Believe It or Not, Good Bills were Passed in 2023 Session

Marcos Lopez

As the curtain fell on the 82nd Nevada Legislative Session, Nevada released a collective sigh of relief. These past few months witnessed intense debates, droning grandstanding and a record-setting number of bad policies vetoed by our new governor.

It was not all bad, however. We did see a handful of legislative gems that managed to make their way to the finish line. These 10 pivotal pieces of legislation represent the best of what was enacted into law from a legislative session that couldn’t end soon enough.

From raising the Rainy Day Fund cap to a bill ensuring the transparency of civil asset forfeiture, we dive into the intricacies of these legislative wins. Here’s the lineup of the top 10 pieces of legislation to be enacted in the 82nd Nevada Legislative Session:

  1. Senate Bill 431 – Government Modernization Act

Introduced by: The Office of the Governor
Summary: Senate Bill 431 authorizes the governor to appoint and pay for diverse roles within their office, including the addition of a chief innovation officer; creates the Office of Nevada Boards, Commissions, and Councils Standards in the Department of Business and Industry; eliminates the Division of Enterprise Information Technology Services while transferring its powers to the Office of the Chief Information Officer; transforms the Personnel Commission to the Human Resources Commission, replacing the term “personnel” with “human resources” throughout and mandates the administrator to develop an audit function, a centralized job announcement system and a centralized employment system; revises the appointment and examination process for classified positions as well as the work program revision thresholds in the Executive Department of state government; raises the cap for the Rainy Day Fund from 20 percent to 26 percent of the total State General Fund appropriations and increases the acceptance threshold for gifts or grants to a state agency without approval to $200,000.

Final Vote: Assembly 42-0; Senate 21-0
Governor Approved: Yes

Senate Bill 431, or the Government Modernization Act, was one of the five major pieces of legislation introduced by Gov. Joe Lombardo during the 82nd Legislative Session. While it was amended significantly from its original ideas (which included the creation of new cabinet level positions for the executive branch), it was ironically made into a largely better bill with the removal of The Nevada Way Account provisions which would’ve created a new account to foster government corporate favoritism.

The two key provisions that earn SB431 the top spot on this list is Section 113, which raises the cap for the Rainy Day Fund from 20 percent to 26 percent of the total State General Fund appropriations, and Section 19, which creates the Office of Nevada Boards, Commissions and Councils Standards.

Section 113 represents the culmination of the advocacy Nevada Policy has been pushing for since Gov. Lombardo’s election.

When Nevada Policy President John Tsarpalas was asked to participate on a transition policy advisory committee before Lombardo was inaugurated, we kept stressing the importance of refilling and expanding the amount in the state rainy day fund to ensure the state could weather any economic downturn on the horizon that may be induced from federal fiscal and monetary policy.

Conservative fiscal policy consists of three key features: saving more, paying down debt and spending less. Through Senate Bill 431, Gov. Lombardo is on the appropriate course to establish a sound fiscal record. Nevada Policy will continue to advocate over the interim that our other suggestion we pushed during the transition, the creation of a dedicated fund to pay down the record amount of debt within the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada, is adopted.

The other portion, the creation of the Office of Nevada Boards, Commissions and Councils Standards, holds value in the potential it promises. For far too long too many of Nevada’s boards and commissions have been unaccountable, lacking the oversight needed to be trusted by the public.

This new office would ensure centralized administration, uniformity across different licensing boards and enforce a clear separation of licensure and disciplinary responsibilities, promoting fairness and preventing conflicts of interest. The implementation of consistent structural standards and processes could enhance efficiency, while bringing much needed transparency.

Nevada Policy applauds Gov. Lombardo for this legislation and his office’s efforts to return good governance to Nevada.

  1. Assembly Bill 350 – Civil Asset Forfeiture Transparency

Introduced by: Committee on Judiciary
Summary: This bill requires each law enforcement agency to include certain additional information relating to seizures and forfeitures in the report that the law enforcement agency submits to the Office of the Attorney General and requires the Office of the Attorney General to make the reports relating to seizures and forfeitures that are published on its Internet website.

Final Vote: Assembly 42-0; Senate 20-0
Governor Approved: Yes

AB350 increases transparency on civil asset forfeiture in the state and provides the public with more information.

Historically, the public was not provided with any information as to how this program was being used. But when landmark legislation required that all Nevada law enforcement agencies file annual reports with the Attorney General regarding their seizures and forfeitures, new insights were able to be garnered.

