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Winners and losers from the legislative session

CARSON CITY — Every legislative session starts with high hopes, the forging of political alliances and earnest promises from elected officials to get the people’s business done.

For Nevadans, the 2015 legislative session was filled with action. A $1.1 billion tax package and efforts to reform the education system dominated much of the session. But lawmakers spent plenty of time deliberating a host of other issues, from the right to carry a firearm on college campuses to switching to a new presidential primary system for voters.

Here’s a look at some of the winners and losers of the session:


GOV. BRIAN SANDOVAL: Sandoval forged a muscular alliance between Republican and Democratic lawmakers to pass a $1.1 billion tax package aimed at improving education. He got nearly everything he sought. It came after the November red wave in Nevada that gave the GOP control of both legislative chambers and propelled the Republican governor to an easy win for a second term.

STUDENTS IN UNDERPERFORMING SCHOOLS: Nevada will be keeping closer watch on the state’s underperforming schools and making efforts through a variety of new programs to improve them. The programs will provide more oversight and millions of dollars in new funding for programs at high-poverty and low-performing schools. Those schools will be able to develop their own programs tailored toward individual needs.

BULLIED STUDENTS: The state is doing more for bullied students, and a new law puts in place the Office of Safe and Respectful Learning within the Nevada Department of Education, a 24-hour hotline to report incidents and requirements for schools to report and investigate bullying.

FUTURE TEACHERS: Future educators at the state’s public schools will be eligible to apply for new scholarships at colleges and universities in Nevada if they choose to enter the field. The scholarships will award up to $3,000 per semester.

UNLV: Lawmakers gave $29 million to UNLV to establish a medical school. Its first class of students will start by 2017. The university also will receive $24.4 million to put toward a new $50 million hotel college building. The rest of the costs will come from donors and other sources.

EFFECTIVE TEACHERS: New teachers will be eligible for $5,000 annual financial incentives if they choose to work in disadvantaged schools during the first two years of their careers. The state’s also putting more money into professional development for teachers.

SCHOOL CHOICE ADVOCATES: Parents will be eligible to put the state dollars that would have paid for their child’s public school toward other types of education, including private schools and tutoring. Supporters say it boosts choices and empowers poor families to pick the right school for their child.

PEOPLE AT THE DMV: Lawmakers authorized 75 new positions to fill all the counters at Nevada Department of Motor Vehicle offices in the Las Vegas area. Waits that easily reach three or four hours now could start dipping as early as September when the new hires come on board.

CLARK COUNTY STUDENTS: A new bond rollover law will allow construction to start on seven new elementary schools in the Clark County School District. The schools are scheduled to open by fall 2017.

STATE GOVERNMENT WORKERS: Nevada’s public employees will get the first cost-of-living raise they’ve seen in years. They get a 1 percent pay increase July 1 and 2 percent on July 1, 2016.


GUN-CARRYING COLLEGE STUDENTS: Lawmakers were unable to get “campus carry” legislation passed, which would have allowed concealed firearms permit holders to carry their weapons on college and university campuses. Supporters had argued it’s necessary to preserve Second Amendment rights and give young women on college campuses the ability to protect themselves. But “campus carry” faced widespread, but by no means unanimous, opposition from college administrators and the Nevada System of Higher Education.

BIG CAB COMPANIES: Big cab companies in Las Vegas took a couple of hits that will mean more competition. Ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft were given the right to operate in Nevada. Lawmakers also approved legislation that makes it easier for small limousine companies to expand their fleets through the Nevada Transportation Authority without facing challenges from large taxi and limo companies based on competitive concerns.

PARENTAL NOTIFICATION SUPPORTERS: Hearing rooms were packed when lawmakers considered legislation that would have required girls younger than 18 to tell their parents if they seek an abortion. Supporters urged legislators to pass the measure, saying it’s important for girls to have parental involvement in a trying situation. Opponents called it too intrusive. The measure passed the Assembly but didn’t move out of a Senate Committee.

EARLY PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES: GOP leaders and Gov. Sandoval didn’t quite get everything they wanted. Legislators didn’t get around to passing a bill that would have allowed political parties to end the state’s presidential caucus system and switch to a secret-ballot primary. That would have given voters a presidential preference primary election in February, cementing Nevada’s early role in the presidential selection process and increasing voter participation.

ANTI-TAX INCREASE REPUBLICANS: The conservative faction of the Assembly’s GOP wing failed to convince their colleagues to vote against Sandoval’s proposed tax increase, despite their warnings about discouraging business growth and threatening the state’s economic recovery. Assemblyman Ira Hansen of Sparks and Assemblywoman Michele Fiore of Las Vegas played a visible role in leading the charge aimed at defeating it. But in the end the vote was 30-10, easily enough for the package of new and extended taxes to pass.

NEVADA SMOKERS: Silver State smokers will now have to pay an additional $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes. That increases the state’s per-pack tax total to $1.80.

INEFFECTIVE EDUCATORS: Public K-12 teachers and administrators who are ineffective now have fewer protections if their school district lays off employees. Under the change, ineffective educators will be the first to go if staff reductions are necessary at their school district.

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