Today is day 115 of the 120-day legislative session. Today marks the last day for budget bills to be introduced (including the important "state worker pay" bill).
Here is this week's update:
Senate Bill 541 -- This is the "hate crime" bill for killing a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical personnel. The bill started with AB 88, sponsored by Assemblyman John Ellison, which was never given a hearing by the Democratic Assembly Speaker. Undaunted, we took that bill and amended it into SB 188, sponsored by Senator David Parks. The amendment was about to move through the process when I suddenly received a call from Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, who decided that he wanted sole credit for the bill and created his own bill (SB 541), complete with an event featuring uniformed officers, police vehicles, fire trucks, speeches and lots of press in front of the legislative building (it's good to be the King !!). We continued to mention Assemblyman Ellison as a sponsor during our testimony and he has now been officially added as a co-sponsor of the bill. Simply put, it was the right thing to do. In any event, the bill was presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 24 and immediately passed unanimously. It passed out of the Senate floor on May 26, also by a 21-0 vote. It was presented to the Assembly Judiciary Committee on May 30 and passed unanimously. We are awaiting the Assembly floor vote, also expected to be unanimous. It will then be sent to the Governor for signing.
Assembly Bill 411 -- This is our attempt to amend the provisions of NRS 62G to require "just cause" before a Clark County juvenile justice employee can be disciplined for committing one of a list of criminal acts. This bill passed out of the Assembly on April 25 by a vote of 42-0. On May 22, the bill passed out of the Senate 21-0. It was enrolled and sent to the Governor on May 25. The Governor has five days (not iincluding the day it was sent and Sundays) to sign the bill. If he doesn't sign it by that deadline (today), it automatically becomes law.
Senate Bill 356 -- This is our attempt to change the effects of last session's SB 241, which eliminated Evergreen Clauses from our collective bargaining agreements and destroyed our Union leave provisions. We testified in support of SB 356 and it passed out of the full Senate on April 21 by a partisan vote of 12 Democrats to 9 Republicans. It was later approved by the Assembly by a partisan vote of 25-14. It was enrolled and sent to the Governor on May 29. We've been told that it will be vetoed by the Governor, who has made it clear that he will veto anything that comes close to restoring Evergreen Clauses or retroactivity.
Assembly Bill 290 -- In response to what we believe will be a veto of SB 356 (above), we took AB 290 hostage, gutted it and amended it with simple language to restore union leave as it existed to the groups on June 1, 2015 before SB 241 went into effect. First, we researched and located AB 290. Then we spoke to the original bill sponsor, Republican Assemblyman Jim Wheeler to get his approval (we were going to do it anyway !!). After obtaining his support, we obtained the support of the bill's co-sponsors, Assemblymen Ellison, Hambrick and Kramer. We also received the support of Republican Assembly Minority Leader, Paul Anderson. Assemblyman Wheeler and I presented the bill yesterday before the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs. Due to our lobbying efforts, it received NO opposition from anyone throughout the Cities or Counties. In fact, they all supported the bill. It then received a unanimous vote from the Committee. It now moves to the Assembly floor (expected tonight or tomorrow), after which it moves to a hearing and vote before Senate Government Affairs and to the Senate floor. The good news is that we have bipartisan support in both houses. The bad news is that Republican Senator Michael Roberson is opposed to it and he supposedly holds the Governor's strings on these collective bargaining measures.
Senate Bill 403 -- This bill sought to make appropriations from the State Highway Fund and the State General Fund for the purpose of increasing the compensation of Nevada Highway Patrol Troopers by one pay grade. We were informed early in the session that the bill would not be passed out of Committees since it does not include all law enforcement personnel and was a violation of state Human Resource classification rules. Despite the misguided thoughts and actions by the leadership of the unrepresented Nevada Highway Patrol Association, this bill was a misfire from the very beginning.
S enate Bill 469 -- This is a countermeasure to last session's SB 168 that set a 25% ceiling on the employer's ending fund balance that cannot be used for increased employee compensation. SB 469 seeks to reduce this limitation to a more workable 16.67%. On April 21, the bill passed out of the full Senate by a partisan vote of 12 Democrats to 9 Republicans. The bill passed out of the Assembly floor on May 23 by a partisan vote of 26-13. It was enrolled and sent to the Governor on May 26. Again, the question remains whether the Governor will sign the bill.