That allowed Nevada Policy to release the first-ever geographical analysis of how the controversial civil asset forfeiture program is used by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

AB350 increases transparency further by requiring new reporting on the place of seizure (business, private residence, traffic stop, etc.); information relating to any judicial proceedings associated with the seizure (type of crime associated with the seizure of the property, if the suspect was charged with any crimes and outcome of any criminal proceeding, etc.); and lastly, the status of the property seized (was it returned to the owner, sold, destroyed or retained by law enforcement, etc.).

Civil asset forfeiture was first implemented by law enforcement during prohibition to purse illicit gains from bootleggers and was expanded during the 1970s and ‘80s to wage the war on drugs. Today, many legal scholars and Fourth Amendment advocates criticize the practice for flipping justice on its head, since legal proceedings are against property (and not individuals) the burden is on the property owner to prove their innocence rather than requiring the state to prove their guilt.

To make matters worse, civil asset forfeiture can provide perverse incentives for predatory policing since departments can often retain any proceeds to pad their budgets. Across the country we have examples of individuals who were never convicted or charged with a crime having lost their property to this unjust practice. While on occasion, it is used effectively to punish large illicit gains, often the amount seized is not representative of kingpin activities. Our analysis of the data we have so far found that most forfeitures were for amounts less than $1,000 – making it cost-prohibitive for innocent parties to contest the seizure, as the legal fees in doing so would almost certainly surpass the value of the seized property.

While there is much work to be done to overhaul this system and reaffirm the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” AB350 will continue to shed light and guide future data-backed reforms that can remove the financial incentives for seizures and strengthen protections for property owners. Simply the fact that the public will now be able to see this data will likely have a positive effect on how this practice is conducted.

  1. Assembly Bill 158 – Recognition of EMS Personnel Licensure Interstate CompAct (REPLICA)

Introduced by: Assembly Minority Leader P.K. O’Neil (R-Assembly District 40)
Co-Sponsors: Assemblymen Ken Gray, Heidi Kasama, Rich DeLong, Jill Dickman, Danielle Gallant, Bert Gurr, Alexis Hansen, Brian Hibbetts, Gregory Koenig
Summary: AB158 makes Nevada the 23rd member of the Recognition of EMS Personnel Licensure Interstate CompAct (REPLICA) that will simplify and streamline the licensure process for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel, facilitating their ability to practice across state lines with minimal barriers.

Final Vote: Assembly 42-0; Senate 21-0
Governor Approved: Yes

It is well established that Nevada is the worst state in the union for occupational licensing and while there was legislation introduced that would tackle this head on through universal recognition by Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Senate District 20), the reality is that there was no way the Democrats were going to give him a chance. We did see movement, however, through interstate compacts that would allow individuals licensed in different states to move across stateliness and practice what they do best within member states. Four such interstate compacts would be introduced and two would be signed into law.

AB158 is focused on emergency medical service professionals and join Nevada in the interstate compact ensuring there is an efficient and competitive market for EMS services, while maintaining high-quality patient care.

REPLICA (as the compact is known) will help promote labor mobility and drive efficient allocation of resources by allowing EMS personnel licensed in one member state to practice in any other member state without having to obtain a separate license. This will lead to a more efficient allocation of resources, as EMS personnel will be able to relocate to areas with higher demand for their services and address potential shortages such as in rural and underserved areas in Nevada.

The regulatory consistency REPLICA provides through a uniform set of regulations and standards across member states will maintain a high-quality standard for care and ensure that in times of crisis or natural disasters, EMS professionals can cross state lines and provide emergency services without delay.

  1. Senate Bill 442 – Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact (ITMC)

Introduced by: Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop (D-Senate District 8)
Summary: Senate Bill 442 would sign Nevada onto the Teacher Mobility Compact as the fourth member state which would go into effect once 10 states join the compact. This will simplify and streamline the licensure process for teachers, facilitating their ability to practice across state lines with minimal barriers.

Final Vote: Assembly 42-0; Senate 21-0

Governor Approved: Yes

Like AB158, SB442 would make Nevada a member in a new interstate compact being pushed by the U.S. Department of Defense to facilitating interstate mobility for teachers, many of whom might be spouses of active-duty military members. The Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact (ITMC) would create full reciprocity among participating states – meaning that as long as a teacher has a bachelor’s degree, completed a state-approved program for teacher licensure and has a full teaching license, they can receive an equivalent license from another state. While not perfect, this represents a positive move. It is important to note that while the teachers’ unions did not publicly oppose it, there were many behind the scenes grumblings.

  1. Senate Bill 452 – Government Services Tax Reform

Introduced by: Committee on Finance
Summary: Under existing law, the basic governmental services tax is 4 cents on each $1 of the valuation of the vehicle, and the valuation of the vehicle is 35 percent of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price in Nevada with a reduction based on the age of the vehicle using a depreciation schedule set forth in existing law with 25 percent of the proceeds allocated to the State General Fund and 75 percent of the proceeds allocated to the State Highway Fund. Senate Bill 452 diverts the total amount collected by the state to the State Highway Fund.

