The 76th Nevada legislative session has now ended. We were able to conclude our business on time, with a balanced budget that prevented the very worst proposed cuts to education and essential state services. We enacted policies to spur job growth and help small businesses, reforms to education, and more transparency and accountability for state government.
Faced with the worst budget deficit in the nation with a 54% shortfall, we had no choice to make painful cuts. We were able, however, to come together—Democrats and Republicans from throughout the state—to forge a compromise budget that sustains K-12, higher education, services for our elderly and children, and other essential services.
Education ---K12 and higher education
While cuts were made, we were able to fund education—our public schools, colleges and universities-- at a substantially higher level than that originally proposed by the governor. (Can add some specifics here)
(To be customized based on which bills individual caucus members supported) We passed a package of significant reforms to improve the quality of education in our state. These reforms were developed after months of discussions with business leaders, education experts, school officials, teachers, parents and other elected officials. Our reforms--
• Establish a new Teachers and Leaders Council to improve our current educator evaluation system, using a four-tier process rather than a simple satisfactory/unsatisfactory standard.
• For the first time, include school principals and other school administrators in the evaluation process and probationary status to hold them accountable for their role in improving student achievement.
• Increase the probationary status of teachers from one to three years and require post-probationary educators to go back on probationary status if they receive two consecutive years of unsatisfactory evaluations.
• Expedite the process for dismissing educators for egregious misconduct
• Require the criteria for teacher lay-offs to include more than seniority
• Establish a pay-for-performance system to reward teachers and principals who improve student achievement.
• Require the reporting of the number of teachers, administrators and support staff in each school and district to better help us determine if there is too much bureaucracy in our education system.
• Encourage the Nevada System of Higher Education to examine and revise programs and services on each campus to maximize cost savings and efficiencies
With our continuing record unemployment, nothing is more important that getting Nevadans back to work. While there have been indications of economic growth in the past few months, we took steps to immediately create jobs for Nevada workers, to help small businesses recover and to plan for a long-term restructuring of our economy so we never find ourselves in such a dire economic situation again.
• To help get Nevadans get back to work, we established a bidder’s preference for companies that hire Nevada workers and purchase materials locally. AB 144 will help keep taxpayer dollars in Nevada.
• AB 449 looks to our future economic growth by completely reorganizing Nevada’s economic development efforts to bring together existing businesses, state and local government, and higher education to attract new high-tech industries to our state.
• We allowed school districts to reduce the amount required in their bond reserve accounts so monies can be used right away for school rehab, creating construction jobs as old schools are repaired and refurbished.
• We eliminated the modified business tax on payroll for about 70% of Nevada’s small businesses.
Government Efficiency, Transparency and Accountability
We took steps to make our state government more efficient, transparent and accountable to taxpayers.
• AB 248 requires long-term planning by state agencies and implements performance based budgeting.
• SB 251 requires the review of state boards and commissions so we can consolidate for efficiency and get rid of any that are not producing results.
• AB 240 further limits the use of outside consultants and requires more accountability for all state contracts.
We passed measures to help Nevadans make wise health care decisions to reduce the cost of medical care and ensure greater patient safety.
• AB 148 strengthens the Nevada Health Assistance Office, helping them to better arbitrate disputes between patients and health care providers.
• AB 280 requires medical facilities to establish “safety checklists” that health care providers must follow. These checklists have dramatically reduced the level of infections and other problems in hospitals in other states.
While we took steps last session to reduce the number of foreclosures in our state, too many Nevadans are still losing their homes or are in jeopardy of foreclosures, We passed legislation to further crack down on mortgage fraud and to help protect Nevadans in jeopardy of losing their home. We are disappointed that the governor vetoed a measure to help us improve our foreclosure modification program to help reduce the number of foreclosures. We will carefully monitor the progress of this critical program and will offer reforms next session.