New laws taking effect today in Nevada include gun measures, drug tests and employee benefits

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Steve Marcus

A view of the Nevada State Legislature building in Carson City Monday, Feb. 11, 2013.

Wed, Jan 1, 2020 (2 a.m.)

It’s the new year, and with it, a new batch of state laws are set to go into effect.

Multiple bills signed into law in the 2019 legislative session, including mandatory paid sick leave for workers and a large-scale gun reform measure, are set to take effect today. Here are a few of them:

Paid sick leave

Under Senate Bill 312, employers with 50 or more employees must offer paid sick leave. Under the measure, employees will be able to accrue at least .02 hours of paid leave per hour of work. The paid leave is capped at 40 hours a year.

State Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, was one of the bill's sponsors. When she introduced the bill, she talked about the ill effects of employees working on the job while sick.

“Ninety percent of food workers went to work when they were sick. Fifty percent of food workers state they always or frequently work while sick. Of those who worked while sick, 50 percent reported they went to work sick because they could not afford to lose their pay,” she said. “A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention illustrates how risky working while sick can be. One worker in Michigan infected over 100 customers at a sandwich shop when he came to work sick with norovirus.”

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, 10 states and Washington, D.C, currently have some form of paid sick leave policy on the books. The group also cites reports showing economic growth in cities that have paid leave laws. According to a 2017 report from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, paid leave laws can decrease hours worked and cause a rise in unemployment, but they do tend to result in workers visiting primary care doctors more than emergency rooms, which cuts down significantly on health care costs.

Omnibus gun bill

Assembly Bill 291, which among other things bans bump stock modifications and institutes so-called “red flag” laws, goes into effect today. The bill was sponsored by Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, D-Las Vegas, a survivor of the Oct. 1 shooting.

“This is not an anti-gun bill. I am not an anti-gun legislator and this is not a partisan issue,” Jauregui said in introducing the bill. “I am married to a Republican. We own guns, and we believe that better gun laws make us better gun owners.”

“Red flag” laws allow people to petition the courts to temporarily take away guns from family members who could be considered dangerous. The law in Nevada allows family members, household members and law enforcement to petition the courts.

If the court decides to take away a firearm, the subject of the confiscation has to turn them over or the court will issue a warrant to seize the guns.

The law also bans bump stocks, after-marker gun modifications that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire at a rate similar to an automatic weapon. The state law follows in the footsteps of the federal government, which banned bump stocks in early 2019. The device was used by the Oct. 1, 2017, shooter in his massacre on the Las Vegas Strip.

Marijuana and employment

Under Assembly Bill 132, employers will not be able to reject a job applicant because they tested positive for marijuana. The bill does not extend to marijuana use after an employee is hired.

The bill does not cover firefighters, emergency medical technicians or those who have to drive for a living and who have to submit to drug tests due to state or federal law.

Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, was one of the bill’s primary sponsors. She said that while she did not vote for recreational marijuana legalization and doesn’t agree with it morally, she wanted to ensure legalizing its use didn’t create second-class citizens.

“Regardless of what you feel or think morally about a person who uses marijuana, it is now lawful conduct. I need for us to rise to what the law says is now legal and treat those individuals fairly and give them a fair shot at an opportunity,” Neal said during the bill’s introduction.

Campaign finance reform

Senate Bill 557 was a last-minute bill introduced by Senate leadership intended to tackle campaign finance reform.

While the version of the bill that ultimately passed was watered down — language that would require organizations that make more than $10,000 in annual campaign contributions to file a report with the secretary of state was taken out — the final version bars candidates from using campaign funds to pay themselves a salary.

The 2019 legislative session included a large campaign finance scandal, as then-Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson admitted to misusing around $250,000 in campaign funds. Atkinson, who resigned from the Senate in March, was sentenced in July to over two years in prison and fined around $250,000.

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