81st Session Wrap Up

Dear Constituents, Supporters and Friends,

May 31st marked the end of the 81st Legislative Session with a total of 1035 bills and resolutions introduced, 4 vetoed and 601 signed into law.

Over the past few sessions, I have tracked the percentage of votes that passed unanimously or with bipartisan support to see if headlines about the most divided country in recent history hold true for the work the 63 of us do in the legislature. On average 55-60% of bills pass unanimously and 90-95% pass with some measure of bipartisan support. 

According to a recent analysis by the Nevada Independent, this session appears to be no different with 53% of bills passed unanimously and 92% garnering bipartisan support. However, it is important to note that legislators in the majority party had 63 percent of their bills and resolutions pass out of the Legislature, compared to just 18 percent for Republicans. There has also been an increasing trend of national agendas and policies making their way into our battle born state. I was proud to serve with our Assembly Caucus Leadership Team alongside Dr. Robin Titus and Tom Roberts and many of my thoughtful colleagues to navigate this session’s dynamics successfully through a diversity of viewpoints and strategic responses to the challenges we faced. 

Like every session, there were some good and some bad bills, some compromises and some partisan digging in, particularly on legislation that impacts businesseshealthcare and elections. As with any issue these days there is ample information, misinformation and sometimes disinformation so, if you have any questions about a particular bill or vote, I will provide you the most accurate information I have available and direct you to primary sources so you can evaluate the legislation for yourself. To review all billsreportsbudgets, votes, or to watch committee meetings and floor sessions, go to: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021

Jill’s Bills
Of the 6 bills I introduced, 4 passed through both houses with broad bipartisan support and were signed into law.

Public Safety: Cracking Down on Sex Traffickers

AB182 – Over the past three sessions, I have been so grateful to pass legislation that helps victims, reduces demand and penalizes traffickers. This bill strengthens AB166 from last session to help police protect victims and crack down on individuals using their businesses as a front for sex trafficking. Many thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Washoe County Sex Trafficking HEAT team, Las Vegas Metro Police, Washoe and Clark County District Attorney’s, Awaken, the Attorney General’s office, NV Truckers Association, Cosmetology and Massage Boards, the Retail Association and the Nevada Resorts Association.

Education: Expanding our Teaching Workforce 

AB225 – About 2 years ago, I ran into an old acquaintance who had been successfully substitute teaching for 2 years. He was an honors student in a masters degree program but, due to a slight learning disability which had no bearing on his teaching abilities, he could not receive his license. After I reached out to the Department of Education, they worked with him on an appropriate accommodation and now he is not only helping meet our teacher shortage demands, he has become an inspiration to his students as well. 

Although 28% of Nevadans have a disability of some sort and there is ample research about the effectiveness of teachers with disabilities, only 1% of the teaching profession is representative of this population, leaving many of our students without these inspirational role models who demonstrate obstacles can be overcome with the right attitude, effort and accommodations. This bill establishes a process for the Department of Education to find accommodations where appropriate and deemed necessary to reduce barriers for able and willing future educators.  

Mental Health: Protecting Patient Privacy 

AB366 – This bill was brought to me by the Psychology Board as a necessary fix due to recent regulation changes. AB366 protects patient privacy in certain mental healthcare circumstances by excluding video recordings used for supervisory purposes from permanent medical record keeping requirements. 

Mental Health: Addiction and Substance Use Prevention and Treatment

AB374 – According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Nevada has seen a 50% increase in opioid and fentanyl-involved drug overdose deaths since the onset of the pandemic.  Like many families across Nevada, we have experienced the loss of a loved one to a drug overdose. No family should have to face this preventable and treatable situation and a better coordinated effort is much needed since Governor Sandoval’s Opioid Task Force ended. AB374 establishes the Statewide Substance Use Response Working Group to increase collaboration between state and local agencies to implement evidence based strategies for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery

In Other News… K-12 Education Funding!

In addition to my job as a lawmaker, I am also tasked with being a decisionmaker. One of the biggest decisions we were faced with this session brought me back to the whole reason I got involved with the legislature in the first place: Education.

Ten years ago, I entered the Legislature as a citizen advocate for education funding and reforms. We were at or near the bottom in the nation in every category from math and reading scores to graduation rates and chance for success in life.

Although significant investments in programs like Read by Three, Zoom and Victory Schools over the years has yielded demonstrative results, our state is still 27% below the national per pupil funding average and, after a year of unprecedented challenges for our teachers and students, we have a long way to go if we want to see a future Nevada that is economically diverse, stable, and prosperous. 

This session we took several historic steps toward supporting every student in every school across our state. 

