Government Affairs Update | May 12, 2017
May 12, 2017
Government Affairs Update | May 12, 2017
FENNEMORE CRAIG | NEVADA LEGISLATIVE REPORT
Happy Friday! Today is the last day of Week 14 of the 79th Legislative Session. With less than 25 days remaining, lawmakers will have to pick up the pace in order for their legislative dreams to become statutory reality. Bills that remain are currently being heard in second house committees but must pass on to the floor by May 19th to stay alive.
In conjunction with this newsletter, you will receive a report on all bill activity that has taken place so far, which we will update on a weekly basis throughout the session. If you have any questions about the process or how to get involved, please feel free to contact any of our team members in Carson City.
Carson City Team:
RECAP OF WEEK 14
Marijuana Legalization Rolls Forward
On Monday, The Nevada Tax Commission approved temporary regulations that could allow businesses to start selling recreational marijuana as soon as July 1st. The regulations establish rules for issuing licenses to companies that have already established a medical marijuana program. Voters approved a ballot measure last year requiring state sales to begin in 2018, but proponents of these regulations argue the urgency in needing to establish legal sales as legal possession is allowed, but not purchase. Local governments still have the option to hold back on starting sales on July 1, and final regulations are looking to be adopted on December 31, 2017. The Senate and Assembly Judiciary Committees met together for the first time last week to hear update on recreational marijuana legalization.
Convention Center Construction
On Wednesday, the Assembly Government Affairs committee held a work session on SB464. The bill is an amendment to a temporary bill that came out of the 30th Special Session which established financing for the renovation and expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center. SB464 allows the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority (LVCVA) to require the adoption of a project labor agreement (PLA) for the expansion work. The bill passed out of committee 10-3-1, with the Democratic members and Assemblyman Al Kramer (R) in support, Republican Assemblymen John Ellison, Jim Marchant, and Richard McArthur opposed, and Assemblywoman Melissa Woodbury (R) absent. SB464 will now go on to the full Assembly floor for a vote.
The Governor’s “Committee on Energy Choice” met for the second time on Wednesday morning. Committee members heard testimony from a trio of experts from Texas, California, and Pennsylvania on how best to restructure Nevada’s energy market following the passage of the Energy Choice Ballot Initiative in November, 2016. The measure calls for the implementation of an open and competitive retail market for energy generation by 2023. The panel members discussed the challenges faced by other states that have adopted similar energy markets but ultimately concluded that the benefits far outweigh the costs. Due to Nevada’s smaller population, it was indicated to the committee the need to latch on to another western market such as the southwestern states, or the California Independent System Operator Corporation (CAL-ISO). All of the presenters agreed that a well-regulated market would allow consumers to benefit better through personally choosing their energy supplier. The Committee will continue to meet over the next 12 months to further flush out the implications of Ballot Question 3.
Minimum Wage Makes Waves
Also on Wednesday, Democratic Senator Yvanna Cancela brought SJR6 before the Senate Commerce, Labor, and Energy committee. The resolution raises Nevada’s minimum wage through constitutional amendment, first to $9 an hour, and then by $0.75 starting in 2022 until it reaches $12 an hour. It also allows state lawmakers to raise the wage even higher, and requires the wage floor to be raised if the federal minimum wage exceeds the state. The state’s business community came to the hearing in force to express discomfort with the provisions of the resolution that codify the receipt of treble damages for violations of the law in the state constitution. As a proposed constitutional amendments, the proposal would need to pass in both this session and the 2019 Legislative Session before being approved by voters in 2020.
Death With Dignity
After being pulled from a hearing last month and exempted from legislative deadlines, SB261 was presented in committee for the first time on Wednesday. The bill authorizes physicians to prescribe controlled substances to end the life of certain patients with terminal conditions. Senator Pat Spearman’s (D) Senate Committee on Health and Human Services heard emotional testimony from both proponents and opponents throughout a hearing that spanned several hours. Supporters argue that SB261 empowers terminally ill patients and allows them to take control of when and how they die. Opponents however, believe that there is no “dignity” in suicide and that such a law would invite health insurers and others to encourage the old, frail, and sick to kill themselves. Even if the bill passes out of both houses, it faces an uncertain future as Governor Sandoval’s office has indicated that he does not support the “right to die”.
Insuring TNC Drivers
In the ridesharing realm, Democratic Assemblyman Justin Watkins saw progress for his AB445, which continues to move along in the legislative process. The bill was heard in Senate Commerce, Labor, and Energy on Monday morning and voted out of the same committee on Friday morning. It prohibits insurers from denying motor vehicle insurance claims because the claimant is a driver for a transportation network company (TNC) such as Uber or Lyft. Opponents of the bill claim that the practice would require Nevadans with personal insurance policies to subsidize the commercial activities of TNC drivers.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The next deadline day of the 79th Session is quickly approaching- next Friday is the last day for bills to pass out of committee in the second house. We anticipate lengthy committee hearings to take place in the coming days with legislators racing to beat the deadline.
As Sine Die looms large over the few weeks that remain in the session, this weekend marks the first time that committees will be meeting to entertain bill presentations. Senate Finance will meet at 8:30AM tomorrow and will be hearing two important healthcare bills. Senator Yvanna Cancela’s (D) pharmaceutical bill (SB265) and its projected cost of $12 million over the coming biennium are the first up for fiscal scrutiny. The language of the bill was heavily amended in committee, which could result in a vastly different fiscal note. Next on the docket is SB482. Sponsored by Senator Pat Spearman (D), the bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to establish and maintain a rating system for Nevada’s hospitals.
On Monday, there is a slew of important energy-related legislation up for work session in Assembly Commerce and Labor, including:
AB206, freshman Assemblyman Chris Brooks’ (D-Las Vegas) ambitious Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) overhaul. The bill raises the mandated percentage of renewable energy to be generated for state customers to 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040, from current levels of 20 percent;
SB145, which requires large electric utilities to include a grid modernization plan in general rate cases. It also requires an interim legislative committee on energy to study energy efficiency programs and the viability of “green banks”; and
SB146, which would require large electric utilities to submit a “distributed resources plan” as part of their annual plan to increase or decrease demands on the system.
The committee will also hold a work session on SB209, which is expected to come out of committee heavily amended. The language as currently written would remove the sections of Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) that require worker’s compensation providers to have a brick-and-mortar establishment in Nevada. This concept proved unpalatable to some committee members and industry insiders alike; therefore, it is likely that those sections of the bill will be removed altogether. The remaining sections clean up language regulating surplus lines and cell phone insurance providers.