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Nye on Carson City, May 1

No opposition heard on time change elimination

A measure seeking to jump Nevada forward to daylight saving time and then keep the state an hour ahead in perpetuity saw no opposition Wednesday at a hearing in a Senate committee.

Assembly Joint Resolution 4, which passed the Assembly on a 30-12 vote earlier this month, would ask Congress to give the Nevada Legislature the power to make permanent the jump forward to daylight saving time that now occurs each spring.

Assemblyman Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas, sponsored the proposal, which he said would keep Nevada on Pacific Daylight Time year-round instead of switching back to standard time each fall.

The permanent leap forward would provide the extra hour of light in the evening in winter, which most people seem to prefer, he said.

If Congress gives its permission, then the Nevada Legislature in 2017 could complete the time change, Edwards said.

The Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee heard the measure but took no action. The resolution would just move the process along for further discussion in the next session if Congress gave its approval.

Edwards said in previous testimony that the time change twice each year causes a number of problems, from disrupting sleep schedules to contributing to an increase in heart attacks for seniors and more auto accidents when the clocks are first moved forward by an hour each spring.

Pat Sanderson, representing the Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans, was neutral on the proposal but suggested that the potential effects on the gaming industry be studied before such a change is made.

Moving Nevada permanently into daylight saving time would mean an hour’s time difference with California for several winter months each year.

Sean Whaley

Bill would exempt some underage drinkers from prosecution

Those underage who call for emergency medical help if they or a friend are intoxicated and need assistance would be exempt from prosecution on alcohol charges under a bill heard by an Assembly committee Wednesday.

Senate Bill 464, sponsored by the Nevada Youth Legislature, would provide medical amnesty for consumption or possession of alcohol if people under 21 ask for emergency medical assistance for themselves or someone else.

The goal is to encourage more young people to reach out for help and try to prevent premature death by alcohol poisoning.

Madeleine Welch, a Nevada Youth legislator, called the bill “a lifesaving measure that gives medical amnesty to underage drinkers in life-threatening situations.”

“Immunity is granted to the first caller and the person or persons for whom he or she is calling,” Welch said, adding that the caller must remain on the scene until authorities arrive.

The bill is also being called Brady’s Bill after Brady Caipa. The 17-year-old senior at Bishop Gorman High School died in 2011 from asphyxia and acute alcohol intoxication after attending a teen party.

“Student safety is our top concern,” Quinn Jonas, a former University of Nevada, Reno student government senator, testified Wednesday. He said the bill gives students and minors confidence “to make a potential life-saving call.”

He said the bill would alleviate fears of underage students that they could lose scholarships or other career opportunities if they are cited for the misdemeanor offense of consuming or possessing alcohol.

Welch referenced a study by Cornell University, which implemented a campus medical amnesty program in 2002. The study showed that in the second year, the number of students seen by health center staff after an alcohol-related emergency more than doubled.

The bill passed unanimously in the Nevada Senate, but a last-minute amendment to outlaw powdered alcohol gave some Assembly committee members pause.

Under the Nevada proposal, possession, distributing or offering powered alcohol for sale would be a misdemeanor. About a half-dozen states have banned powdered alcohol and dozens more are considering it.

Creators of the product, called Palcohol, argue that criticism is an attempt to protect the liquid alcohol industry.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee took no action on the bill.

Sandra Chereb

Lawmakers say bill to allow campus tobacco ban hypocritical

Supporters of a bill allowing Nevada college campuses to ban tobacco received blow-back Wednesday from Republicans on an Assembly panel who suggested the move is hypocritical when tobacco taxes help fund higher education.

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, and chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, said taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products raise more than $100 million in state revenue a year.

“You want more money for higher ed,” Hansen said during a hearing on Senate Bill 339. “But we’re going to tell people who pay the tax they have no right to smoke on a government campus.”

SB339, sponsored by state Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks and others, would authorize college campuses to impose stricter rules against smoking than allowed by state law, an authorization local school districts have already.

The bill earlier was approved unanimously by the state Senate.

Marc Johnson, president of the University of Nevada, Reno, said making the campus tobacco free would provide a healthy environment for students, staff and faculty and demonstrate values in line with the university’s research and academic mission.

After the hearing, Johnson said he was taken aback by the questioning, saying the benefits to public health and social costs associated with smoking far outweigh concerns over tobacco tax funding.

The committee took no action on the bill.

Cheryl-Hug English, medical director of the UNR student health center, said 25 percent of campus staff and faculty smoke, and about half that percentage of students do.

Sandra Chereb

Labor wants all public contracts details revealed

Labor groups said April 24 if lawmakers want to require local governments to publicize proposed union contracts before ratifying them, the mandate should be extended to all contracts.

Senate Bill 158, which has already been approved by the Senate, was heard by the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee. It would require local governments to reveal details and background materials on contracts with public employee bargaining groups three days before a vote.

State Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said the bill is “truly an effort to bring transparency to collective bargaining” and inform the public “what you bargained for and what you settled for.”

The measure was supported by local governments, business groups and the Las Vegas-based conservative think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute.

“The public has a right to see the bill before taxpayers are paying it,” said NPRI’s Victor Joecks.

Union representatives agreed with the idea behind the bill but said it doesn’t go far enough.

“We’re actually in support of the concept of the bill,” said Rusty McAllister with the Professional Fire Fighters of Nevada. “We have no problem with putting our documentation out online.

“But we also believe, let’s not just talk about public employee organizations. Managers, supervisors … those contracts never see the light of day,” he said.

“If the public has the right to know, we agree. Let’s do it. But let’s do it for everybody,” McAllister said.

An effort to amend the bill with that requirement failed in the Senate.

Others complained Friday that local governments routinely approve contracts worth millions of dollars on consent agendas, where numerous items are approved with a single vote and without discussion.

The committee also debated Senate Bill 168, which seeks to define a “fiscal emergency” that could trigger reopening of collective bargaining pacts.

Under the bill, a fiscal emergency would occur if a local government’s general fund revenue falls 5 percent or more from the preceding year, or the ending fund balance drops to 4 percent of actual expenditures in the previous year.

Additionally, the bill would set aside 25 percent of a local government’s budgeted expenditures from labor negotiations and states those funds cannot be considered by an arbitrator when determining a local’s government’s ability to pay union-bargained compensation.

The percentage under current law is 8.3 percent.

Critics of the bill including some Democratic lawmakers said the bill could allow governments to divert money from their general coffers into other funds to declare an emergency and reopen bargaining.

The committee took no action on either measure.

Sandra Chereb

Sandra Chereb and Sean Whaley cover Carson City for GateHouse Media, owner of the Pahrump Valley Times

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