  • SB458 modernized our funding formula for the first time in 50 years to ensure the dollar follows the student according to their unique need regardless of their zip code. 
  • SB439 invested $500 million in federal and state general funds to restore the drastic cuts to education that took place over the 31st Special Session this summer and added to the base per pupil funding to ensure schools were held harmless in the transition to the new formula.
  • AB495 increased revenues by redirecting existing Mining excise taxes from the general fund to the state education fund. It also provides a new sustainable and dedicated source of revenue from our state’s largest gold and silver mines. Combined, this will produce $300 million in contributions to increase base per pupil funding statewide for both traditional and charter schools and opportunity scholarships for low-income students to have school choice options. Additionally, $200 million in federal relief funds for traditional public schools, along with $15 million in earmarked federal dollars for public charter schools, were dedicated to critical literacy and learning loss programs to get our K-12 students back on the track of the progress we saw before the pandemic. 

The Nevada Mining Association wanted our support for the new revenue stream, in part because ballot questions from the 31st Special Session (which have been polling at 85% in favor) were going to move forward in 2022 unless a compromise was met. The ballot measures would have devastated several rural communities and caused some mining operations to shut down causing massive job lay-offs.  

In SUPPORT of the Mining Tax, the President of the Mining Association made the following statement about AB495: 

  • “Today the Nevada State Legislature introduced a compromise mining tax bill, intended to replace the three joint resolutions passed during last summer’s Special Sessions. The bill seeks to increase mining’s contributions to the state by over 100%. Unlike other recent revenue sources, these dollars will go entirely to education, while also ensuring that Nevadans remain employed, rural counties remain funded, and mining operations remain viable.” – Tyre Gray, President Nevada Mining Association
  • “Thank you, Jill Tolles and Tom Roberts, for your support of AB495. By working together as Nevadans, we can give students the education they deserve without sacrificing good paying careers. AB495 is proof.” – Nevada Mining Association

 The new dedicated education revenue and some additional parts of the deal included increased funding for: 

Opportunity Scholarships for School Choice Programs for Low Income Kids

  • Increased the tax deductions for Opportunity Scholarships by $4,745,000 to get to the original $11.4 million per biennium we approved last session
  • Eliminated restrictions on the program regarding enrolling new students by deleting NRS 388D.270
  • Restored funding of $1.2 million to Silver State Opportunity Grant

Charter School Funding

  • Added $15 million for charters to address literacy and learning loss programs
  • Added $3.8 million to hold charters harmless in the new formula
  • Included $500k restoration to the charter capital loan fund

Other Funding

  • Added $4 million for 6-12 grade mentorship program for low income, first generation kids to get them set up for success at the university level.
  • Added $6 million for an autism treatment center in Las Vegas
  • Added $5 million deposited into the ABLE program to provide individual support for disabled students

Additional Legislative Wins:

  • Blocked a bill sweeping the ending fund balance that resulted in the deposit 95 million into the rainy day account.
  • Eliminated Bad Mining Tax Resolutions: SJR1AJR1AJR2
  • Removed Straight Ticket Voting from SB292

For the school choice community and advocates, these efforts were enthusiastically supported.

  • “Now, more than ever, families across the nation are demanding more education options from their state leaders. We applaud Nevada for heading the call.” – ExcellinAction
  • “Opportunity Scholarships will be open to accept students and receive additional funding! Thank you to the legislators that fought tirelessly to make this happen: Jill Tolles, Tom Roberts, Heidi Gansert, Ben Kieckhefer, Keith Pickard, and Scott Hammond.” – Nevada School Choice, Valeria Gurr
  • “Hold harmless and $15 million in additional funding for our Title 1 schools. Thank you to all who recognized the value of public charter schools. Tens of thousands of Nevada families thank you. Special thanks to Jill Tolles, Ben Kieckhefer, Heidi Gansert and Tom Roberts for fighting for us.” – Charters School Association of Nevada
  • “Thanks & congratulations to all who worked tirelessly to support extending crucial lifelines to the Opportunity Scholarship program & Title 1 Charter schools – on their learners’ shoulders Nevada’s future will be carried – Jill Tolles, Tom Roberts, Scott Hammond, Keith Pickard, Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Seevers Gansert.” – Nevada Action for School Choice

 For those of you who have been with me since this journey began in 2010 when I started advocating for education, you know how important these historic steps are. Combined, we invested $1 billion into much needed funding for our students. It is critical our state remains accountable to successful student outcomes if we want to see real progress nationally. Although there is more work to be done with education funding and reforms, I could not be prouder of this moment in our legislative history. The Mining Industry came forward in support of AB495 with the assurance small and medium sized mines, jobs and the rural communities who rely on this critical economic driver in our state will remain intact.  

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve for such a time as this and to join many others who have worked tirelessly over the decades to improve the quality of our state and the outlook for our kids, our workforce and our economy. 

Looking Forward….

We still have a busy year ahead of us with interim committees, the work of distributing funds from the American Rescue Plan and the important task of redistricting after we receive the final 2020 census data. I will continue to serve on the Interim Finance Committee, the Education Committee, the newly formed Substance Use Response Working Group, the Northern Nevada Sex Trafficking Task Force on top of my teaching schedule at UNR and the National Judicial College and my other personal and professional commitments.

As always, I am grateful for your input, support, and friendship. It is an honor to serve the great state of Nevada and my constituents in Assembly District 25. 
In Service,

Jill Tolles, Assembly District 25