On June 8, 2017, Governor Brian Sandoval wielded his veto pen 15 times, denying legislation passed by the legislature on issues ranging from wages to health care to renewable energy.
But the legislature gaveled out of session on June 4, 2017. And the way our democratic government works is that if a governor or president vetoes a bill, that bill can come back to the legislative branch for a veto override.
In Nevada, bills that have been vetoed after a session has ended can come up when the legislature meets again – two years later. Very few bills are overridden in this way.
This week, both the Nevada Assembly and Senate decided not to override any bills that Sandoval vetoed two years ago.
But that doesn’t mean those bills are dead and gone. Many will be resurrected in the next few months. Many have made it into new Governor Steve Sisolak’s talking points and campaign promises.
We’re looking at each bill that was vetoed after Sine Die (the Latin term used to describe the last day of session), and what might become of it in 2019.
You can link to every bill and to every veto statement.
End of Session Assembly Veto Bills
Minimum Insurance Standards for Minimum Wage Workers
Explanation: Nevada has two minimum wages. The first one, at $8.25 per hour, is paid to people who are not offered health insurance by their employer. The second one, at $7.25 per hour, is offered to people who ARE offered health insurance by their employer.
There are two issues with this.
One is the definition of “offered.” AB175 does not look at that issue, but it’s worth noting.
The second issue at play with our 2-tiered minimum wage system is the quality of the insurance being offered.
With AB175, Assemblyman Will McCurdy wanted to link the minimum insurance standards offered to minimum wage workers to the minimum insurance requirements of the ACA.
Why the Governor Said No: Governor Sandoval cited opposition from a litany of Nevada business groups and the potential “harm (to) both Nevada small businesses and its low wage workers.”
Sandoval also said that listing what services are covered in a health plan “go far beyond what is constitutionally mandated (and possibly even constitutionally allowed).”
Possibilities for 2019: In his State of the State address on January 16, Governor Steve Sisolak said he is open to increasing the minimum wage, though he didn’t say by how much, or whether that increase would keep the current 2-tiered system – which is constitutionally mandated by a 2006 ballot measure. There are still convoluted constitutional questions as to whether mandating the services that must be covered are constitutional.
40 Percent Renewable Energy by 2030
Explanation: AB206 was one of the last bills Governor Sandoval vetoed in 2017. Assemblyman Chris Brooks – who built and sold a renewable energy company before entering the legislature – proposed to mandate that 40 percent of our energy requirements come from renewable energy sources by 2030.
Why the Governor Said No: Sandoval, in his veto statement, commended the idea of 206, but hesitated because of “changes to Nevada Energy policy most likely to be adopted in the near future.”
By that, Sandoval meant energy choice. In 2016, 72 percent of voters passed an energy choice ballot measure. Sandoval expected that meant it would pass again in 2018. Nevadans may remember that Question 3 – authorizing the breakup of NV Energy’s monopoly – did not pass in 2018.
Possibilities for 2019: A few things have happened that render the reasoning behind Sandoval’s veto largely moot. First, Question 3 did not pass, and the energy markets did not break up. Second Question 6 did pass. And Question 6 mandates that Nevada produce 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. This is 10 percent more than what Brooks envisioned in AB206. However, constitutional amendments must be approved twice by voters in order to become law. Which means there would have be another ballot measure in 2020. To move things along, Assemblyman Brooks has signaled with a Bill Draft Request (BDR) that he is going to pursue legislation that would change the portfolio standards – thus avoiding another ballot measure. Nevada’s environmental groups – which pushed Question 6 to victory in 2018 – are gearing up their lobbying efforts. And Governor Sisolak has said he would support changing renewable standards.
Expunging Marijuana Convictions
Explanation: In many ways, the 2017 legislative session will be known at the Marijuana Session. People in Nevada can now legally carry up to one ounce of marijuana. But there are a lot of people who were arrested for carrying less than an ounce of pot before it became legal. Assemblyman Will McCurdy wanted to expunge criminal records for those offenses.
Why the Governor Said No: Sandoval said the effort was commendable, but essentially duplicated two other bills he signed (SB125 and AB327 ), and might be too vague and too broad. “AB 259 does more than create a new process for certain, limited marijuana offenses. It also adds other marijuana crimes to its reach, makes even more changes to Nevada’s record-sealing law (law already changed substantially with at least two other bills this Legislative Session), and gives judges discretion to depart from statutory minimum prison sentences in almost all other drug-possession cases. As such, I cannot support AB259.”
