Local legislators gave an update on proposed laws governing water, hydrofracturing, guns on college campuses, public employees’ contracts and police officer body cameras during a rural legislator telephone conference on March 26.
State Sen. Pete Goicoechea called many of the bills “wild” and several of them “misrepresented.” Goicoechea said that 87 bills have been submitted to the Government Affairs Committee, and 48 days into the 78th Legislative Session, half of them have been addressed.
Two water governing bills of vast interest to Nye County, Senate Bills 65 and 81, were heard in committee last week. Compromises were made after three hours of debate on Senate Bill 81, Goicoechea said, and an “acceptable” bill will be presented for a hearing.
“I don’t know if 65 has much chance to live,” he said of the bill proposed by Nevada state water engineer Jason King.
King has previously characterized Senate Bill 65 as merely a “housekeeping bill” that requires an update of archaic language. Nye County residents, however, have fiercely opposed portions of the bill with claims of water seizure by the state.
Assemblyman James Oscarson said that he has been at odds with King, arguing whether the state has the legal right to restrict new well owners to the use of one-half acre foot of water per year.
Goicoechea said another bill had been introduced that calls for “proofing” of vested water rights by 2025. The challenge with some of the proposals, he said, is that all wells are regulated by priority according the Nevada law.
“Unfortunately, I think I was one of the few legislators amidst many attorneys,” he said.
With regard to proposals on hydrofracturing, known as “fracking,” for natural gas, Goicoechea said that local government needed to be included in permitting. No one has a better understanding of a community’s water basin and how it will be impacted by drilling than the community itself, he said.
Both Goicoechea and Oscarson voted for a bill that would allow students to carry firearms on college campuses in the state. Goicoechea said, “It’s a good bill. I believe it will pass the Senate.” Goicoechea said that though he is not part of the judiciary committee, where the bill was vetted, he had spoken to several teachers who also supported the bill. The “watered down” version of the bill requires students, age 21 or older, to have appropriate training and a concealed weapon permit.
Nye County Commission Dan Schinhofen participated in the legislative conference call and asked for state support of Assembly Bill 280, which would allow municipalities to opt out of collective bargaining contracts with public employees once the contracts have expired.
“What we really want is the same deal the state has with their employees,” Schinhofen told legislators.
Goicoechea said that he has received three bills proposing that union contracts be re-negotiated in term.
“There are a lot of good reform bills circulating right now,” he said. An alternate budget is expected to be proposed, he said, to offset requirements of Senate Bill 252.
Goicoechea said that he has referred a proposed bill requiring that all police officers be outfitted with body cameras to the Finance Committee for review. There is no state funding associated with the bill and counties will have to implement the requirement when they can afford it, he said.
Of the “bad” and “wild” bills, Goicoechea said they will be “thinned out” by the April 10 deadline.