By Riley Snyder and Jackie Valley, The Nevada Independent

There are still six months and a major election to go before the start of the 2019 Legislature, but policymakers are already working on goals for the next 120-day session.

Roughly 160 bill draft requests (BDRs) have been submitted and posted on the Legislative Counsel Bureau’s website as of Tuesday, and the number will only increase — more than 1,200 BDRs were submitted before and during the 2017 Legislature.

Bill draft requests are essentially the embryo of any potential law. Ideas for bills can be submitted by a wide variety of parties including lawmakers and legislative leaders, committees, school districts, the governor’s office and other constitutional officers such as attorney general or controller, cities of a certain size, the state Supreme Court and even the Nevada Youth Legislature.

The BDRs can vary in specificity. One filed by Republican Sen. Joe Hardy would flatly prohibit prostitution in the state of Nevada, for example, while others merely promise to revise the body of law related to “crimes,” “health care,” or “energy.”

State law and rules approved by the Legislature set limits on how many BDRs can be submitted. Assembly members are allowed to submit 10, while senators are allowed to submit up to 20. Legislative leaders can sponsor up to 15 measures before the 2018 general election, and an additional 10 “emergency requests” during the legislative session. The next governor can submit 110 BDRs on behalf of the executive branch, and an additional five as part of his “legislative agenda.”

Here’s a look at some specific ideas or general policy goals that legislators have already put forward for the 2019 Legislature via BDRs:

New school

Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman is requesting two bill drafts related to children. One would create a school in Nevada for children who are deaf, blind or hard of hearing. Nevada does not have such a school at this time, according to a spokesman with the state Department of Education. School districts receive special-education funding to serve those students.

The Nevada Charter School of the Deaf closed in 2012 after three years of existence, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal story. Bankruptcy forced the specialty charter school to close.

Her other BDR would require that health insurers cover the costs of certain equipment for children with disabilities.

Energy

If the Energy Choice Initiative — a proposed constitutional amendment requiring Nevada adopt a competitive retail electric market by 2023 — passes, much of the Legislature’s time will be spent trying to prepare for implementation of the new mandate in time for the deadline.

So far, at least three BDRs have been brought forward that deal with energy, though details thus far are few. Democratic Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, who requested BDRs dealing with energy efficiency and “consumer protections for deregulated customers,” said the requests were acting as placeholders for now, and he requested the consumer protection BDR after his work on an advisory committee studying the energy choice ballot question.

School board changes

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer plans to revive a bill he co-sponsored during the 2017 legislative session that would change the makeup of school boards in the state’s two most populous counties.

Senate Bill 243, sponsored by Kieckhefer and Sen. Michael Roberson, would have revamped the Clark and Washoe county school boards, which currently have seven elected members. The bill sought to eliminate election districts and instead have three members who would be elected at large. The remaining members would be appointed by the local board of county commissioners as well as the three most populous cities in the county.

But SB243 never got a hearing during the last session. Dissatisfaction with school boards has continued, especially as the Clark County School District faced back-to-back budget deficits over the last year.

Kieckhefer said he’s optimistic a measure to alter school boards would gain more traction this time around. He also sees it as a way to get more people interested in serving on school boards, which guide district policy decisions and oversee the superintendent.

“I think that there are plenty of highly qualified, highly skilled individuals in Washoe and Clark counties who would be more than willing to serve on their community’s school boards but just don’t want to stand for office in a public election,” Kieckhefer said. “We’ve seen the need for some new blood.”

Marijuana

Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela is the only lawmaker so far to request legislation dealing with cannabis, which became legal for recreational use and consumption in Nevada last year.

Cancela said she was still working on the details, but requested the BDR as part of a broader effort to deal with non-state licensed marijuana sales.

Local Government

A variety of BDRs dealing with hyperlocal issues have already been filed, including:

A request by Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea for funds to construct a new courthouse in White Pine County

A request by Republican Sen. Joe Hardy to incorporate the city of Laughlin, which is currently governed by Clark County

A request by Spearman to designate the new I-11 highway as the “Purple Heart Highway”

Animals

Nevada’s four-legged residents were not forgotten in the BDR wish list. Assemblyman Ira Hansen filed two such bill draft requests — one making various changes relating to mountain lions and another that would revise provisions regarding equine dentistry. Hansen could not be reached for further detail about those requests.

Assemblyman Steve Yeager, meanwhile, submitted a BDR that would revise provisions regarding civil liability for causing the injury or death of certain pets.

Guns

At least seven bill draft requests related to firearms have been filed thus far, including one that would ban “bump stock” devices that allow semi automatic weapons to fire more rapidly and were used in the mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip last October.

But most of the proposals on firearm policy were requested by Republicans — one by Assemblywoman Robin Titus dealing with concealed carry of firearms, and three by Assemblyman Jim Marchant, who said his bills deal with a sales tax issue for the purchase of out-of-state firearms, allowing concealed weapon permit holders to pick up or drop off their children at a school as long as the firearm stays in their car, and a change to the state’s 2016 voter-approved “universal” background checks for firearms sales, which has gone unimplemented amid FBI refusal to conduct the background checks.

Democratic Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo has also submitted a BDR that would change laws governing the possession and storage of a firearm.

Recalls

Politically charged attempts to recall Democratic Sens. Nicole Cannizzaro and Joyce Woodhouse, which failed in District Court but are still pending appeal before the state’s Supreme Court, could result in a change in law.

Cannizzaro and Woodhouse jointly submitted a BDR to revise laws related to recall elections. Although no further details were provided, the two have hinted in the past that they would seek to change recall law by creating explicit reasons for an individual officeholder to be recalled, amid criticism that the 2017 recall efforts were motivated by political pressures and not any personal misdeeds.

A separate BDR dealing with recalls was also submitted by the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections.

Read By Grade 3

A bill draft request by Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson would make changes to Read By Grade 3, which is one of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s signature education reforms.

The law requires that students demonstrate proficient reading skills by the end of third grade or risk being retained a year. It’s an effort to position students for future success given research that shows children who haven’t mastered basic reading skills by that age struggle as they go further up the education ladder.

Thompson said his BDR likely would mirror Assembly Bill 409, which would have loosened the retainment provision, but the measure died last session. The state lawmaker said he wants to see something “more inclusive and holistic” that would involve parents, teachers and mentors in the decision-making process to determine whether a child should be held back a year if he or she hasn’t reached the desired reading proficiency scores on tests.

If a child is promoted to the next grade despite not reaching the proficiency level, there should be a comprehensive plan formed that guides how the student’s reading abilities will be improved, he said.

Third-graders in the 2019-2020 school year will be the first cohort subjected to the Read By Grade 3 measure.

Official state fruit

Alabama has the blackberry. Georgia has the peach. Idaho has the huckleberry. And if Assemblyman James Oscarson gets his wish, Nevada will have the pomegranate.

Oscarson has filed a BDR to make pomegranate — the antioxidant-packed fruit filled with juicy beads called arils — the official state fruit. But there’s a complication: Oscarson lost his primary race to brothel owner Dennis Hof, meaning the orphaned BDR likely won’t go anywhere unless another lawmaker scoops it up.

This article reprinted with permission from The Nevada Independent. Those interested can email contact@thenvindy.com