Possibilities for 2019: There are a plethora of marijuana Bill Draft Requests, mostly having to do with regulating and expanding the business of growing, distributing and selling pot. It is not clear at this time whether there will be another bill duplicating AB259.
Ban Private Prisons
Explanation: AB303 is commonly referred to as the “ban private prisons” bill. As introduced by Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, with numerous co-sponsors, the bill would have mandated “state and local prisons, jails and detention facilities which house prisoners to be under the administrative and direct operational control of the State or a local government,” and would have closed private prisons by 2022.
Why the Governor Said No: “To the extent that the intent of AB 303 is to ensure that Nevada maintains complete control over its prisons and prison population, there is some merit to the bill,” Sandoval wrote in his veto statement.
“Where AB 303 goes too far, however, is by limiting the discretion of the Director of the Department of Corrections by prohibiting the use of private prisons, starting in 2022.” There is, Sandoval went on, no way to predict Nevada’s future prison needs.
Possibilities for 2019: Monroe-Moreno does have a Bill Draft Request regarding prisons. But BDR’s aren’t required to be specific. We’ve got a call into her office to see if she is planning to reintroduce the bill in some form.
Explanation: Former Assemblywoman Amber Joiner wanted to mandate that HIV prevention be taught as part of the sex ed curriculum in Nevada’s schools. She also wanted to change how parents consent to sex ed.
Sex ed is a hotly debated topic in the state. Currently it is an “opt-in” curriculum – meaning that parents have to choose to allow their children and teens to participate. AB348 would have changed the options to “opt in for one year” or “opt in for the time that the student is in the district.”
Why the Governor Said No: Sandoval was not comfortable with loosening the leash on parental consent. “While local school boards and educators play an important role in providing appropriate sex education courses, the role of parents in this system is the most important. AB 348 would upset the school-parent balance, potentially depriving parents with a meaningful opportunity to provide informed consent for their children to receive sex education.”
One of Joiner’s arguments for the bill was that it took the pressure off busy parents who want their kids to have comprehensive sex ed to sign a form every year. But Sandoval took the opposite approach, arguing that a parent who signed the “as long as my child is enrolled” form might lose track of what their child is learning.
“…AB 348 makes it much more likely that a busy parent may be consenting to much more than he or she expected. Such an outcome is untenable in a subject matter that requires maximum levels of parental engagement and awareness.”
Possibilities for 2019: Joiner is not in the legislature anymore. There are no sex ed BDRs that have been filed.
Medicaid Buy-In (or Sprinkle Care)
Explanation: First-time assemblyman, Mike Sprinkle, had an idea that captured the country: allow people who make too much to qualify for Medicaid to buy into the state’s Medicaid program on a sliding scale. Pundits (mostly outside of Nevada) dubbed the initiative “Sprinkle Care.” It would have, in essence, created a state public option. Sprinkle said in an interview just after the veto that the process of passing the bill was arduous, and that Governor Sandoval’s team was fully involved.
Why the Governor Said No: Despite the involvement of the Governor’s staff, Sandoval vetoed AB374. In his veto statement, he said, “I applaud the sponsor for his creativity, and I believe that the concepts in this bill may play a critical role in future healthcare policy.”
But, he said, it was too much too soon – especially as the fate of the Affordable Care Act was uncertain after the election of Donald Trump.
Sandoval also noted that it might hurt providers – as doctors get paid less by Medicare and Medicaid, and might not be able to deal with the onslaught of Medicaid patients.
Sandoval also warned of “unintended consequences” of having too many people leave private insurance for the state public option.
Interestingly, Sandoval left open the door for future action by tying Nevada Care (as Sprinkle called it) to a commission he was setting up to study helping people pay for surprise emergency medical bills. That was another bill he vetoed, AB382).
Possibilities for 2019: Mike Sprinkle fully intends to bring the bill up again in the 2019 legislative session. Governor Sisolak, though, is not certain he will sign it, though he expressed support for it in the past. In the meantime, a number of other states have taken up the idea of a Medicaid buy-in or separate state public option. So Sprinkle’s idea may have failed in 2017, and it may or may not make it through in 2019, but it seems to have started a movement toward the delivery of more public, universal health care.
Explanation: This is a basic, straightforward change to the timeline of when to file a complaint after arresting someone. Specifically, the bill looked to replace the word “forthwith” with “72 hours” to ensure that people who were arrested without a warrant were moved through the court system in a timely manner. The players are then Assemblyman and now Senator James Ohrenschall – who is a public defender when the legislature is not in session – against prosecutors, in a bill that was vetoed by a former U.S. District Judge (Sandoval).
