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Legislature set to dive into education, other issues

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Updated: 2/23/2013 12:35 pm
By SANDRA CHEREB
The Associated Press
CARSON CITY, Nev. -- Education policy and school funding will dominate the debate in Carson City as the fourth week of the 2013 Nevada Legislature begins Monday. Also on the agenda for the upcoming week are more budget reviews, animal cruelty, mopeds, sex trafficking, concealed weapons and holding the Legislature to the state's Open Meeting Law.

But education will be front and center as lawmakers are scheduled to discuss everything from class sizes and full-day kindergarten to social promotion of grade school students and the mother of all state budgets, the Distributive School Account.

Here are five highlights of the legislative agenda for the upcoming week:

K-12 EDUCATION

Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed increasing state support for K-12 education by $135 million for the upcoming two-year budget cycle. His plan would raise the basic, per-pupil support to $5,567, an increase of 3.5 percent, in the first year and to $5,697 in 2015, a 2.3 percent increase. His proposal includes $20 million to expand full-day kindergarten to more at-risk schools and $14 million to help students who don't speak English as their native language.

But Democrats argue the governor's proposals don't go far enough. They want to expand full-day kindergarten to all schools in the state, an ambitious goal that could cost $60 million by some estimates.

On Monday, the Senate and Assembly education committees hold a joint hearing on SB182, a measure to require full-day kindergarten. The bill would also lower to 5 from 7 the age at which a child must attend school. The committees will also take up AB163, which would extend state funding for pre-kindergarten programs in districts with one or more at-risk elementary schools.

The education committees in another joint session Wednesday will consider AB161, a bill targeting social promotion of grade-schoolers, and AB162 targeting class size reduction.

The practice of social promotion moves a child from one grade to the next, whether the student has passed the necessary classwork or not, which proponents say helps children's self-esteem. Critics say the practice sets children up for ongoing academic failure.

On Friday, Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance spend the morning combing through Department of Education budgets, including the Distributive School Account, the bulk of K-12 funding.

ANIMALS

Pit bulls may get a bum rap in the court of public perception, but a bill to be heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee would take a bite out of stereotypes. AB110 sponsored by Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, would stipulate in law that dog cannot be deemed dangerous or vicious based solely on breed.

Another bill, AB115, would require police officers to inform victims of domestic violence of steps that can be taken to protect their pets, or their children's pets, when advising them about court protection orders.

Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, wants to fix the unintended consequence of a bill passed by the 2011 Legislature with SB73, which is up for a hearing Thursday before the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

"Cooney's Law" enacted two years was supposed to encourage people to speak up about animal cruelty by allowing them to report it anonymously. Instead, it made all information about animal cruelty cases confidential, prohibiting law enforcement or prosecutors from even releasing information. Manendo's bill clarifies the language.

CONCEALED WEAPONS

Concealed weapon permit requirements would be eased under a bill sponsored by Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden. Under existing law, a person needs only one permit to carry a revolver or semi-automatic firearm, but the permit must list each category of weapon the person is competent to handle.

SB76 would still require a gun owner to demonstrate competence before obtaining a concealed weapon permit, but the permit would be valid for all handguns the person owns or later acquires.

MOPEDS

Scooting around town on a moped would get a little more expensive under a bill to be heard by the Assembly Transportation Committee on Tuesday. AB101 would require the two-wheeled machines to be registered, with a proposed annual license plate fee of $33. Passage of the bill would require a two-thirds majority in the Assembly and Senate since it involves imposes a new fee.

OPEN MEETING LAW

Nevada lawmakers would be bound to similar rules as local government bodies under AB118, dubbed the Legislative Open Meeting Law. While existing state law sets up rules for local governments, it also contains an exemption for the state Legislature. The Assembly Legislative Operations and Election Committee hears the proposal Thursday.

AP-WF-02-23-13 1705GMT

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