- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Surrounded by fifth-graders and nearly a third of the Nevada Legislature, Governor Brian Sandoval signed an emergency bill extending bonds for school construction on Wednesday.

The signing came after weeks of contentious partisan debate over similar legislation that extended school bonds and cut prevailing-wage measures for school construction. The Senate moved an emergency version of the bill out on Tuesday, and the Assembly voted 27-14 on Wednesday to approve the measure and send it to the governor.

Sandoval, flanked by Republican and Democratic leaders, said during a news conference that the bill would allow school construction to begin nearly immediately and that the bill would alleviate an immediate need for overcrowded schools.

“You walk through these schools, and you see the number of kids in a classroom, you see some of these dilapidated conditions in the schools,” he said. “You have to do something. You have to do something with a sense of urgency.”

Assembly members voted 27-14 to approve SB 207, which gives school districts the authority to issue bonds for school construction beyond the term approved by voters. The 14 votes against the measure all came from Republicans, many of whom said they were concerned that the bill could be seen as a tax increase.

The Senate voted 15-4 to approve the emergency measure on Tuesday. Sen. Becky Harris, who sponsored both bills, said school districts had given them a deadline for Thursday to get the bill passed in order for new schools to open by 2017.

“I could not be more thrilled,” she said. “This is going to have a profound impact on our state.”

Senate Republican leadership introduced SB 207 after a similar proposal, SB 119, was bogged down by Assembly Republicans who were unable to reach a consensus on the bill. Several Assembly Republicans said they believed it was unfair to voters to continue issuing bonds without voter approval and considered the bill to be a tax increase.

The Republican-sponsored bill would give school boards the authority to continue issuing construction bonds for 10 years beyond the time period approved by voters, although districts would not be allowed to raise property-tax rates to pay debt service on the bonds.

Democrats and unions are strongly opposed to the prevailing-wage provision of SB 119, saying it would gut the paychecks of middle-class workers and give jobs to out-of-state contractors. Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford said in a statement that he was pleased that a “clean” bill would go to the governor.

“After five weeks of Republican dysfunction, we’re pleased to see their leadership finally move a piece of education legislation that benefits our kids,” he said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson said he was pleased to see the Assembly approve the measure. “I’m very happy we can start school construction in Washoe and Clark counties. This is a good day,” he said.

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