending fund balance that is excluded from collective bargaining negotiations from the current 25% to 16.67%. It has been referred to the Senate Government Affairs Committee. We fully support this bill. It passed out of its Committee with amendments on April 10, 2019. It passed from the Senate floor and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee . We are expecting a hearing before Senate Finance Committee within the next 10 days or so.

Senate Bill (SB) 135 . This is the bill to provide collective bargaining to all state employees . It is being sponsored by Senator David Parks and is assigned to the Senate Government Affairs Committee. The bill passed out of its Committee as amended and was then referred to the Senate Finance Committee. We are hoping a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee will be scheduled shortly.

Senate Bill (SB) 153. This bill is sponsored by Senator David Parks and is assigned to the Senate Committee on Government Affairs. This is our bill to fully repeal SB 241 from the 2015 legislative session and thus return important union benefits like evergreen clauses, union leave, and other things. We fully support this bill. SB 153 passed out of its Committee and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. We are expecting a hearing before Senate Finance Committee within the next week or 10 days.

Senate Bill (SB) 158. This is our bill sponsored by Senator Dallas Harris and is assigned to the Senate Government Affairs Committee. It seeks to amend the definition of "supervisory employee" by excluding firefighters and certain peace officers under a paramilitary employment structure. It passed out of its Committee with a few amendments. It was passed from the Senate floor by a vote of 21-0 and was presented by us before the Assembly Government Affairs Committee on Monday, May 6, 2019. It has already been scheduled for a work session on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 at 0830 hrs. After that, it will be on to the Assembly floor for full passage.

Senate Bill (SB) 182 . Sponsored by Senator David Parks before the Senate Committee on Government Affairs, this bill seeks to require Tribal police officers to be certified equivalent to POST Category I officers before they can exercise the powers of a police officer. The bill requires that the authority of a Tribal officer is limited within the boundaries of the Indian property unless a law enforcement agency and the Indian tribe execute an Interlocal agreement to allow the Tribal officer to perform duties outside of the Tribal property. An amendment offered by Las Vegas Metro PD would require the County Sheriff in the jurisdiction where the Tribal police resides to enter into that agreement, not just any local law enforcement agency. We testified in support of this bill and its proposed amendment. The bill passed out of its Committee, passed from the Senate floor by a vote of 21-0 and was heard by the Assembly Government Affairs Committee on Thursday, May 2, 2019. It's now awaiting a work session before going to the Assembly floor for passage.

Senate Bill (SB) 215. This bill is sponsored by Senator Nicole Cannizzaro and is referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor. Under existing law, cancer which results in temporary disability, permanent disability or death is an occupational disease and compensable as such if the cancer develops or manifests itself out of the course of employment of a person who for 5 years or more has been employed as a full-time firefighter or has been acting as a volunteer firefighter, and during the course of the employment was exposed to a known carcinogen that is reasonably associated with the disabling cancer. This bill provides that such disabling cancer is an occupational disease and conclusively compensable as such if the cancer develops or manifests itself out of and in the course of employment of a person who for 2 years or more, has been employed as a police officer, arson investigator or full-time firefighter . This bill also eliminates the list of substances which are deemed to be known carcinogens, among other things. We support this bill. The bill passed out of its Committee and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. We are expecting a hearing before Senate Finance Committee within the next 10 days or so.

Senate Bill (SB) 242. This bill is sponsored by Senator Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and is assigned to the Senate Government Affairs Committee. It amends NRS 289 (Peace Officers Bill of Rights) to strengthen officer rights. It was admittedly overbroad as written and it was amended in several respects. However, it's still a good bill for law enforcement and it was passed out of its Committee with amendments on April 12, 2019 . We further amended the bill to define "law enforcement agency" so there can be no issue with whether peace officer rights apply to all of our represented agencies. It passed from the Senate floor by a vote of 21-0 and was heard by the Assembly Government Affairs Committee this morning..

Senate Bill (SB) 272. This bill is sponsored by Senator Melanie Scheible and is assigned to the Senate Government Affairs Committee. This bill originally attempted to have the state pay 100% of the PERS contributions of all DPS officers (no one else). The total fiscal notes on that original bill exceeded $240 million (including PERS and DPS), dooming it from the start (not to mention it would have been contrary to Nevada District Court and 9th Circuit caselaw). However, the good part is that as the bill moved toward its final days, the sponsor drastically amended the bill to now seek a simple pay raise for DPS officers and dispatchers in the amount of 50% of the total PERS contribution rate in fiscal year 2018-19 for employers. Now we're being asked if this is merely a one time bonus of 50% of the employer's contribution rate in fiscal year 2018-2019, without considering the same formula when PERS rates increase in the future. Do we have to return to the legislature to keep getting that money?