Final Vote: Assembly 42-0; Senate 21-0
Governor Approved: Yes

SB452 represents a small but important budgetary change to how spending is directed in our state. By directing taxes on vehicles (in this case the GST) completely to the Highway Fund, we ensure these types of taxes operate as true user fees where those who utilize the highways are primarily funding its upkeep while making sure the revenues from those taxes aren’t spent frivolously on whatever pet project the legislature purses.

This makes SB452 consistent with sound taxation principles. While it might be a libertarian trope and meme to argue if government should even build the roads, the application of the ‘user pays’ principle brings a greater degree of fairness and efficiency to our system while acting as a check on government spending.

  1. Assembly Bill 120 – Medical Professional Reintegration Act

Introduced by: Assemblyman Gregory Hafen II (R-Assembly District 36)
Summary: Assembly Bill 120 allows for medical professionals to re-enter the market in Nevada who might not have practiced for the preceding three years in association with a sponsoring organization.

Final Vote: Assembly 42- 0; Senate 20-0
Governor Approved: Yes

Assembly Bill 120 was first introduced last session by Assemblyman Gregory Hafen and represents one of the few good pieces of healthcare policies that made it through both chambers.

While most bills that purport to be healthcare solutions focus on demand-side policy prescriptions, AB 120 is refreshing since it rightly focuses on increasing the supply of healthcare professionals. Nevada is currently suffering from a shortage of medical professionals. By removing arbitrary restrictions for individuals who might have briefly retired, pursued a different field or faced a major life event, AB120 will allow doctors to return to the market with the appropriate sponsorship of a healthcare organization. This will have a positive effect by increasing the number of medical professionals on the market ensuring Nevada has more doctors seeing more patients helping improve our medical outcomes.

  1. Senate Bill 292 – Principal Accountability Act

Introduced by: Senator Julie Pazina (D-Assembly District 12)
Summary: Senate Bill 292 provides that during the first three years of employment by a school district, a principal is employed at will and if a principal completes the three-year probationary period, the principal again becomes an at-will employee if, in two consecutive school years: (1) the rating of the school to which the principal is assigned pursuant to the statewide system of accountability for public schools is reduced by one or more levels or remains at the lowest level possible; and (2) 50 percent or more of the teachers assigned to the school request a transfer to another school.

Final Vote: Assembly 39-3; Senate 21-0
Governor Approved: Yes

Freshman Sen. Julie Pazina is helping improve accountability in the disaster known as Nevada’s public school system through Senate Bill 292, which will hold principals accountable for their performance and teacher satisfaction, two critical factors in the quality of education a student receives.

By tying a principal’s employment status to the performance of their school and the preferences of their teachers, it motivates principals to focus on improving their school’s academic results and maintaining a positive work environment for their staff.

The three-year probationary period for new principals allows school districts to assess the performance of new hires in a practical setting, without the commitment of a long-term contract. This can enable the school district to manage its resources and ensure that only effective principals are given continued contracts.

Lastly, the bill provides a method for school districts to address situations where a principal’s leadership may not be effective, even after the probationary period. If a school’s rating drops significantly or remains at the lowest level for two consecutive years, and if the majority of the school’s teachers request a transfer, the bill allows for the principal’s contract to be non-renewed. This gives teachers a voice in school leadership and provides a means for removing principals whose leadership may be negatively affecting the school’s performance or teachers’ job satisfaction.

Overall, this bill promotes accountability and performance within the school system, offering mechanisms to ensure quality leadership in schools, which ultimately benefits the students.

  1. Senate Bill 24 – Office of Small Business Advocacy

Introduced by: Office of the Lt. Governor
Summary: Senate Bill 24 makes permanent the Office of Small Business Advocacy within the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and sets up the Keep Nevada Working Task Force to be housed within SBA, tasked with developing strategies to support state industries, researching methods to improve career paths for immigrants and supporting workforce stability.

Final Vote: Assembly 42-0; Senate 20-0
Governor Approved: Yes

There are few positive government programs that exist, but without a doubt the Office of Small Business Advocacy is one of them. By enacting SB24, Nevada will ensure there is a permanent voice within state government constantly advocating for small businesses and upstart entrepreneurs.

