What really matters

Getting Nevada’s finances in order is Priority 1 for the Legislature, but there’s plenty else to worry about

Getting Nevada's finances back in order is obviously Priority 1 during the 120-day legislative session, but there are also hundreds of bills vying for attention. The Weekly asked some of those closely following the process which ones they want to make sure are not overlooked:

Bob Fulkerson, state director, PLAN of Nevada

• All bills dealing with water issues, most notably Assembly Bill 119, which requires the comprehensive regional plan in certain counties to include provisions concerning the identification and sustainability of certain supplies of water. Fulkerson says passage of this bill would implement WC3, passed by the voters in November, which ties growth and water planning together in Washoe County.

• Voting down AB 70, designating English as the official language of the state of Nevada. “That’s the usual anti-immigrant stuff that panders,” Fulkerson says.

• AB 43—Revises provisions prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. One of PLAN’s priorities is to prevent any discrimination based on sexual orientation, Fulkerson says.

Julianna Ormsby, lobbyist, Nevada Women’s Lobby

• Bill draft request (BDR) 756—Provides for an interim study of issues relating to women incarcerated in Nevada. “Right now we’re fifth in the nation for the incarceration rate for women, and it’s climbing,” Ormsby says. “We believe this cuts directly to the budget, because it’s more expensive to incarcerate women, because they’re the primary caregivers. We want to find out exactly what impact this is having on the state.” (Not all BDRs make it to the prefiled bill stage.)

• Senate Bill 3—Creates a standing committee on child welfare and juvenile justice. “We need a home for legislation that has just to do with children and families. There is too much important legislation on this for it not to have a home.”

Kyle Davis, policy director, Nevada Conservation League

Even though Davis believes the environment will likely take a backseat to the impinging budget crisis, he’ll be looking at several measures aimed at improving the environment, including:

• BDR 501— Requires registration and titling of off-highway vehicles.

• BDR 379— Makes various changes relating to solar thermal energy and other renewable energy resources.

• BDR 887— Makes various changes concerning the state water policy.

• BDR 652— Provides funding to the Department of Wildlife for habitat restoration and wildfire prevention.

“Conservation is not something that is at the top of people’s minds right now, but it needs to be,” Davis says. “It has a lot to do with a healthy economy, as well as many other factors.”

Susan Lynn, coordinator, Great Basin Water Network

• BDR 209—Revises provisions governing the organization and accountability of certain local government entities that manage water.

• BDR 394—Prohibits certain restrictions on the use of gray water.

• BDR 503—Makes appropriation to the state engineer to develop hydrologic database for water basins in Nevada.

• BDR 680—Revises provisions relating to conservation of water.

• BDR 732—Requires completion of an inventory of an entire basin before consideration of an inter-basin transfer.

State Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno

• Any bill relating to sustainability, conservation and renewable energy. “We need to make sure those get full attention, and don’t get put aside for partisan issues. Those must be done at this time.”

Ryan Erwin, president, Ryan Erwin and Associates

• Any bill involving changes to the Public Employees’ Benefits Program (PERS), including BDRs 759, 633 and 132. While specific changes are not on the table yet, Erwin feels the program is a key component of balancing the budget. “We’re going to have to reform it, one way or the other. But before we look at a reduction in benefits, all the options to make government more efficient must be reviewed.”

• BDR 387, which restricts applicability of prevailing-wage requirements to certain counties, and BDR 506, which revises provisions regarding the prevailing-wage requirements. “I think it’s a good idea to temporarily suspend prevailing-wage laws,” Erwin says. “If we can’t bring new jobs to Nevada because of the prevailing wage, desperate times call for desperate measures. I feel most Nevadans would rather suffer [cuts to] their own paychecks than lose jobs altogether.”

Robert Uithoven, board member, Nevada Economic Development Advisory Board

• As with Erwin, any bill relating to PERS.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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