Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed into law an increase of the minimum wage, a collective bargaining bill and other measures fulfilling progressive wish lists and promises he set out in his State of the State address.
The collective bargaining bill signed by the Democratic governor Wednesday is something state workers have fought for decades. The law will allow state workers to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions.
But the measure was weakened with an amendment added late in the legislative session, which allows the governor to bypass those agreements and propose in the budget “any amount” the governor feels is appropriate to pay for wages and benefits.
The measure, which Sisolak called for in his State of the State speech, covers workers such as secretaries, janitors and prison guards, but does not permit workers to strike.
Despite the caveats, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees celebrated the bill and estimates it will cover about 20,000 workers.
“By signing this bill, Governor Sisolak demonstrates his understanding of the importance of giving working people a seat at the table and the voice on the job they deserve,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement.
Workers are also expected to get a boost under a measure Sisolak signed requiring employers with at least 50 workers to offer paid sick leave and another law gradually raising the minimum wage.
The law would incrementally raise Nevada’s minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 for workers who receive health insurance through their employer and $8.25 for those who don’t. The new law would raise those rates by 2024 to $11 for those with health benefits and $12 for those without.
Sisolak also signed five bills related to education funding and school safety, including measures designed to give teachers a 3% pay raise.
To fund the pay raises and other education needs, Sisolak approved bills allowing counties to impose a .25% sales tax and extended a statewide payroll tax that was set to expire this year.
Democratic lawmakers’ move to extend the tax drew complaints from Republicans, who argued that the majority party needed a two-thirds vote to extend a tax, just as they would need a two-thirds vote to impose a tax. Legislative lawyers disagreed and sided with Democrats. Republican lawmakers have said they may challenge the issue in court.
Sisolak also signed legislation to create a school safety committee, headed by the governor, which would make recommendations to lawmakers. Former Gov. Brian Sandoval and former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, both Republicans, had each set up task forces last year with similar missions but they disbanded after issuing reports.
Sisolak also signed legislation creating a Cannabis Compliance Board, which will regulate the state’s legal marijuana industry. The board was one of the governor’s top priorities this year and Sisolak compared it to the state board that oversees gambling and casinos.
The board’s creation comes as state and local lawmakers have been grappling with banking regulations, employment questions, driving-under-the-influence laws and whether to allow marijuana consumption lounges in Las Vegas and other areas.