Why the Governor Said No: Sandoval acknowledged in his veto statement that “defendants arrested without a warrant deserve an expeditious process, including a timely filing of a criminal complaint,” but also noted that “prosecutors across Nevada have expressed their objections” to the bill. His main contention is that a 72-hour time limit might be too onerous, especially since the bill includes weekends in that time period. And he was worried that the bill would restrict judge’s discretion.
Possibilities for 2019: Ohrenschall posted a BDR back in February of 2018 – when he was still an Assemblyman – that was related to criminal law. It’s not clear if he will bring the bill up again in the Senate.
Covering Bills for “Surprise” Emergency Room Visits
Explanation: In introducing AB382, Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton said: “The purpose behind this bill is to protect patients who, through no fault of their own, walk through an emergency room (ER) door and, whatever happens after that, end up with a bill they did not realize they were going to get.”
In other words, if you get into a car accident and go to the nearest hospital, your insurance and the hospital should figure out payment – regardless of whether that hospital is in network. Carlton added: “We are here to take patients out of this equation so they are not caught in the middle when, through no fault of their own, they end up with one of these bills and have to figure out what to do next.”
Why the Governor Said No: Sandoval, as in many of his veto statements, noted that this is a well-intentioned idea. His biggest problem is that it might violate contracts between hospitals and doctors and insurance companies. He – and many medical groups – are afraid that doctors will have to accept below market rates from insurance companies they do not have a contract with.
“If hospitals or physicians are forced to accept below-market rates for out-of-network care, there would be no incentive to enter into network contracts, in which healthcare providers and insurance companies negotiate a contract for in-network care. Such contracts provide value.”
Sandoval did not, though, toss this idea out the window. He said he would set up a commission to study the matter in order to solve the problem to all parties’ satisfaction.
Possibilities for 2019: “Surprise emergency health bills” was one of the issues now Governor Sisolak addressed in his state of the state speech. He is working with the legislature to craft a new bill, and has talked about appointing people to help navigate the system in the interim. So this issue is still very much on the table in 2019.
Explanation: The bill would have created a Governmental Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee of the Legislative Commission. The intent would be to review executive branch agencies that made regulations that exceeded the authority or intent of the legislature. It’s a very “in the weeds” bill brought by Assemblyman Skip Daly.
Why the Governor Said No: Sandoval did not hide his disdain for this bill, calling it “legislative overreach,” as it invests more power in a legislative committee and strips power from the judiciary to arbitrate between the legislative and executive branches.
“…if AB 403 became law, the Legislature, through the Legislative Commission, would be transformed into a standing body with unchecked powers and jurisdiction that exceed constitutional limits,” Sandoval wrote in his scathing veto statement. “Said another way, the Legislature would encroach upon constitutional space reserved for the executive and the judicial branches of state government.”
For good measure, he added, “Allowing one Legislative Commission to unilaterally suspend or nullify regulations approved by a prior Legislative Commission, and relied upon by stakeholders and executive regulators, is a troubling idea by itself. Combining that suspect process with a lack of judicial review goes too far.”
Possibilities for 2019: Assemblyman Daly brought this bill in 2013, then made some changes and brought it again in 2017. He currently has no BDRs related to this issue.
Expand UNLV and DRI Into Land Grant Institutions
Explanation: Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz wanted to do two things with this bill: 1) Establish UNLV and the Desert Research Institute as Land Grant Institutions. 2) Require an audit of NSHE extension programs that come out of the Land Grant institutions. Currently, UNR is the only Land Grant institution in Nevada, and Governor Sandoval was adamant about keeping it that way. The land grant program was established by Congress in the 1800s to grant land to states for them to use to fund technical and agricultural education. UNR was designated a land grant school in 1888 – long before UNLV or DRI were even formed.
Why the Governor Said No: Sandoval didn’t even address the oversight portion of this bill in his veto statement. But he was adamant that UNR was the only land grant institution in the state and it would remain so.
“It is a system that has worked exceptionally well, and such a dramatic disruption to that system, as proposed by AB407, is not justified, especially in light of the significant risks the bill presents to successful, longstanding university programs and critical federal funding.” He went on to say that if UNLV and DRI were designated as land grant institutions, the funding for research would then have to be split three ways, and that would decimate departments at UNR that are built around such funding.
Possibilities for 2019: Olivia Diaz is not in the legislature anymore. She is running for City Council in Las Vegas. There are no current BDRs addressing land grant status.
