By SANDRA CHEREB
The Associated Press
CARSON CITY -- Taxes, budgets and bears ... oh, my!
That and a whole lot more -- like higher education, mining and firearms -- are on tap as the second week of the Nevada Legislature begins Monday.
Here's are five highlights of the legislative agenda for the upcoming week:
Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, wasn't fooling when she said the discussion about Nevada's tax structure would begin on Day 2 of this year's session. It did. And the tax talk continues this week, when the Assembly Taxation and Senate Revenue and Economic Development committees hold a joint hearing Tuesday on so-called sunset taxes that will expire June 30 unless lawmakers agree to extend them -- again.
The taxes, about $620 million worth, were supposed to expire in 2011, but were continued for another two years after a Nevada Supreme Court ruling raised serious legal consequences of funding sources used by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to balance the budget. Sandoval has said he'll again extend those taxes to avoid more deep cuts to education.
Assembly Taxation on Thursday will take up AB68, a bill that revamps how some taxes are distributed to local governments, and then both the Assembly and Senate tax panels will be briefed on Nevada's live entertainment tax. On Friday, Senate Legislative Operations and Elections will consider SCRI, a measure authorizing an interim study on taxing services in Nevada.
Legislative money committees were briefed on the governor's budget even before the session began. Now they are delving into details, with daily hearings scheduled by the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees.
Up this week are budgets for elected officials, the Governor's Office of Economic Development, the Public Employees Retirement System; Conservation and Natural Resources; Department of Agriculture; as well mental health, energy, public utilities, public safety and the Nevada System of Higher Education.
Nevada is the largest gold producer in the U.S., and with the prices for the precious metal around $1,600 per ounce, the industry is a frequent target when the state is looking for revenue.
On Tuesday, natural resources committees of the Assembly and Senate will hold a joint hearing to get an overview of all things mining -- from the Nevada Mining Association and state Division of Minerals to mining exploration and regulation oversight.
The link between firearms and public health is an issue coming to the forefront in the national debate over gun control following December's Newton, Conn., school massacre and President Obama's call for universal background checks, prohibitions against gun trafficking and a ban on assault weapons.
Those same debates are expected in the coming weeks in the Nevada Legislature. On Thursday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee will hear from the mental health and medical experts, as well as mental health advocates and representatives of law enforcement and the judiciary on mental health and firearms public health research.
Monday is Tribal Day at the Nevada Legislature, and part of the day's observance will include a protest by Native Americans of Nevada's black bear hunt.
Tribal members will perform a Round Dance in front of the legislative building beginning at 10 a.m. to show support for SB82. The bill would prohibit bear hunting in Nevada.
The state created its first black bear hunt in 2011, and critics have been trying to abolish it ever since. Various tribal groups say the bear is sacred to American Indians. They also argue a large part of Nevada's hunt takes place during the fall in the Pine Nut and Sweetwater mountains, where many conduct their annual pine nut harvest.