Each Thursday throughout the 2019 Legislative Session, Nevada State Senator Pete Goicoechea is hosting a conference call to talk about and field questions regarding the legislative process, with the public highly encouraged to participate.
Last week, Thursday, March 14 he was joined by assemblymen Greg Hafen II and John Ellison for a discussion on where the legislative session stood at that moment and specific bills of interest, including those addressing water, guns and much more.
Constituents from all around the state joined in the conversation, calling in from various locations to express their concerns.
“We’re way behind as far as the norm for the session goes. I figure we’re probably needing at least north of 325 bills that have to be introduced in the Senate by Monday at midnight,” Goicoechea explained as he started the discussion. “I assume they will push the deadline but in all reality, some of this stuff, we’d be better off if it never came out.”
Goicoechea noted that as of that Thursday, only 17 bills in total had been passed out of the Senate. “When we’re 40 days in, that should be unheard of,” he stated.
Hafen, a freshman assemblyman experiencing his first legislative session, added that he too was somewhat surprised by the slow pace of the process.
“I thought we would have been doing a lot more by now. I’m more of a guy that likes to get things done and go home, not stick around until June, those last couple of days, but it doesn’t seem to be progressing that way. Just trying to fight the good fight up here. It’s been kind of rough though,” Hafen remarked.
Moving into more specific topics, Ellison brought up one of the most contentious issues this session, that of guns. “Pete just got the new list of new bills coming out on firearms and they are worse than the last ones,” Ellison lamented.
There are many bills dealing with guns this session. Senate Bill 261, for example, proposes to outlaw the possession of what is known as “bump stocks,” devices that can be attached to semiautomatic guns to increase their rate of fire.
Assembly Bill 291 also proposes bump stock bans, along with a reduction in the allowable blood-alcohol concentration of those in possession of a firearm and there are several others emerging that revolve around guns as well.
Water is a subject of major interest this year too, drawing the attention of the three legislators during the conference call.
“We know there are 11 water bills out there and that’s going to go for all of our districts,” Ellison stated, with Goicoechea adding, “Most of those are on the Assembly side. I don’t know how many of them are going to progress. I know they amended the hell out of AB 30 yesterday, but I still don’t know if it’s palatable. I think they gave up on AB51. AB 62, I am not sure that will progress either.”
Also relating to water, Goicoechea touched on Assembly Bill 95, which provides for the continuation of water withdrawals from domestic wells in the event of curtailment by priority.
While on its surface this may seem a positive, there has been concern expressed that the bill would grant the Nevada state engineer authority to curtail domestic wells, a power many argue the engineer does not currently have.
At this time, the Nevada Supreme Court is addressing a case that could help determine whether the engineer does, in fact, have the authority to regulate domestic wells.
“On AB 95… it’s not a bad bill, but my advice to Ms. Swank (chair of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining) was to wait until the Nevada Supreme Court rules as to whether the state engineer has any jurisdiction over domestic wells. Because this bill is moot if the court determines that the engineer doesn’t have any jurisdiction,” Goicoechea stated.
Swank apparently decided to disregard Goicoechea’s advice, however, and AB 95 was heard at a work session on Monday, March 18 where it was amended and passed out of her committee.
The bill must now be passed by the Assembly floor, after which it can be moved to the state Senate for consideration.
Other water bills the legislators briefly discussed included Senate Bill 150, which requires all counties in the state to develop a water resources plan in 10 years, and SB 250, which provides for a defined restriction on what can be done with water rights that have been dedicated to parcels for development.
That bill delineates that such water rights cannot be, “…sold, leased or otherwise used for a purpose other than ensuring a sufficient water supply for such parcels until the modification or redevelopment of such parcels,” the bill text reads.
A variety of other bills were also raised during the call and as the legislative session progresses, it is likely that even more in-depth discourse will be prompted by the actions being proposed and taken by Nevada lawmakers.
Any constituent who is interested in participating in future conference calls with Goicoechea is more than welcome to join the conversation.
Volunteer Catherine Longhouser, who is helping facilitate the conference calls, offered encouragement and noted that staying connected with their elected officials is the best way for residents to ensure their opinions are known.
The conference calls will take place at 1 p.m. each Thursday at Goicoechea’s Pahrump office, 1321 S. Highway 160, Suite 5.
Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at firstname.lastname@example.org