CARSON CITY — After the Nevada Assembly convened a floor session Friday that lasted only 12 seconds from start to finish, Elko Assemblyman John Ellison took some time to reflect on the progress of the 79th legislative session.
Ellison has been a sponsor for 15 bills, personally introducing nine and serving as a cosponsor on six Senate bills. Of those bills, 10 were killed and just five remain alive.
Several of Ellison’s bills came about as a result of constituents requesting them. One of the most widely requested is Assembly Bill 109, which would require the Public Utilities Commission to conduct a general consumer session in Elko County.
Assemblyman Ellison and Senator Goicoechea introduced AB 109 in response to the raising of water rates in Spring Creek by Great Basin Water Company. Both the Public Utilities Commission and the Attorney General’s Office agreed there would be no fiscal note needed.
The bill received wide support in Elko County and Carson City when it was first heard, and momentum seemed strong as it headed to the Assembly floor. As AB109 was about to be heard on the floor, Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, pulled it from the cue, requiring it to go before her Committee on Ways and Means.
It was heard on May 1, but no further action has been taken to pass the bill as of yet.
Ellison expressed concern that the legislation, which is one of the most important for him this session, may now have become a bargaining chip in the increasingly polarized Legislature.
“This is still a pressing issue for Elko County,” Ellison said. “Just this last week I got a call from one of my constituents who said she broke her ankle in multiple places while removing the grass from her yard, because the water bill is too high to keep it.”
Ellison went on to say “There’s no reason for this. It’s gotten to the point where it’s completely out of hand. Somebody has got to step in and do something. Without this bill, and without bringing in the Public Utilities Commission and the Consumer Advocate, our people don’t have any protection whatsoever.”
Assemblyman Ellison has contacted members of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, and hopes that they will be able to pull the bill from their committee and return it to be heard on the Assembly floor. He voiced worry that time is running out for the session, and that the Democrat majority is going to intensify their use of the leverage they possess.
Other bills killed
Bills Ellison has sponsored that failed covered a wide variety of subjects and needs. Assembly Bill 112 would have required the Legislative Auditor to assess the use of the fees paid into the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s Predator Fund by hunters, but was never scheduled for a meeting.
Assembly Bill 333, which added provisions to the existing statute regarding burglary, and would have increased the ruling of a Category B Felony for repeated offenders, also never received so much as a hearing in committee.
Assembly Joint Resolution 3, proposed by Assemblyman Ellison and Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner, which would have expressed Nevada’s support for the State of Israel, was similarly defeated.
Ellison is most perplexed and saddened by the death of Assembly Bill 88. The bill would have extended the qualification for a “hate crime,” which currently is motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity/expression of a victim.
AB 88 would add peace officers, firefighters, and emergency medical responders and their families as protected individuals, increasing the penalty for crimes motivated against them as a result of their profession, or that of their relative.
While the bill was killed after failing its deadline on April 14, Ellison hopes it may be resurrected in the form of an emergency bill sponsored by the Minority Leader, Las Vegas Republican Paul Anderson.
“It’s important that we protect those who protect us,” Ellison said. “If you or I put on a uniform, we instantly become a target; and not just us, but our spouses and children.”
A short day on Friday
Ellison is not the only Republican who is flabbergasted by the politics involved in the current legislative session. Deputy Minority Floor Leader Jim Wheeler, R-Douglas, has been increasingly vocal in his disgust with the current state of affairs in Nevada’s house of decision.
The discontent is share by Roberson, who has frequently spoken about his distaste for the lack of bi-partisanship and use of strong-handed majority votes to steamroll over Republicans in both houses. In response to Nevadan Democratic calls for creation of sanctuary cities and states, Roberson has gone so far as to chair a recently formed political action committee seeking a constitutional measure barring the creation of sanctuary cities.
While much remains to be done in the session, lawmakers handled no business Friday.
State law mandates that the Legislature cannot stand in recess for more than two days at a time. The Assembly was required to hold a floor session despite the fact that a majority of the legislators had returned home for the weekend.
The result was that the Assembly was called to order at 11:43 a.m. Friday, in an almost empty chamber. In attendance were Speaker Jason Frierson, Majority Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson, the Chief Clerk, and a few Legislative Police Officers and Sergeants-at-Arms.