To Enshrine ACA Provisions in State Law
Explanation: After the election of Donald Trump and a few court decisions that were pending, Assemblywoman Amber Joiner wanted to have a state law that mirrored the ACA protections, including covering pre-existing conditions, mandating a minimum of care, and covering children until they were 26.
Why the Governor Said No: Sandoval said the bill had merit, but went too far and could possibly take away flexibility in dealing with federal changes. He also noted that he signed two other bills that enshrine protections for women’s contraceptive and reproductive health care. And he noted that he expanded Medicaid under the ACA. In fact, Sandoval was the first Republican governor to take Medicaid expansion.
Possibilities for 2019: The ACA is still in flux, and there are already calls from legislators and Governor Sisolak to protect coverage of pre-existing conditions. There are so many BDRs with the words “Health Care” that it is likely to be a main focus of legislation. Don’t expect one, all-encompassing bill, but smaller bills that enshrine different protections that the ACA currently provides.
End of Session Senate Veto Bills
Raise the Minimum Wage
Explanation: SB106 would have raised the minimum wage in Nevada by 75 cents every year for five years, until it reached $12 an hour. Currently, the minimum wage is $8.25 for employees not offered health insurance and $7.25 for employees offered health insurance. The bill would not have eliminated this two-tiered system, which was approved by ballot measure in 2006.
Why the Governor Said No: His basic argument was that it would harm small businesses who had just gotten their feet under them again after the recession.
Possibilities for 2019: Governor Sisolak has already announced that he supports a minimum wage hike to $12 an hour, though specific legislation has not yet been drafted.
Community Solar Gardens
Explanation: There was a lot of hope among environmental activists at the end of the session that Senator Mo Denis’ community solar gardens bill might be signed. Community solar gardens are subscriber based. Subscribers would get a credit on their monthly utility bills based on the electricity generated by the garden. And the electric companies would have to buy back any excess electricity the gardens generate. The gardens are geared toward low income people or people who don’t own their homes.
Why the Governor Said No: Supporters argued that community solar gardens are personalized, and don’t generate enough electricity to challenge electric utilities. Sandoval, notes, however, that chained together, community solar gardens could substantially cut into utility coverage. “…while a single solar garden on a single parcel of land cannot generate more than 12 megawatts of electricity (still a significant amount), there is nothing to stop the aggregation of multiple gardens on multiple parcels of land, which will generate more electricity than a large-scale commercial solar facility,” Sandoval said in his veto statement. He did not dismiss the idea out of hand. He wanted to study the idea more carefully.
Possibilities for 2019: Environmental and solar groups are on this hard, and vow to come back with a new community solar bill. Senator Denis has a BDR “relating to energy,” but no specific bill has come out yet.
Mandates a Minimum Number of Crew Members on Freight Trains
Explanation: Nevada used to require two-person crews, but repealed that requirement in 1985. The Senate Committee on Transportation wanted to reinstate that requirement. Railroad workers testified that two-person crews are inherently safer. In testimony, they pointed the Lac-Magantic train derailment in Quebec in 2013, which only had one engineer on board.
Why the Governor Said No: Governor Sandoval didn’t buy the “more people make things safer” argument. In his statement, he leaned toward the “more technology makes things safer” argument. He called the reasons for the bill both questionable and unnecessary. Two-person crews, he said, are already the standard in Nevada due to collective bargaining between railroad workers and the railroads. He warned that “by affixing rigid requirements in statute, SB427 risks impeding technological advancements and full negotiations between labor and management, both of which have spurred significant advances in railroad safety.”
Possibilities for 2019: The Senate Committee on Growth and Infrastructure has three Bill Draft Requests on transportation issues. No bill has come forth specifically addressing railroads.
Mandates Union Contracts for LVCVA Construction
Explanation: The 2016 special session of the legislature that authorized the construction of a stadium for the Raiders also authorized construction for an expansion of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). This bill, put forth by the Senate Committee on Government Affairs, sought an exemption from a 2015 law that stops public institutions from requiring or prohibiting entering into a labor agreement. The bill would have specifically allowed the LVCVA to use union labor.
Why the Governor Said No: Not only did Sandoval cite the 2015 law in his veto statement, he also noted that during the 2016 special session, there was discussion of requiring union labor for the LVCVA project, and that ultimately it was rejected.
Possibilities for 2019: There are a number of construction related BDRs coming up, but none for public related projects. Construction on the LVCVA expansion has already begun.