By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: If a list of bills requested for drafting for the 2011 legislative session released today is any indication, a lot of lawmakers are concerned about people who use cell phones while driving.
Of the 152 bill draft requests submitted so far, mostly by lawmakers, three deal with cell phone use in vehicles: two to prohibit texting and a third to “restrict cell phone use” while driving.
The one-line descriptions of the bills being sought by lawmakers, interim legislative committees, state constitutional officers and others are made public on July 1 before each legislative session. The list will now be updated weekly through the session that begins in February.
The proposed bills to ban texting while driving were requested by Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, with three co-sponsors, and Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson. The bill to restrict cell phone use was requested by Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas.
A bill to ban texting while driving was introduced in the 2009 session by Breeden. It passed the Senate but did not get a vote in the Assembly.
Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, has requested a measure to amend the state constitution to create a uniform and fair method of assessing property taxes. Gustavson, who is running for a seat in the state Senate, said the proposal is similar to previous measures he has supported to cap property tax increases at 2 percent per year or the consumer price index, whichever is lower.
Gustavson and Sharron Angle, a former state lawmaker now running for the U.S. Senate, have sought such a change for years, usually trying to get the proposal on the ballot through the initiative petition process rather than the Legislature. It is modeled on the Proposition 13 tax cap approved in California. Gustavson said his proposal may get more attention in the Legislature if Republicans pick up some seats in the November election.
Right now people can’t budget for their property taxes because they don’t know what the valuation will be from year to year, he said.
The measure would help property owners in the Incline Village area of Washoe County who have seen their properties valued improperly, Gustavson said. Despite winning court cases to get refunds of excess property taxes, Washoe County has so far failed to return the money, he said.
The current property tax cap approved by the Legislature in 2005 is not constitutional because it treats residential property differently than commercial property, Gustavson said.
Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, is seeking a bill to adopt the “Castle Doctrine” in Nevada to provide legal protections for homeowners who defend themselves against criminals.
A similar measure was introduced in 2009 by Assembly Democrat Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas, but did not even get a hearing in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, Hambrick said.
“It had bipartisan support; many people were in favor of it, but for whatever reason it never saw the light of day,” he said.
Hambrick said the principle is “your home is your castle” and you have the right in common law to protect your property. This would put the concept in state law as many other states have done to provide legal protections from either civil or criminal liability, he said.
Hambrick said he would like to see the measure get a hearing in the 2011 session.
Some bill draft requests are unlikely to see any consideration in the upcoming session because they have been requested by lawmakers who will not return in 2011. One example is a proposal by Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, to make the failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offense. Right now drivers cannot be pulled over in Nevada for failing to wear a seat belt.
Unless another lawmaker picks up the proposal and submits a bill in the session, the issue may not see any action next year. Nolan lost re-election in the June GOP primary.