By Mark Waite
Two new legislators representing Nye County will take their seats when the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature convenes in February.
State Senator Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, made headlines when he mentioned a bill requiring the U.S. Bureau of Land Management transfer lands to the State of Nevada, during an appearance before Nye County commissioners last month. But Goicoechea has his name on 12 other bill draft requests so far.
Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, has co-sponsored the public lands bill, patterned after House Bill 148 passed by the Utah Legislature. An interim committee comprised of all 17 counties would get information on what demands to make on the federal government. Goicoechea said New Mexico and Montana are thinking of introducing similar legislation.
The Nevada legislature website already lists 883 bill draft requests, ranging from requiring a photo identification for voting, to a ban on exotic animal ownership, to school choice, construction defect legislation, prevailing wages and collective bargaining by public employees.
Goicoechea wants an enabling bill allowing counties to regulate off-highway vehicles.
“We were focused on the larger ones, the side-by-sides and the Razors, rather than the standard quad runner,” Goicoechea said. “It would allow you if you own one, to register it and insure it. It would only allow you to run on secondary roads as local ordinances allow it.”
Goicoechea introduced a Eureka County bill that allows local governments to enter into agreements with the state engineer to jointly monitor water resources. He said the bill would pertain to mine dewatering in Eureka County or the proposed Southern Nevada Water Authority pipeline from White Pine County.
Goicoechea introduced a bill similar to one last session, addressing the use of proceeds from the sale of certain property by the University of Nevada, Reno.
“Those proceeds have to stay with that college rather than what we’re seeing happen. They’re selling off bits and pieces on the edges and it’s all going to the general fund of the university and some of the colleges. The College of Agriculture is ending up with no budget and no assets,” he said.
Goicoechea is bringing up an appropriation bill together with Oscarson in the Assembly, that will beef up the Airport Trust Fund to help smaller counties like Esmeralda and Mineral counties match Federal Aviation Administration grants.
A bill was introduced to address a situation in Austin and other old mining towns, where lots and streets are not where they’re supposed to be. That held up the building of a visitor center in Austin after Goicoechea got funding for it two sessions ago.
Goicoechea introduced a bill changing liability for horseback riders but he doesn’t have a lot of confidence of passage due to the trial lawyers. It stems from a situation in Fallon where someone was practicing rodeo events, got hurt, then sued the landowner.
Another Goicoechea bill would revise regulations on appropriating snow water runoff for grazing livestock. He wants the bill to include the state to have input on wildlife guzzlers that have trapped livestock.
Goicoechea wants to resume funding for cloud seeding by the Desert Research Institute in the Ruby Mountains near Elko.
Another bill would clear up litigation over the transfer of water rights, addressing a legal dispute on the Humdoldt River. The bill draft states when someone applies for a transfer of water rights they at least have to show a deed, a chain of title, Goicoechea said.
Another bill requires arbitrators brought in to be licensed in Nevada.
Goicoechea said he has four more bill drafts he can submit once the session begins. He received a request from Front Sight Firearms Institute for an economic development bill to assist in an expansion project. But Goicoechea said Front Sight could look at a governor’s catalyst fund which has $10 million for economic development.
State Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, introduced a bill draft request patterned after a bill she introduced in 2011, to allow the Commission on Economic Development to grant partial abatements of taxes on businesses locating in enterprise zones upon approval by counties, school districts, cities or towns. An expanding business would have to increase their employees by at least 10 percent, make a capital investment equal to at least 20 percent of the value of their tangible property, pay at least the statewide average hourly wage and provide a health insurance plan.
Oscarson wants the Legislative Committee on Public Lands to study and make recommendations on alternative water sources for Nevada communities during the interim between sessions in 2013 and 2014.
Although the study could address the situation in Pahrump, Oscarson said, “That’s just really a resolution more than anything else.”
“That’s a consortium of folks who put their minds together, from Pahrump and all over the state, to come up with the best ways to address the water issues. We all know they’re forthcoming, we’re all just looking at ways to approach it in a prudent manner,” Oscarson said.
The resolution states urban areas will need alternative water sources in the future to augment surface and ground water. That could include conservation, desalination, reclaiming wastewater, capturing rain water and cloud seeding.
Oscarson wants a bill that will lift the limit for boards and commissions to have audits. He said the boards have to generate more than $50,000 in revenue, but outside audits can be expensive, $9,000 to $15,000.
“Any way we can cut the expense all of us have is what we’re trying to do,” Oscarson said.
He also wants a bill that will eliminate a requirement for non-profit corporations, like Valley Electric Association, to provide complete lists of customers.
“We’re looking how we can modify it so it’s not as accessible as that or people can opt in or out of the process,” Oscarson said. “Some of the law enforcement folks have approached me with their concern that information is so readily available.”
A bill draft Oscarson requested would use as a template previous legislation that would have allowed people with concealed weapons permits to carry them on property belonging to the Nevada System of Higher Education under certain circumstances. A person with a concealed weapons permit may possess a concealed firearm in a public school or child care facility with the permission of the prinicipal. The permittee wouldn’t be allowed to carry a firearm in public events at a stadium or arena with a seating capacity of 1,000 or more.
The legislation was requested before the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Oscarson said newly-elected Assemblyman Michele Fiore plans to introduce a “campus carry” bill.