Senate Bill 24 will strengthen the support system for small businesses in Nevada, bolster the state’s economy and foster an environment conducive to both job creation and entrepreneurial success in the Silver State. It is no surprise two friends of Nevada Policy championed this legislation – Lt. Governor Stavros Anthony and his Chief of Staff Rudy Pamintuan. Both Anthony and Pamintuan have long histories as advocates for economic freedom and business-friendly environments.

  1. Assembly Bill 219 – Open Meeting Law Refinement

Introduced by: Assemblywoman Venicia Considine (D-Assembly District 18)
Summary: Assembly Bill 219 refines Nevada’s Open Meeting Law, dictating when public bodies must invite public comments: at the start of each meeting day before addressing action items, or after discussing each action item but before taking any action. If a meeting spans multiple days, public comments must be invited on each day. If a meeting utilizes remote technology without a physical location, clear instructions, including phone numbers and access codes, should be included in the agenda for the public to join and comment. Notices of meetings should be posted at the principal office of the public body or, if applicable, the physical meeting location. Public bodies are not allowed to hold meetings on contested cases and regulations via remote technology without a physical location for public attendance and participation. These meetings must also provide clear call-in instructions for public comment.

Final Vote: Assembly 42-0; Senate 20-0
Governor Approved: Yes

Transparency has been a key issue of Nevada Policy for some time, and it is always refreshing when bipartisan agreement occurs on this issue. It is often a topic that cuts through partisan divides and unites unlikely allies.

Assembly Bill 219, brought forward by Assemblywoman Considine will increase transparency and improve the ability of the public to participate in the public policy process.

By requiring public bodies to invite public comments either before addressing action items or after discussing each item but before action is taken, the bill ensures that the public has an opportunity to voice their views and influence decisions. For meetings held remotely, it requires clear instructions for the public to join and comment, which ensures that as many people as possible can participate, regardless of their location or ability to attend in person.

By not allowing public bodies to hold meetings on contested cases and regulations via remote technology without a physical location for public attendance, the bill ensures that public officials are held accountable to the people they serve in person.

  1. Assembly Bill 232 – Premium Cigar Tax Cap

Introduced by: Assemblyman Brian Hibbetts (R-Assembly District 13)

Co-Sponsors: Assemblyman Duy Nguyen (D-Assembly District 8)
Summary: Assembly Bill 232 adjusts the existing tax on tobacco products in the state. Currently, a tax of 30 percent of the wholesale price is imposed on the receipt, purchase or sale of such products. However, this bill limits the tax on premium cigars to not more than 50 cents or less than 30 cents per cigar. A premium cigar is defined as one that is hand-rolled, has a wrapper made of whole tobacco leaves and doesn’t have a filter or mouthpiece. The bill also modifies the tax credit allowed for unsellable tobacco products to match the amount of tax paid, adjusting it in accordance with the change in the premium cigar tax rate.

Final Vote: Assembly 35-7; Senate 18-3
Governor Approved: No

Tax caps are probably second best to tax cuts. Although AB 232 affects tobacco taxes, any tax reduction in a Democrat-controlled legislature is worth recognition. In Nevada, many premium cigars sold by small businesses and the high tax rate applied to wholesale products are a key part of the overhead in a highly competitive market. By fixing the tax per cigar, AB232 will provide some relief to brick-and-mortar cigar lounges in Nevada who are in competition with online retailers who often do not have to pay the same taxes.

We hope this bipartisan effort to cap taxes on cigars might bleed over to other efforts to enact meaningful tax reform that lowers rates and broadens the base so all Nevadans can enjoy meaningful savings on their cost of living.

Conclusion: Overall, the session saw some advances for liberty in our state and was a net positive thanks to Gov. Lombardo’s Stanley Cup-worthy goalkeeping.

We will publish two more pieces exploring the few pieces of poor legislation that were enacted, as well as the top 10 saves (vetoes) our new goalie-in-chief made to protect the principles of limited government, individual liberty and fiscal responsibility. Stay tuned for an in-depth analysis of the legislative landscape and the impact of these crucial decisions.

Learn more about this year’s legislative session by downloading the FREE Legislative Scorecard and Report.

Marcos Lopez

Marcos Lopez

Policy Fellow

Marcos Lopez serves as a Policy Fellow for Nevada Policy. For over a decade, Marcos has fought to advance free-market principles, limited government, and secure individual rights through electioneering, lobbying, and grassroots mobilization at all levels of government across nine states and Washington D.C.

Originally from Miami, Marcos moved to Nevada in 2015 and has lived in Reno and Las Vegas, where he currently resides. His main areas of focus include economic opportunity, criminal justice reform, and school choice. Marcos’ work and efforts have been recognized and featured in The New York Times, The Las Vegas Review Journal, The Nevada Independent, This is Reno, and The Nevada Current.