Legislating is a complex and time-consuming endeavor, but at the end of the day it is still ruled by human tendencies, and perhaps chief among those tendencies is the impulse to wait until the last minute.
This legislative session, the senate and assembly endured an avalanche of end-of-session legislation — some of it of the utmost importance to Nevada residents. Education funding and other critical legislation was dropped in the laps of legislators at the last moment by the Democrats controlling both houses, making it incredibly hard to fully vet the new funding measures.
Despite those challenges — and many others, including the unexpected loss of a beloved assemblyman and the resignation of two Democrats for allegations of campaign finance issues and sexual harassment complains — the session was filled with a lot of hard work and some landmark accomplishments.
I was honored to pass eight separate bills during the session on a wide variety of topics. Combined, these bills on blockchain technology, economic development to student scholarships and organ donation, represent a significant step forward for our economy, critical support for our students and needed oversight for local government.
Here is a quick look at several of the bills I authored or sponsored, and how they will affect Nevada residents.
Governor Guinn Memorial Scholarships
There are few times in the life of a politician when you can take an action that is not controversial and results in such a clear and direct impact on the lives of individuals. This is one of those times. By doubling the number of Memorial Millennium scholarship from two to four, this legislation will change the lives of the students who receive them and help support future teachers.
Blockchain has been one of my big focuses this session, and while the topic can be confusing for some, it is shaping up to be a powerful force in our economy now and into the future. Nevada has the chance to lead in this promising area, and several of my bills set Nevada up to embrace and foster innovation in this important area. Here’s a quick look at the four bills.
- SB161: Sets up a program to give innovative new companies the freedom to experiment with new products, including blockchain, without certain regulatory or statutory red tape.
- SB162: Assures that consumers retain ownership over information secured in a public blockchain, while also encouraging government to consider blockchain and other electronic record adoption.
- SB 163: Provides legal clarity that businesses can store corporate records on a blockchain, while also creating a definition of “public blockchain” within our electronic transactions statutes.
- SB 164: Confirms that virtual currencies, including cryptocurrencies, are to be considered intangible personal property and are therefore exempt from taxation in Nevada.
Organ Donation Oversight
This bill simply sets up certification and mandated standards for organizations that receive organ donations that are not used for transplants. This will add necessary oversight without impacting important and life-saving transplant procedures.
General Improvement District Property Sales
This legislation sets up procedures for general improvement district that sell property they own, ensuring that a proper appraisal and pricing process is followed.
Economic Development Tax Credits
This bill adds one more layer of review to tax credits that are offered to businesses for economic development purposes, allowing the Interim Finance Committee to approve the tax credits before they are issued.
The legislative session, even under the best of circumstances, is a jam-packed, and often hectic, flurry of activity. With these challenges, lawmakers had to remain even more focused on the legislative tasks at hand.
While the legislative session is over, some big issues still loom. Redistricting will be decided in 2021, and this will have long-term impacts on the political future of the state and how the residents of Nevada are represented. This makes the question of who controls the state senate and assembly in 2020-21 even more important than ever.
Ben Kieckhefer is the Nevada State Senator for District 16, which includes Carson City, parts of Washoe County and Incline Village. He was first elected in 2010.