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The Latest: Lawmakers pass school funding formula overhaul

June 4, 2019

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The Latest on the final day of the 2019 Nevada legislative session (all times local):

12:20 a.m.

A bill that aims to overhaul how Nevada allocates its education funds has passed the Legislature and is headed to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s desk.

Lawmakers in the state Assembly passed the measure in a 34-7 vote near the end of the legislative session and the Senate quickly gave a final approval with a voice vote. All Assembly Democrats voted in support of the measure, along with some Republicans.

The bill aims to provide extra funds for students who need more education support, including pupils who receive free or reduced meals or are learning English.

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12:10 a.m.

Nevada lawmakers approved a campaign finance measure after an amendment stripped a major provision that created a new reporting requirement.

An amendment to the bill brought by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro cuts a major provision that would have required organizations that donate more than $10,000 annually to report the contributions.

The repealed provision would have applied to corporations, partnerships and labor unions. It was unclear Monday why lawmakers included the last-minute change.

The bill still clarifies the rules about personal use of campaign funds and bans candidates from paying themselves a salary with contributions.

The state Senate gave final approval in a voice vote minutes before they ended the legislative session. The approval came quickly after the Assembly approved the measure.

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9:55 p.m.

The Clark County Schools District says it will be able to provide pay raises for teachers after legislation from state lawmakers.

A statement from the district, one of the largest in the nation, says they will be able to provide a 3% cost of living pay raise and an average 2% “seniority increase” to employees.

The pay raises were outlined in a proposed budget from Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak.

Attention to education funding this session has at times centered on whether the Legislature can find enough money to fund the raises. Senate Democrats say a bill approved Monday will provide $53 million to teacher pay raises in Clark County over the biennium.

District Superintendent Jesu Jara issued a statement saying “we stand with Governor Sisolak and the Legislature in support of our educators.”

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9:20 p.m.

Nevada lawmakers approved a proposal to amend the state Constitution to bar discrimination based on sex, race, sexual orientation, gender identity and other traits.

The measure must still be approved by the Legislature again in their next session in 2021 and then approved by Nevada voters on the ballot before the constitution is amended.

The bill was introduced on Thursday and several lawmakers acknowledged they had some concerns the measure wasn’t receiving a full debate with so few days to be heard. But they voted to advance the bill regardless, noting that they have more than two years to vet the idea.

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9:10 p.m.

Nevada lawmakers passed a bill extending a payroll tax set to expire this summer in order to pay for some school safety initiatives and teacher pay raises.

The legislation, which became a source of contention between Democrats and Republicans in the final days of the session, now heads to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s desk.

Democrats say extending the tax will put $72 million to teacher pay raises, a priority of Sisolak’s, and add nearly $17 million to school safety funding.

Republicans opposed extending the tax, arguing that the state had other money to put toward the efforts.

GOP lawmakers also argued that that Democrats needed two-thirds of lawmakers to vote in favor to extend the tax because state law requires a two-thirds vote to impose a tax.

Legislative lawyers disagreed and Democrats passed the bill on a majority vote.

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8:50 p.m.

Legislators have approved a bill allowing counties to impose a .25% sales tax to pay for education, homeless and affordable housing.

The bill sponsored by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson received final approval Monday night.

It now heads to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s desk.

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8:40 p.m.

A sprawling criminal justice bill that reduces certain jail penalties passed the state Senate in the session’s final hours.

The legislation aims to curb the state’s expanding inmate population by changing criminal penalties, such as raising the monetary threshold for filing a felony theft charge to $1,200.

Lawmakers approved the bill in a 19-2 vote on Monday.

The measure now must clear a voice vote in the Assembly to advance in the legislative process.

Democratic Sen. James Ohrenschall says the bill is based on data and years of research on what works to curb recidivism.

He says “we need to shift resources from incarceration to policies and practices which make our communities safer.”

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6:35 p.m.

A late-introduced campaign finance measure has cleared the state Senate.

The bill from Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro creates a new reporting requirement and aims to clarify the rules about personal use of campaign funds.

It requires groups to report donations of more than $10,000 annually. The measure now must pass the Assembly in the session’s final hours to advance.

Senators passed the legislation unanimously on Monday. It comes months after Cannizzaro’s predecessor, former Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, resigned in scandal and announced he had misused campaign funds.

He later plead guilty in federal court.

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5:25 p.m.

Nevada lawmakers have passed five key budget bills they needed to approve before adjourning Monday night.

Lawmakers approved the five core spending bills Monday afternoon, clearing their constitutional requirements to fund the government. The bills now go to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s desk.

The spending bills include more $327 million to reduce K-12 class sizes, $63 million for a school reading program, and $45 million for school safety.

There’s also $76 million to give state workers at 3% pay raise, $8 million to renovate the Grant Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas, $56 million for a new academic building at Nevada State College and $71 million for a health and sciences building at the College of Southern Nevada.

A sixth spending bill to set aside $17 million more for school safety and $72 million for teacher pay raises promised by Sisolak was awaiting final approval Monday evening in the Assembly.

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3:50 p.m.

Senate Republicans are blasting a move from Democrats to try and cut a school choice program from state law.

An amendment tied to a Democrat-backed bill extending a payroll tax removes the Education Savings Account, the state’s school voucher program, from statute.

Republican Sen. Scott Hammond says the amendment came after Republicans did not support the bill extending the payroll tax.

He says he “can’t think of a more petty thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro told reporters Monday the program is not funded and “we feel that it’s important to ensure that public money is going to public schools.”

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2:15 p.m.

Senate Democrats have passed a bill extending a payroll tax by removing a requirement that mandates a two-thirds vote to pass.

The measure has shaped up to be one of the largest political fights in the last day of the 2019 legislative session. Republicans issued strong objections to extending the payroll tax, which Democrats say will put $72 million toward teacher pay raises and an extra $16.7 million to school safety efforts.

Republicans say they agree with supporting education, but argued the state has a surplus of money to fund the efforts.

The Senate Democrats passed the measure with a simple majority vote and did not sway any Republicans.

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12:30 p.m.

A measure that would have extended a payroll tax has failed to clear the state Senate after not receiving a two-thirds majority.

The Senate Democratic caucus argues the funds from the bill would go toward teacher pay raises and funds for school safety efforts. Democrats threw their support around the measure, but the legislation failed to pass with a two-thirds majority due to Republican opposition.

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro argued lawmakers can choose between corporate tax breaks or funding education.

Republicans argue there is a surplus in the state budget to fund the efforts — an idea Cannizzaro pushed back on.

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9:55 a.m.

Nevada lawmakers entered their final day Monday of a legislative session in which Democrats enjoying expanded political power pushed through an array of liberal initiatives.

Before lawmakers adjourn at or before midnight, they must give final approval to a two-year state budget expected to total about $25.7 billion. They’re also expected to consider sprawling changes to the state’s criminal justice laws and a revamp of the way Nevada allocates education funding.

The tasks cap a session in which the Democrat-controlled Legislature, emboldened by an expanded majority and the state’s first Democratic governor in two decades, expanded voting rights, toughened gun laws and allowed state workers to collectively bargain.

The 2019 Legislature was also the nation’s first with an overall female majority who ushered in a bill to rewrite abortion rules.

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