Marriage equity for gay couples
Advocates for gay and lesbian marriage are promising efforts to reverse Nevada’s 11-year-old ban on same-sex marriage through a constitutional amendment. To pass, the amendment would have to be voted affirmatively twice by the Legislature and approved by voters. In December, U.S. District Chief Judge Robert Jones rejected an equal-protection challenge to Nevada’s ban on gay marriage because, he argued, heterosexuals would “no longer wish to be associated with the civil institution as redefined.”
Taking gold-mining taxes out of the Nevada Constitution
For more than 150 years, the hard-rock-mining industry has worked with caps on how much it could pay to the state. Since 1989, the industry can be charged only up to 5 percent of net proceeds — after deductions. With the deductions factored in, some mining companies paid the state no net-proceeds taxes at all. The 2011 Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 15 to amend the Constitution; passing it again in this session would put it before the public for a vote in 2014. The Nevada Mining Association argues that passing the amendment actually could lead to a decrease in industry taxes, a point disputed by the amendment’s advocates and analysts from the state Legislative Counsel Bureau.
The Nevada State Education Association — commonly referred to as the teachers’ union — is working to impose a 2 percent tax on profits at businesses with a gross income of more than $1 million. The union gathered almost 153,000 signatures in support of the measure, which could generate about $800 million annually for public schools statewide. If the Legislature does not approve the tax plan, and it survives court challenges, it would go before Nevada voters in 2014.
The Lake Tahoe Compact
In 2011, the Legislature — buoyed by votes from many Democratic legislators in Clark County — took the first steps that would pull Nevada out of the two-state (with California) compact that was designed to protect Lake Tahoe’s famous water and environmental quality. SB271 was proposed by Las Vegas Democratic Sen. John Lee — who lost a primary battle and re-election, in part because his opponent had solid support from conservation groups — and lobbied for by Caesars Entertainment, which has a casino on the Tahoe shore. Legislation this year would undo what one wag dubbed the “Screw Lake Tahoe Bill,” but it won’t happen without Las Vegas legislators supporting the effort.
Public dollars for private education
Gov. Brian Sandoval, in his state-of-the-state address Jan. 15, proposed a sort of back-door voucher program that would give businesses a tax credit for contributing to a scholarship fund. The fund would give K-12 students at low-performing schools scholarships to attend private schools. The proposal is the latest wrinkle in the “school choice” agenda championed by controversial education consultant (and friend of Sandoval) Michelle Rhee, who recently supported a voucher program in Tennessee and supports semi-private charter schools, often run by for-profit companies, as an alternative to traditional public schools.
More money for English-language learners
One issue that is bringing together Republicans and Democrats is the drive to provide more funding for English-language learners in the public school systems. How much and how that money would be used is still up for grabs.
Clean energy advocates want to change the rules governing NV Energy’s requirement to use alternative sources. The change would encourage further development of solar, geothermal and wind energy in Nevada. Advocates say the change would create jobs, stabilize electricity rates and reduce pollution. The change would increase the percentage of energy from renewable sources from 25 to 35 percent by 2025 and take energy-efficiency savings out of the renewable portfolio, among other changes.
“Complete Streets” funding
A $2 voluntary charge would be added to Department of Motor Vehicle registration fees, with proceeds going to support bicycle paths and public transportation. The charge, for which motorists could opt-out, would go to the jurisdictions in which the vehicle is registered.
Open-pit mines are essentially huge holes in the ground, usually filling up with ground water from the surrounding area, and often contaminated with acids. This bill would require the industry to restore the pit mine and ensure the water will have a public benefit.
Comprehensive sex education
Planned Parenthood and other groups are concerned that sex-ed classes statewide for K-12 students are inconsistent and arbitrary, and often taught by educators without any curriculum guidance or experience. This would establish a statewide board and standards for teaching sex education with the goal of reducing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among students.
Las Vegas constable
A string of controversies has enveloped the Las Vegas constable’s office since voters elected John Bonaventura in 2011 (and for decades previously under other constables). Bonaventura has been accused of sexual harassment by a former employee; he cursed on-camera while exploring the potential for a reality TV program; sued other area constables in territorial disputes; and set up an independent bank account to pay his lawyers, free of Clark County Commission oversight, after the county denied the payments. Most recently, troubled Assemblyman Steven Brooks, arrested and charged with threatening Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, has allegedly had security provided by the constable’s office. Kirkpatrick and county officials want legislation to change the way the constable operates, up to and potentially including elimination of the office, which generally is responsible for evicting people from homes and rentals.
Assault weapons ban
Sen. Tick Segerblom has proposed a state ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons, such as the AR-15 models used in mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.
Go ahead, make my day extra-educational
On the other side of the gun line, Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore, R-Las Vegas, is proposing to let concealed-permit holders, including students, faculty and administrators, on Nevada college and university campuses carry firearms in an effort to prevent gun violence.