Bills expected to be dead on arrival upon hitting the governor’s desk
NFIB/Nevada State Director Randi Thompson reports from Carson City on the small-business agenda with three weeks left in the Legislature.
With three weeks left, the focus is now on closing budgets for the various state departments. As NFIB reported last week, the Legislature will have about $8 billion to divvy up to pay for everything from running prisons, the DMV, transportation, wildlife, the various executive offices, Medicaid, and, of course, education. This is when the real horse-trading begins, and when pet projects get funded or killed.
May 19 is the deadline for bills to be passed out of committee in the second house. However, many bills related to funding issues — and other bills deemed important to leadership — are exempt from any deadlines.
This past week some of the high-profile bills having hearings include restoring prevailing wage for public works projects, requiring manufacturers of certain diabetes drugs to report certain financial information relating the cost of the drug, and “Banning the Box” for government jobs.
Ban the Box
‘Ban the Box’ refers to the box the job applicant has to check if he or she has ever been found guilty of a crime. This bill says that the criminal history of an applicant being considered for a state, county, or city job may be considered only after the applicant has been certified by human resources.
Nevada does not have a ban-the-box law, but cities such as North Las Vegas have adopted one for hiring. This measure passed the Assembly along party lines. We’ll see what happens in the Senate this week.
Education Savings Accounts
On May 12, both the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees independently closed the budgets for the State Treasurer’s office, and they removed all funding for the Education Savings Accounts (ESA) program that would have provided about $5,200 to parents to send their children to private school. Gov. Brian Sandoval had included $60 million for the ESA program in his budget, but that money was stripped out.
However, the funding is not dead. Senate Bill 506, which is in the Senate Finance Committee, would establish the ESA program through a new Office of Educational Choice. If SB506 is approved, the funding would flow to this new agency to administer the program. This is expected to be the “Hill to Die For” for the Republicans. NFIB’s only concern is what will they give up in return? Minimum wage? Paid Leave? That’s the scary part of the last few weeks of the session.
Senate Bill106 passed the Senate Commerce Committee along party lines. This bill would raise the minimum wage by 75 cents a year until the hourly pay reaches $11. The bill will likely be vetoed, which is why SJR 6 was introduced this year.
Senate Joint Resolution 6 proposes to amend the state Constitution to increase the minimum wage starting in 2021 to $9 an hour, then increase it annually by 75 cents until it reaches $12 an hour. The resolution also contains a provision that an employee who prevails in any legal action that shows the employer failed to pay minimum wage, the employee is awarded triple damages.
This bill was heard last week in the Senate Commerce Committee, and NIFB, along with most business organizations, testified in opposition to it, urging the committee to at least remove the triple damages portion. Since this bill is a resolution, it can’t be vetoed by the governor. It will have to pass again next session exactly as it is, and then go to the voters in 2020 for approval. NFIB fears it will pass as is, but we continue to work to at least remove the triple damages portion.
Assembly Bill 211 was heard last week in the Senate Commerce as well. It has been watered down a lot from the original version that said a court shall award triple damages to an employee who prevails in a legal action to recover unpaid wages. It now says the Labor Commissioner may award to a person harmed by the violation for which an administrative penalty was imposed an amount of money deemed appropriate by the Labor Commissioner to compensate the person for the wages and benefits lost as a result of a violation, not to exceed the amount of the administrative penalty. However, it increases the current Administrative fine from $5,000 to $10,000. That means an employee could receive up to $10,000, despite a claim for back wages that could be as low as $100.
NFIB met with the bill sponsor to seek a revision, but it remains opposed to it as there are existing remedies already in place to address this issue. NFIB thinks the fine increase is excessive, and it objects to the provision to post on the labor commissioner’s website any business found in violation of the act. This seems like extreme punishment for a first-time offender who simply makes a payroll mistake. This bill passed the Assembly on a party-line vote. If it passes the Senate with no Republican member support, the governor is likely to veto it.
