Nevada lawmakers wrapping up after Democrats flex power

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada lawmakers entered their final day of the legislative session on Monday, where Democrats enjoyed expanded political power and pushed through an array of liberal initiatives.

Before lawmakers adjourn by midnight, they must give final approval to a two-year $27.5 billion state budget. They’re also expected to consider sprawling changes to the state’s criminal justice laws and a revamp of the way the state allocates education funding.

The tasks cap a session in which Democrats, emboldened by an expanded majority and their first governor in two decades, expanded voting rights, toughened gun laws and allowed state workers to collectively bargain.

The Legislature, the first in the country with an overall female majority, also rewrote the state’s abortion rules.

The party was also rocked the resignation of two high-ranking Democrats amid scandals and the death of an assemblyman. Tyrone Thompson died May 4 at age 51 while receiving emergency treatment, but his cause of death has not been made public.

His death followed the resignations in March of former Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson and Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle.

Sprinkle quit amid “growing sexual harassment” claims, though further details about the allegations were never made public.

His resignation came a week after Atkinson tearfully resigned over misuse of campaign funds. He later pleaded guilty to wire fraud, admitting to having used at least $250,000 in campaign contributions to lease a luxury SUV, open a Las Vegas nightclub and pay for other expenses.

His replacement, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, introduced a campaign finance bill late in the session to clarify the rules about personal use of campaign funds, banning candidates from paying themselves a salary with contributions and requiring groups to report donations of more than $10,000 annually.

Cannizzaro, a prosecutor in her second legislative session, became the first woman in state history to serve as the senate’s leader. The nation’s first female-majority Legislature addressed issues like women’s health, sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

Legislators repealed some abortion rules, including requirements that a woman be asked about her marital status before an abortion and another that had required physicians tell a woman about the “emotional implications” of the procedure.

They also eliminated a 20-year statute of limitation in sex assault cases if DNA evidence identifies an assailant. Legislators were still considering a bill to allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense some forms of birth control.

One of the most contentious debates came over gun control in the wake of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. Survivors attended a marathon hearing over a bill to expand background checks on private gun sales and transfers. Republicans, who uniformly opposed the bill, argued it would infringe on Second Amendments rights and not prevent mass shootings.

Supporters acknowledged the bill would not have stopped the Las Vegas gunman from obtaining his weapons but said it was an important step to prevent gun violence. Gov. Steve Sisolak quickly signed it into law.

Lawmakers also approved another gun bill with a so-called “red flag” provision that allow guns to be removed from people seen as a threat to themselves or others. The measure also bans bump stock devices, which mimic the firing of a fully automatic weapon and were used by the Las Vegas gunman.

Other items on progressive wish-lists failed to advance. Two bills to ban the death penalty did not receive committee hearings, and a proposal that would have allowed terminal patients to kill themselves with medication prescribed by a doctor failed to clear a key deadline.

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