More funding for education approved
The five budget bills winning final approval Monday included a huge increase in spending on public education, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s primary focus of the Legislative session.
Total state funding for public education will climb by more than $400 million to $2.8 billion, a nearly 16 percent increase over the current budget.
Sandoval’s education plan includes expanding all-day kindergarten to all schools at a cost of $140 million over two years, $100 million to help English language learners and accountability measures such as Read by 3, which will require students to master reading by the third grade or be held back. Failing schools could be taken over by charter agencies through an Achievement School District.
There were also two school choice measures approved that supporters said would make Nevada a leader on the issue nationwide.
There was $29 million allocated to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to establish a medical school with its first class of students by 2017 and nearly $50 million to build a new hotel college academic building at the university.
State employees will get the first cost-of-living raises in years, 1 percent on July 1 and 2 percent on July 1, 2016.
Also, lawmakers passed a bill that could start the Clark County School District on the path toward deconsolidating by the 2018-19 school year.
Assembly Bill 394 was designed to set up an advisory committee and a technical committee to develop a plan for reorganizing the district into five or more separate school precincts.
The Assembly voted 35-5 on the bill late Monday. A 13-7 vote in the Senate sent the bill to the governor’s desk.
The committee would work on a plan that must be ready to implement before the 2018-19 school year. The final plan would need to be filed with the School Board, Legislative Counsel Bureau and State Department of Education.
The State Board of Education would be responsible for implementing regulations for the plan to move forward.
Legislative Commission approval would be required, which means that a denial would stop the plan.
— Sandra Chereb and Sean Whaley
Governor signs gun, school choice bills into law
Bills enacting unprecedented school choice options for parents in Nevada and prohibiting people convicted of domestic violence from having guns were signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
The second-term Republican signed Senate Bill 302, sponsored by state Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, which allows parents to receive state funds through an education saving account for their child to attend private school or home-based education.
Under the law, students in kindergarten through 12th grade who have been enrolled in public school for at least 100 consecutive days can receive the per-pupil amount guaranteed by the state to attend a private school.
Students in poverty or with special needs will receive 100 percent of the per-pupil funding, about $5,700, while other students can get 90 percent.
Nevada is the fifth state to create an education savings account program, according to The Friedman Foundation for Education Choice, a nonprofit group that advocates for educational options.
Sandoval on Tuesday also signed gun legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson. Senate Bill 175 prohibits anyone convicted of domestic violence from acquiring or possessing guns.
It also expands the definition of justifiable homicide to include killing someone in defense of an occupied motor vehicle or someone who intends to enter a vehicle to cause an occupant harm, and grants civil liability protection to those who use justifiable force.
The measure also ends Clark County’s “blue card” ordinance, a decades-old law requiring registration of handguns, and establishes “state control over the regulation of policies concerning firearms.”
SB175 further expands reciprocity to allow people in other states with concealed carry permits to carry weapons in Nevada. Permits from states that require a class, program or training to obtain a permit will be recognized here, expanding the number of such states by about 10.
— Sandra Chereb
Bills signed that could boost sports-betting handle
Two bills backed by the Nevada sports betting industry that could lead to an increase in the $3.9 billion already wagered annually in the state’s sports books were signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Senate Bill 443 authorizes the formation of business entities to place race and sports pool wagers. The new law allows investors to join business entities and share the profits and losses from large wagers at Nevada sports books.
Senate Bill 445 allows Nevada books to set the betting lines and manage facilities in other jurisdictions.
Both bills became law Tuesday.
The bills were backed by sports book operator CG Technology, which lobbied lawmakers and worked with gaming regulators on the language.
He told ESPN that entity wagering exists in other jurisdictions, saying it puts “Nevada on a path to again being one of the most competitive sports betting markets in the world.”
CG Technology CEO Lee Amaitis said the bills allow the company “to expand our business and service offerings.”
Several experts estimated the handle — the amount wagered on sports — could triple in the state over the next five years, fueled by entity wagering.
Proponents of the concept bill failed to get the measure through the Legislature two years ago. However, they worked with state gaming regulators on wording that requires the entity itself to disclose information on its investors to the licensed sports books.
According to the bill, the business entity must be registered with the Nevada Secretary of State and also maintain an account with a Nevada bank. Members of the entity will have to be age 21 and provide personal identification, including Social Security numbers and tax identification.
The sports book operator will have the final decision on accepting wagers from a particular group.
Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett said new regulations covering entity wagers aren’t needed because it will be up to the individual sports book managers to decide if they are comfortable accepting the bets. The Control Board still has investigative and enforcement powers over the entity.
The second bill allows Nevada’s sports book operators to manage legal facilities anywhere in the world by setting the lines in Nevada. CG Technology operates sports books in the Bahamas and Mexico. The new law allows the line-setting and other back-of-the-house management functions to remain in Nevada.
Burnett said a new regulation will be drafted that requires some additional record-keeping requirements on the part of the sports books and allows the Control Board some oversight with the operations.
A 1992 federal law restricts sports betting to four states. Nevada is the only state with full-scale sports wagering. Three other states — Delaware, Oregon and Montana — offer small-stakes sports betting. New Jersey has been attempting to legalize sports betting and open Las Vegas-style books. A lawsuit is pending in the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
CG Technology officials said the new law would let Nevada bookmakers move into other states, should legalized sports wagering in the U.S. become a reality.
— Howard Stutz
GOP push to end presidential caucus fails
One casualty of the 2015 legislative session was a GOP-supported bill that would have allowed political parties to end Nevada’s presidential caucus system and switch to a secret-ballot primary.
The bill died Monday, when the Assembly didn’t bring it forward for a vote before the midnight deadline when the session ended.
Senate Bill 421 would have given political parties the choice to have a presidential preference primary election on the last Tuesday in February. But the primaries for state and local races would have remained in June. The bill would have allowed a political party to opt out and use the caucus system instead.
Republicans had argued that the change would preserve the state’s early role in the presidential selection process and boost voter participation. The change would have weakened the influence of grass-roots party activists who are more motivated to turn out for precinct caucuses and in recent years have gained control of the state Republican Party.
Under the bill, the state would have covered the costs of a primary, pegged at about $500,000 statewide for a single party primary.
— Ben Botkin
Ben Botkin, Sandra Chereb, Howard Stutz and Sean Whaley are reporters for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.