Bill limiting fed enforcement on state land discussed
Federal agencies would be prohibited from enforcing state laws on state lands without permission from the county sheriff under a bill heard Monday by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Assembly Judiciary Chairman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, said Assembly Bill 283 is needed because federal agencies, primarily land management agencies including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, are overstepping their authority.
Hansen said there have been cases of federal law enforcement officials issuing speeding tickets on state roads.
But he said the primary incident that motivated the bill was the shooting death of a Las Vegas man by two federal rangers near Red Rock Canyon in February 2014.
The bill is one of several being considered in the 2015 Legislature that points to local concerns with federal overreach, primarily by Republican lawmakers who control both the Senate and Assembly.
Hansen’s legislation would expand existing Nevada law that outlines arrest powers within the state for federal agencies to include other agencies that now have law enforcement agents, including the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Chuck Callaway, representing the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said the agency is neutral on the bill. But the agency does not have enough officers to patrol all areas of the county, such as at Lake Mead, he said. So if a BLM ranger saw an intoxicated driver, the agency would want the federal officer to take appropriate action, he said.
If the bill was to pass, Las Vegas police would enter into a memorandum of understanding with the federal agencies, Callaway said.
The Nevada Association of Counties endorsed the bill, saying it would bring clarity to the law enforcement jurisdiction issue.
The committee did not take any immediate action on the bill. – Sean Whaley
Bill banning smoking in vehicles with children debated
The documented ill health effects from inhaling secondhand smoke were squared off against individual rights at a hearing Thursday on a bill that would ban smoking in cars while children are present.
Assembly Bill 322 by Mike Sprinkle, D-Sparks, was supported in the Judiciary Committee hearing by health advocates who argued that children should not be exposed to an adult who is smoking in a confined space such as a vehicle.
Drivers violating the law could be pulled over for the offense by police and fined $25. It would not count as a moving traffic violation.
Sprinkle offered an amendment to his bill to include electronic cigarettes in the prohibition.
Dr. Joseph Iser, chief health officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, said seven states and Puerto Rico have enacted similar laws, with Vermont joining the ban in 2014.
Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Minden, who said he is a smoker, asked why an adult could be labeled a criminal for smoking in a car with a child but not be considered a criminal for doing the same thing in a home.
Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, asked if the proposal is just one step toward banning smoking in homes.
Vanessa Spinazola, representing the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, testified in opposition to the bill, suggesting that as a primary offense such a law would become a pretext for police to initiate traffic stops.
At the very least the violation should be a secondary offense, as is seat belt use, where police cannot initiate a traffic stop for a violation, Spinazola said.
The committee took no action on the bill. – Sean Whaley
Lottery discussion renews in Carson City
Assemblyman Harvey Munford’s proposal to allow a lottery to operate in Nevada was heard March 19 by the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee.
Every effort to amend the state’s constitution to allow a lottery floated in the Legislature over the past 30 years has failed, primarily because the gaming industry doesn’t want the competition. There is also some opposition from religious groups because of the negative effect on people with low incomes.
Nearly 30 attempts to establish a lottery in Nevada since 1975 have failed. A measure passed the Assembly in 2009 but did not pass the state Senate. A measure in 2011 did not get a hearing. No measure was introduced in 2013.
Forty-four states now operate lotteries, while Nevada — which legalized casino gaming in 1931 — does not. The prohibition was placed in Nevada’s constitution at statehood in 1864. It was amended by voters in 1990 to allow lotteries operated by charitable organizations.
So Nevadans continue to drive to California or Arizona when a big jackpot is in the offing, leaving the state out of the revenue stream that Munford, D-Las Vegas, said could bring millions of dollars to the state’s schoolchildren and senior citizens.
Voters should be given the chance to decide the issue, Munford said.
In 2007, Boyd Gaming and Station Casinos unveiled a study that found a Nevada lottery would create 316 new jobs in Nevada while eliminating 595 jobs in the gaming and hospitality industry. A state lottery, according to the analysis, would bring $48 million a year in profit for the state. – Sean Whaley
Testimony on bargaining bill heard
Assemblyman Randy Kirner said Wednesday his bill to make several changes to the state’s collective bargaining law to benefit local governments and taxpayers does not constitute “union Armageddon” as has been characterized by some public union and labor officials.
Kirner testified in support of Assembly Bill 182 before the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee in a hearing room packed with public union workers who were out in force to oppose the measure. An overflow room and the Las Vegas hearing room were packed as well.
Kirner’s bill would clarify the rules that exclude supervisors from collective bargaining, prohibit using government funds to pay employees engaged in union activities, and prohibit government employers from collecting union deductions from their employees.
The bill would also prohibit any wage or benefit increases if a contract has expired until a new agreement is finalized and eliminate binding fact-finding unless the local government entity chooses to employ it, among its other provisions. It would also allow layoffs that are not based on seniority.
The committee took no action on the bill.
AB182 is the most comprehensive measure to date to be heard in the Nevada Legislature dealing with collective bargaining reform. Two other measures dealing with single issues have previously won approval from the Senate Government Affairs Committee. Efforts to change Nevada’s collective bargaining law are a high priority for the Republican-controlled Legislature. – Sean Whaley
Sean Whaley covers Carson City for GateHouse Media, owner of the Pahrump Valley Times.