AP NEWS

Democrat says changes could lower savings from reform bill

May 9, 2019
FILE - In this Friday, March 24, 2017 file photo, Nevada state Sen. Tick Segerblom, right, D-Las Vegas, talks to reporters as he holds up a pair of pre-packaged, 1-ounce bags of marijuana during a news conference with state Assemblyman Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, at a medical marijuana dispensary in Reno, Nev. A leading Nevada Democrat said amendments to a sweeping criminal justice reform bill will lower the projected cost savings for the state. Assemblyman Steve Yeager revealed dozens of proposed changes to the omnibus reform bill on Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner, File)

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada Democrat said amendments to a sweeping criminal justice reform bill will lower projected cost savings for the state.

Assemblyman Steve Yeager revealed dozens of proposed changes to the bill and said Tuesday he expects it to face its first legislative hurdle on Thursday when it comes up for a vote in his committee.

A January legislative report said the original bill would cut 89% of the projected expansion of the state’s prison population and save Nevada $640 million over the next decade.

Yeager said those savings would be reduced because some of the recent changes to the bill directly affect the prison population.

“In my mind, it’s not going to be reduced substantially enough to make this not worthwhile,” he said.

Some of the proposed amendments roll back a push in the original bill to lessen jail time for crimes such as theft and ex-felons in possession of a weapon.

For example, under the amended bill, the monetary threshold for filing a felony theft charge would be lowered from $2,000 to $1,200.

The changes come about two months after lawmakers on an Assembly committee heard a wide-ranging debate on the original legislation, which pitted prosecutors against public defenders.

Prosecutors and law enforcement acknowledged the need for some reforms but raised concerns it would hurt public safety.

Supporters of the original measure argued it would curb the state’s expanding prison population.

That growth is expected to cost the state an extra $770 million over the next decade, according to the January legislative report. It also said the state’s imprisonment rate is 15% higher than the national average.

The amended bill comes after lawmakers met with law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, public defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union and representative from the state’s attorney general office, Yeager said.

“We sort of invited everyone and their brother who had concerns about any of this, to kind of come in and tell us what those concerns were,” he said.

State Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro did not participate in the process, he said.

Yeager said he wanted to do much of the “heavy lifting” on the bill before handing it off to the state Senate.