Of course, like all of these pay raise bills, the fiscal notes on this amended bill will be huge, but not nearly as much as the original version of the bill. We testified in support of the amended bill, as we fully support any reasonable effort to increase wages and benefits for state law enforcement. The amended bill passed out of its Committee and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee . The amended bill has not been shown up as a reprint yet and we're not sure why there is such a delay. It should be reprinted with the amendments so new fiscal notes can be studied before the Senate Finance Committee hears the bill.

Senate Bill (SB) 322. This is our bill to obtain an across the board 10% pay increase for all state law enforcement rank and file and first line supervisors; 5% for all higher ranks; and a 5% differential between first line supervisors and the topped out officers whom they supervise. The bill is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and is assigned to the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor. It was assigned to that Committee because it originally contained a huge expansion of the definition of "police officer" in the heart/lung statutes that was not intended to be in this bill. Upon presenting the bill on April 10, 2019, we immediately removed that unintended section from the bill, thus eliminating one major obstacle to its passage. The bill passed out of its Committee and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. There is an additional amendment that we have drafted which eliminates any idea that the pay increase has an expiration date. This bill was designed as an across-the-board permanent increase and we want to make sure the bill accurately reflects that intent. As with all of these "pay" bills, their success is dependent on the availability of money.

Senate Bill (SB) 405. This bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and referred to the Senate Government Affairs Committee, was designed to allow police officers and firefighters demonstrating a catastrophic injury to medically retire with full 30 years of PERS disability benefits after less than 5 years of employment. This was another bill offered by a different Association that was simply unworkable. In the end, it died without ever getting a hearing.

Senate Bill (SB) 459. This bill is both sponsored by and assigned to the Senate Government Affairs Committee. It will provide collective bargaining to certain members of the state's Executive Department -- another historic bill in Nevada. It passed out of its Committee on April 10, 2019. It was referred to the Senate Finance Committee and we are awaitin g a hearing before Senate Finance Committee shortly.

ECONOMIC FORUM

On Wednesday, May 1, 2019, the state conducted its Economic Forum. The Economic Forum is responsible for providing forecasts of the state's General Fund revenues for each biennium budget period. By statute, the Economic Forum is required to provide forecasts on or before December 3 of even-numbered years and on or before May 1 of odd-numbered years. The December 3 estimates are used by the Governor in preparing budget recommendations presented to the Legislature in January of odd-numbered years. The May 1 forecast is the final official revenue estimate that is used by the Legislature in balancing General Fund appropriations with projected General Fund revenues for each biennial budget period. 

We attended the Economic Forum on May 1, 2019 and, let's say while the state is flush and has some money, it's not rolling in funds and there are a lot of hands out there trying to grab as much as possible. The May 2019 forecast is roughly $11.4 million higher than the December 2018 estimates, only about 0.1% increase.

In addition to hearing bills and closing their own budgets individually, the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee deliberate in joint subcommittees, and then report their joint budget recommendations to their full committees, which then votes on individual department funding. After the agency budgets have been approved, they are rolled into five budget bills for full floor votes:

  1. The K-12 Education Funding Act (required to be funded by Nevada's Constitution)
  2. The Appropriations Act (provides a summary of all legislative budgetary and taxation issues)
  3. The Authorizations Act (establishes or continues the operation of state agencies)
  4. The State Employee Compensation Act
  5. The Capitol Improvement Plan Act (includes all capitol improvement projects, equipment purchases and major studies)

All of these Acts must be enacted before the regular session is adjourned.

With respect to the $11.4 million that the state "found" since December 2018, the legislature has discretion over its use for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021.

As it is, the Governor's promise to increase teachers' wages is in jeopardy and the money committees are not sounding as promising as we'd like regarding the availability of funds for everyone's projects. Nevertheless, we remain vigilant in working with the committees to get our hands on funding for our raises, to keep state medical insurance premiums down, to pay for the workers compensations bills we are supporting, and our other collective projects for our members.

LEGAL OPINION REGARDING SUNSETTING PAYROLL TAX

Yesterday, the legislature received another shot in the arm when the legislative lawyers provided a long awaited opinion that two-thirds majority support is not required to override a scheduled decrease in the state's payroll tax rate. Many Republicans argued that nixing a "sunset" tax is the same as creating a new tax which would require a constitutionally mandated two-thirds majority vote in both houses to achieve that goal (the Senate falls one vote short of maintaining a two-thirds majority). This legal opinion allows the Governor to override the sunset portion of the payroll tax (keeping it in effect) and it will provide the government with nearly $100 million more funds with which to operate.

What will the government do with those funds? Stay tuned …… !!

If you have any questions or wish to reach me directly at any time, contact me on my cell phone at (702) 595-0683 or through my e-mail at rpmccann@hotmail.com. 

As always, be safe. 

Rick McCann
NAPSO Executive Director
Nevada Law Enforcement Coalition