Senate Bill 361 passed out of Senate Judiciary Committee last week with one “no” vote from Sen. Don Gustavson. This bill has been amended to remove the mandate of seven paid leave days. It now requires that an employer allow any employee who’s a victim domestic violence, or has a direct family member who was subject to domestic violence, up to 30 days of leave (paid or unpaid, it’s not specified now) in a 12-month period. This provision kicks in on the 60th calendar day of employment. The sponsor worked with the business community to address our concerns, and the bill essentially codified what is in the Federal Family Medical Leave Act, which applies to companies with 50 or more employees. While we appreciate the sponsor’s willingness to work with us to address our concerns, we still are opposed to the bill as we believe it adds additional regulatory burdens and is duplicative of federal law.
U.S. Constitution Balanced Budget Amendment
Senate Joint Resolution 10 passed out of the Assembly unanimously, despite NFIB’s efforts to stop it. This bill would rescind the call for an Article V convention of states to pass a balanced budget amendment. NFIB strongly supports a balanced budget amendment as the only way to control the excessive spending by Congress that has occurred for the past 30 years.
Senate Bill 253 essentially mimics the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which covers discrimination “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” for businesses with 15 or more employees. It requires that a business make “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant women. NFIB is neutral on the bill, now, but have concerns because the bill applies to “applicants” and not to just employees. We are working with the sponsor to make it apply only to current employees.
Bills Expected to be Dead on Arrival
Here are a few business-related bills that will likely be dead on arrival when the reach the governor’s desk:
- Senate Bill196: Sick-leave mandate. It sure makes you look like good to say you’re helping “Nevada’s Hard-Working Families” when you put mandates on employers to provide paid leave for employees. But we in the business community keep reminding legislators that Nevada’s “Hardest-Working Families” are those who are running the businesses that employ other Nevadans. The bill has been amended so that businesses, with 50 or more employees that have operated in the state for one year, would be required to give workers at least 24 hours, the equivalent to three work days, of paid sick leave a year. Additionally, an employer may limit the accrual of sick leave to a maximum of six days. But even with those changes, it’s likely that Governor Sandoval has his veto pen ready for this bill – but, you never know what deals will be made in the last few days of horse trading at the Legislature. Will this be traded for Education Savings Accounts?
- Assembly Bill 211, as mentioned above, passed the Assembly on party lines, and will likely face the same fate in the Senate. NFIB will be urging the governor to veto this bill.
- Assembly Bill 175 would require an employer to offer prospective hourly minimum-wage employees, at the minimum, a bronze-level insurance plan, in order for that employer to qualify for using the lowest minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for their compensation. Current law basically says you can offer them any insurance policy you want, and if they don’t accept it, the employer has option to pay $7.25 an hour since they rejected the insurance coverage. For those companies that do not offer any health insurance plans to employees, this will mean an immediate $1 an hour increase to any employees pay of $7.25 an hour, unless they are part of a collective bargaining unit. The implementation date is upon passage, which could be as early as June 5, 2017. NFIB expects this bill to be vetoed as well.
- Assembly Bill 94 would repeal the prospective expiration of the NV Grow Program. This would allow for continued support of the Small Business Development Centers at UNR and UNLV, organizations that provide great resources to entrepreneurs and start-up companies.
- Assembly Bill 281 would allow a business whose Nevada gross revenue is $4 million or less annually file its tax form at the same time as they renew their state business license. This will streamline the state registration process for more than 100,000 small businesses.
- Senate Bill 160 would require agencies to post on their website three working days before the hearing a new or revised regulation that will be considered at the hearing. It would also require an agency to provide at least three working days’ notice of its intended action before holding a second or subsequent hearing on a regulation.
- Senate Bill 354 would allow certain qualified professionals from other states to apply for and receive a license to practice their respective professions in Nevada. This would make it easier for people to start a business in Nevada.