A total of 176 new laws approved by the 2005 Legislature will take effect Saturday. They range from creating new criminal penalties to changes in election laws and include attempts to solve a variety of problems raised by citizen groups and lawmakers themselves.
Several new laws deal with traffic safety and, particularly, teen drivers.
AB52 puts more restrictions on what newly licensed teen drivers are allowed to do. It expands the ban on 16- and 17-year-old drivers having passengers who are also under age 18 from a minimum 30 days to three months after getting a license.
It also provides that student drivers under 16 must have their permit for six months before getting a license and requires they wait six months after an accident if they were at fault.
But the law prohibits law enforcement from stopping a teen solely to determine if they are unlawfully transporting passengers. That citation can be issued only if the officer discovers the violation after stopping the vehicle for another offense.
Despite the added restrictions, sponsor Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, charged it doesn't go far enough and that teens should face many more driving
AB348 prohibits the use of devices that change a traffic light. Many signals are now equipped with a strobe sensor that can change a signal from red to green. They are designed for use by police, fire and other emergency vehicles. But individuals have been caught using them to turn the traffic lights green as they drive through traffic. The new law makes that illegal.
AB49 is important to the residents of Carson City and Virginia City. It allows the state to issue up to $25 million in either general obligation or revenue bonds to repair, reconstruct and modernize the Marlette Lake water system.
That historic system provides water to Carson City and Storey County through pipes which, in many places, are more than 100 years old. Engineers have complained for years that the majority of the water is lost through leaks before it ever reaches the capital's water system or Virginia City.
AB170 gives Nevada's smaller counties the ability to raise sales taxes by a quarter cent to help fund and operate libraries, parks, recreational programs and services for seniors. The option must be approved by voters in that county.
SB456 strengthens laws which prohibit holding another person in any form of involuntary servitude. It expands the definition of the crime to include not only threatening or causing physical harm and physically restraining the victim but concealing, destroying or confiscating passports and other governmental ID or documents, extortion, threatening financial harm and other forms of coercion.
Violators would face a minimum seven years in prison if any physical harm is proven, five years if no physical harm is found - and up to $50,000 in fines. The issue was raised because of reports of immigrants being forced to work for people in slave-like conditions.
AB169 is designed to give law enforcement more power to make owners of abandoned vehicles remove them from public land. Existing law requires they pay removal costs. The new law gives owners of abandoned vehicles 30 days to remove the vehicle and. If they don't, it requires the Department of Motor Vehicles suspend the registrations of all that person's vehicles until they do.
Owners can escape the penalty only by proving they sold the vehicle or reported it stolen before it was discovered abandoned.
Finally, AB118 tightens anti-smoking rules for child-care facilities by barring operators from designating a smoking area in their facilities. It also prohibits smoking in video arcades with 10 or more machines accessible to those under 18.
Public Bodies, Candidates and Elections
A number of changes involve public bodies, candidates and elections.
SB83 requires public bodies meeting in closed session to consider misconduct or competence of an employee to allow that person to attend the meeting and have an attorney present.
The law was written in response to actions by the Board of Regents last year when they met behind closed doors to hear allegations involving Community College of Southern Nevada President Ron Remington and his lobbyist John Cummings. The two were fired from their positions as a result of the meetings which they were not allowed to attend, to see the charges against them beforehand or to respond to those allegations.
Similar requirements are imposed in SB267, which requires the person being discussed be allowed to attend along with his or her attorney or another representative. That person must also be allowed to present evidence and witnesses in his or her defense.
SB267 also requires that reviews of the character, misconduct or competence of city and county managers, university presidents and other chief administrative officers be held in open meetings. Those officials until now received their reviews behind closed doors like rank and file workers.
SB224 is designed to cure problems which plagued the Secretary of State's Office and petition organizers during the 2004 election cycle. It requires public buildings other than schools designate an area where groups can collect signatures. Any group denied access to a public building can get their deadline for collecting signatures extended by the same number of days they were blocked from using a building.
It limits a petition to one subject rather than multiple issues. It requires organizers to write a description of the effect of an initiative but allows that description to be challenged by anyone who believes it incorrect or misleading within seven days of when the measure was filed. And it requires the secretary of state's office to get a fiscal note on the financial impact of any initiative from the Legislative Counsel Bureau so that voters know what it would cost.
The legislation requires groups collecting signatures to file contribution and expense reports with the secretary of state.
AB462 not only increases the salaries of Nevada's constitutional officers but, for the first time, gives them future raises tied to the percentage state worker salaries are increased. Beginning in 2011, the salary of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and controller will all go up every four years by the same total classified workers have received in raises over the previous four years.
n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.