Assembly Bill 267 -- This bill, assigned to the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor, proposes to make third party insurers pay financial assessments to any police officer or firefighter who appeals and prevails on a denial of his or her heart/lung claim. It would also strengthen the confidentiality of medical exam reports so they are not obtained by persons within the agency who might use the medical reports to influence decisions regarding the employee. We testified in support of the bill, after which it passed through the Assembly floor on April 25 by a 42-10 vote. Due to the fiscal impact on the employers, the Senate Finance Committee heard the bill and passed it with amendments on May 30. We are awaiting a full floor passage and then we will move it to the Governor.
Assembly Bill 301 -- This bill is assigned to Assembly Government Affairs. It provides for the confidentiality of certain communications between public safety personnel and trained peer support personnel. We've wanted this privilege for some time so that our members' communications with peer support counselors (including those incredible men and women who are trained to respond to critical incidents such as Officer Involved Shootings, citizen tragedies, deaths and injuries involving children, and involving officers who are in need of personal peer support), are confidential and cannot be disclosed except upon certain restricted reasons. We testified in support of this bill as it passed through the Assembly on April 25 by a 42-0 vote. On May 19, it passed 21-0 out of the Senate and we're happy to report that it was signed by the Governor on May 27 and it became effective on that date.
Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 6 -- This Resolution, sponsored by Republican Assemblyman John Ellison, directs the Legislative Commission to conduct an interim study concerning increases in salary and benefits of state employees. We testified in favor of this Resolution during its hearing on April 18. No additional hearings were scheduled, so we me with the Chair of the Committee, Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz to determine why. She made it clear that state employees are not her priority and that no additional hearings would be granted for this mere interim study. She is more interested in other issues that meet her personal agenda. Note to self -- Ms. Diaz's dismissive attitude toward state employees as a whole will be remembered when she seeks to return to the Assembly next session.
Assembly Bill 350 -- This bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo and would require that a state employee, within 30 days of his/her employment, be provided with an orientation that would include information about personnel policies, ethics rules, benefit programs, and a presentation by an employee organization. As expected, the bill received strictly partisan votes and was sent to the Governor on May 25. On May 30, the Governor vetoed the bill, largely because he doesn't want state employees anywhere near employee organizations (i.e., unions) !!
Senate Bill 486 -- This bill seeks to create collective bargaining for state employees. The bill is exempt due to the fiscal effect of the bill on the state. On May 26, the bill passed (with amendments) from the Senate Committee on Government Affairs. We're awaiting an Assembly Committee hearing and floor passages, but the hour is late in the session and it may not make its way to the Governor's office. If it does, the Governor has vowed to veto it.
Assembly Bill 303 -- This bill, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman, Danielle Monroe-Moreno, seeks to require core correctional services to be provided only by the state or local governments with certain exceptions. It was approved by the Assembly floor on May 24 by a vote of 38-3. It was heard by the Senate Finance Committee due to its fiscal impact and it was approved by that Committee earlier today by a partisan vote. It now moves to the full Senate floor before going to the Governor.
Senate Bill 478 -- This bill provides some basic due process to state employees (including law enforcement) in disciplinary matters by requiring notice of allegations to the officer within 30 days after the employer knew or should have known of the allegations; the employer must make a decision on discipline within 90 days after the officer is noticed of the allegations; and the employer must make the investigative file available to the officer after the officer's decision to appeal discipline (clarifying NRS 289). The bill received a 16-5 partisan vote on the Senate floor on May 31. It's on to the Assembly for a hearing and floor passage. As in all of these bills that support state employees, the Governor may veto it since he has a clear record of screwing state employees and has a miserable record of supporting law enforcement.
Assembly Bill 517 -- This is the "state employee pay" bill that we've been awaiting. It came out today and was immediately voted through the Assembly Ways and Means Committee by a unanimous vote to keep the pay increase for state employees at 2% on July 1, 2017 and another 2% increase on July 1, 2019. Despite our many meetings with the members of the Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to increase the funding for law enforcement, they refused to do so. I'm glad to report that Corrections will be receiving a one level increase in addition to the 2% and 2%, but other state employees (including public safety) will only receive the 2% and 2%. The only good part is that our members will actually feel the positive effects of these raises since there will be no increase in the PERS rate that would have cut into the raises.
Finally, a short note on the early attempts to obtain heart/lung coverage for six of our member groups. As we previously reported, such attempts are always fraught with fiscal notes in the millions of dollars, since the state analyzes the costs of paying these new participants if they contract cancer, heart disease or other respiratory disabilities. However, we have communicated with the state's risk management Director and we will be working with her on a broad plan to obtain heart/lung coverage for the remainder of our members during the interim session.
Keep watching for our updates from the Legislature. If you wish to reach me directly in Carson City during the session or afterwards at any time, contact me on my cell phone at (702) 595-0683
or through my e-mail at email@example.com.