LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Gov. Joe Lombardo’s education bill moved forward on Thursday despite harsh criticism by one Democrat before a committee vote.
Assembly Bill 330 (AB330) makes changes to student discipline and takes aim at the 2019 Restorative Justice law, taking a hard line on expelling and suspending students involved in violent incidents or selling drugs. Republicans are calling it the Safer and Supportive Schools Act, and it comes as a response to increasing violence on school campuses.
As Nevada lawmakers near a Friday deadline for bills to move out of committee, AB330 was one of 15 bills approved by the Assembly Education Committee on Thursday. They are among the hundreds of bills advancing to the Assembly and Senate floor, the next step on their path to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
AB330 is one of five bills backed by the governor, but the other four are exempt from Friday’s deadline as they go through further analysis on how much they will cost.
Democratic Assemblywoman Clara Thomas, who represents parts of North Las Vegas and the northeast valley, was the only vote against AB330, objecting to the bill’s failure to consider the effect on kids that could be expelled. “This is unbelievable,” she said, suggesting that attempts to correct behavior needs to happen before it comes to rehabilitation in prison. “And bar it be the governor’s bill, I don’t give a sugar. I am upset that we will do something like this to our children in the state of Nevada.”
Assembly Education Committee Chair assured Thomas that changes to the bill would include a re-entry path for students who were kicked out, answering Thomas’s concerns about legislation that treated any student as a “throwaway.”
8NewsNow.com continues to track the progress of votes today and this story will be updated as more bills advance before the deadline. Here are some of the highlights so far:
LOTTERY: The dream of a Nevada lottery — or at least the possibility of buying lottery tickets in Nevada someday — is still alive as Assembly Joint Resolution 5 (AJR5) advanced to the Assembly floor.
The lottery proposal was approved in the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee along with a wave of bills regarding election procedures. Assembly Joint Resolution 5 (AJR5) would change the Nevada Constitution, and still has a number of hurdles before it could become reality in the 2025 Legislative session. Lawmakers have to approve it this year to keep it alive.
Republican Assemblywoman Jill Dickman described lotteries as a “voluntary tax on the poor” and reminded legislators that a lottery is competition for casinos. AJR5 had been removed from an agenda two weeks ago, but now appears back on track for additional votes this session.
Another resolution — AJR8 — was approved Thursday on a unanimous vote, urging the U.S. government to take marijuana off the list of Schedule I drugs, removing barriers to cannabis businesses that continue to make cash transactions because of federal rules on banking.
MAGIC MUSHROOMS: A study of “magic mushrooms” was approved in a committee vote Thursday afternoon, setting up a working group to report back to the 2025 Legislature.
In a 4-1 vote late Thursday afternoon, Senate Bill 242 (SB242) passed in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The bill sets up legal protections for participants in a study to evaluate the benefits of psilocybin or psilocin for people with conditions including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, chronic pain and migraines.
Although psilocybin isn’t considered addictive, it’s still controversial. A Las Vegas man who is charged in a March 12 homicide told police he was impaired on mushrooms when the shooting happened.
Senator Rochelle Nguyen (D-Las Vegas) sponsored the bill, and said Thursday she was surprised at the outpouring of public support. “It was amazing how many people this bill has touched,” she said.
Senator Jeff Stone (R-Clark County), who is a pharmacist, said he’s looking forward to discoveries about psilocybin and psilocin — widely known as hallucinogens. He said he believes they can help people with PTSD and depression.
Republican Senator Robin Titus, a family practice physician, was the only person on the committee to vote against the bill, which now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
EDUCATION: Along with Lombardo’s AB330, the Assembly Education Committee approved bills including AB285, a bill meant to work hand-in-hand with AB330 by making changes to current law on restorative justice. AB279 mandates free tuition for children of Purple Heart recipients. AB228 changes graduation requirements by increasing social studies credits to four. AB182 modifies teacher licensing requirements, adding requirements for a bachelor’s degree (with some exceptions) and putting a new “substitute” license in place.
As the committee prepared to vote on AB323, which is about improving the pathway to teaching positions in Nevada, the busy week was clearly taking its toll on lawmakers. Chair Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod (D-Las Vegas) needled Assemblyman Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas) when he voted against his own bill. Then she said, “Is it Friday yet?” AB323 passed.
PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: AB250 is an effort to secure lower prices on a small group of prescription drugs for all Nevadans. The federal government is negotiating with pharmaceutical companies to set a “fair market price” on 10 brand name drugs associated with treatment for COPD, diabetes, blood cancer, breast cancer and strokes. The drugs haven’t been named yet, but the list is expected to go public in September. AB250 would require those drugs to be sold at the price negotiated by the federal government — but to all Nevadans, not just patients on Medicare. Five Republicans opposed the bill in a Friday vote in the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee, but it was passed by the Democratic majority.
GUN CONTROL: A pair of gun control measures passed Thursday in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The votes went along party lines, with 10 Democrats supporting the bill and five Republicans opposed. Assembly Bill 354 (AB354) is designed to protect election workers, prohibiting guns within 100 yards of polling places. It also cracks down on ghost gun loopholes by defining “market frame or receiver.” AB355 makes it illegal for anyone under 21 years old to own an assault weapon. An amendment adds exceptions for people under 21 who are serving in the military or on in a law enforcement job.
Both bills were sponsored by Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, who has spoken publicly about her difficulties in recovering from the 1 October shooting in Las Vegas, which left 60 people dead after a gunman opened fire on a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. It is regarded as the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
RENT CONTROL: A “contentious” bill that would establish rent control passed the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Thursday morning. SB426 stops tenants from raising the rent on tenants in their first year, and limits increases to 5% thereafter. It provides for exceptions but requires landlords to meet certain conditions. The bill also gives tenants the right to sue their landlord for violating rent control provisions.
The bill is sponsored by Senator Pat Spearman (D-Las Vegas), and passed 5-3 as all the Democrats on the committee voted for it and all the Republicans opposed it. Spearman argued for the bill and said, “It may not make sense to anyone until it happens to you.”
Senator Jeff Stone (R-Clark County) is a landlord and has been a voice against the bill. He said he believes it doesn’t target the “corporate landlords” as intended, and instead exempts them from raising rents as long as the building is less than 15 years old.
STATE EMPLOYEES: Budget allocations that will bring significant raises to state employees were topped with a new benefit under AB376 — eight weeks of family leave. The benefit provides for bonding with a newborn or adopted child and is available to the mother and/or the spouse. It can also be used to cope with a serious illness, care for a seriously ill member of the immediate family or in some circumstances surrounding a military deployment.
TRANSGENDER SURGERIES: When sex change surgeries are over, there are still surgeries that are part of the process that patients discover insurance companies don’t want to pay for. SB163 passed a vote in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Thursday, requiring insurance providers to cover surgeries that include “facial hair removal, hair transplants, facial feminization, partial mastectomy, tracheal shave and voice modification and therapy.”
Two Republicans voted against the bill, which was sponsored by Senator Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas).
ELECTIONS: A handful of Democrat-sponsored bills were approved despite opposition from the four Republican members of the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee. The bills will likely sail through the Democrat-controlled Legislature, but might not get Lombardo’s signature. Among the bills approved in committee: AB190 provides for allowing voter registration when someone is making a real estate transaction or signing a lease — in particular, allowing for a change of address in voter registration. AB242 requires the use of mechanical voting systems and repeals provisions that allowed the use of paper ballots. The bill also requires voting equipment for elderly or disabled voters. AB246 sets requirements for voting materials in other languages and establishes a toll-free phone line for translation assistance for elections. AB286 establishes procedures for voting in city or county jails, and alters language that describes inmates as “prisoners,” instead calling them people “in custody of a county or city jail.” AB394 requires the Secretary of State to establish procedures on what to do if an election result is not prepared or transmitted on time, and restricts ballot counting — votes would only be counted once unless there is an audit or a formal recount.
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: An effort to give a bigger voice for minority and underserved communities will create the Environmental Justice Advisory Council, which will be charged with reviewing policies. SB312 passed a vote by the Assembly Government Affairs Committee, with four Republicans voting in opposition. The bill was sponsored by Assemblywoman Sarah Peters (D-Reno).
KRATOM: The regulatory framework for kratom products is established in AB322. The herbal opioid-like drug has been around for a long time, but efforts to regulate products have progressed after the FDA tried to ban kratom in 2016. Products must be registered in Nevada before they can be sold. That’s a big change from the way things work now, with products available at smoke shop and herbal medicine dealers. Four Republicans opposed the bill when it came up for a vote in the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee, but it passed with support from the Democratic majority.
Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) issued a statement through the Nevada Assembly Democratic Caucus: “This session, Assembly Democrats have shown a steadfast commitment to efficient and effective government that works for the people. The bills we have fought hard to advance will improve the lives of everyday Nevadans by improving education and holding school districts accountable, by increasing Nevadans’ ability to afford and stay in their homes, and by working to lower the cost of prescription drugs.”