On February 11, 2019, Senate Bill 143 (SB 143) was introduced into the Nevada State Legislature to amend Question 1 (2016), which was designed to require firearm transfers between unlicensed persons to go through a licensed dealer. Under Question 1, the licensed dealer would contact the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICBCS) to run a background check. According to then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R), Question 1 was never enforced because the FBI refused to participate in the background checks.
SB 143 was written to require the state, rather than the FBI, to run background checks on persons who receive a firearm from an unlicensed individual. Question 1, SB 143, and similar types of legislation are often referred to as universal background checks because under such laws transfers between unlicensed persons would join transfers between licensed persons in requiring background checks, with certain exceptions.
The Nevada State Senate voted on SB 143 on February 13, 2019. The vote was 13 to eight, with the chamber’s 13 Democrats voting to support SB 143 and eight Republicans voting to oppose the bill. The Nevada State Assembly voted on February 15, 2019, passing the bill in a vote of 28 to 13. The chamber’s Republicans, along with one Democrat, opposed SB 143, while the remaining 28 Democrats supported the bill.
In Nevada, three years must pass before a ballot initiative can be amended or repealed. Question 1 was added to state code on November 22, 2016; therefore, SB 143 included a provision stating that the bill would take effect on January 2, 2020, which is after the three-year period on November 22, 2019.
Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson (D-4), after the bill passed both legislative chambers, said, “Background checks are proven to be the best way to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands without compromising the rights of law-abiding citizens.” Sen. Ira Hansen (R-14), who voted against SB 143, stated, “All this is going to do is burden people who are good, ordinary citizens who are going to be doing transactions. No criminal in their right mind is going to go through a background check system before getting a firearm.”
Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed SB 143 on February 15, 2019, saying, “In November 2016, the majority of Nevadans made it clear they wanted us to do more to address gun violence–but for the 829 days since, they’ve been ignored. That finally changes today.” Sisolak was elected on November 6, 2018, succeeding Brian Sandoval (R) as governor, and giving Democrats trifecta control of Nevada.
- Arizona (Two different measures to legalize recreational proposed for 2020)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (Measure to legalize recreational proposed for 2019)
- Mississippi (One measure to legalize medical and one measure to legalize recreational and medical proposed for 2020)
- Nebraska (Measure to legalize recreational proposed for 2020)
- South Dakota (Measure to legalize recreational proposed for 2020)
In his State of the State address, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said the state’s high-speed rail project between San Francisco and Los Angeles “would cost too much and take too long.” Newsom said he wanted a portion of the high-speed rail, from Merced and Bakersfield, to be prioritized. The governor’s spokesperson Nathan Click later said, “The state will continue undertaking the broader project—completing the bookend projects and finishing the environmental review for the SF to LA leg—that would allow the project to continue seeking other funding streams.”
The high-speed rail system has been in the works since 1996, when the state government created the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) to develop a plan. In 2008, CHSRA estimated that a high-speed rail system connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles would cost about $34 billion. The California State Legislature approved a bond measure, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed, to appear on the ballot in 2008. Voters approved the ballot measure.
Known as Proposition 1A, the bond measure authorized $9.00 billion in general obligation bonds for the planning and construction of a high-speed rail system connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. The ballot measure also authorized an additional $950 million for commuter rail systems that provide connections to the high-speed rail’s stations. Proposition 1A said the high-speed train would need to move at a speed of at least 200 mph and transport passengers between San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 ? hours.
Since 2008, the CHSRA’s annual or biennial cost estimates for the project have ranged from $34 billion to $99 billion. In 2018, CHSRA estimated the project to cost $77 billion.
While Gov. Newsom is planning to focus on a specific segment of the high-speed rail plan, Carl DeMaio (R), chairman of Reform California, proposed a ballot initiative to terminate funding for the project. Reform California organized the campaign behind Proposition 6 (2018), which would have overturned the fuel tax and vehicle fee increases enacted in 2017.
The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that a state law, passed as HB 2579 in 2016, violated the Voter Protection Act, Arizona’s restriction on legislative alteration. The Voter Protection Act requires voter approval of substantive changes made by the legislature to ballot initiatives. HB 2579 was designed to preempt local governments from requiring nonwage benefits above the state requirement. The three-judge panel concluded that HB 2579 contradicted Proposition 202, which voters approved in 2006. Proposition 202 increased the minimum wage and provided that local governments can enact ordinances to regulate the minimum wage and benefits.
HB 2579 defined benefits to include fringe benefits, sick and vacation days, retirement plans, child or adult care plans, and welfare benefits. Proposition 202 did not define benefits.
The appeals court’s ruling said, “H.B. 2579 explicitly prohibits what the Minimum Wage Act permits, and thus, the two statutes cannot be harmonized. Because H.B. 2579 impliedly amends and repeals a portion of the Minimum Wage Act, it violates the VPA’s express limitations on legislative changes to voter-approved laws.”
The state government, represented by Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R), has the option of appealing the case to the Arizona Supreme Court, which would have final jurisdiction on the issue. If the state does not appeal the case, or the state Supreme Court sides with the appeals court, the Arizona State Legislature could pass the same bill to preempt local benefits ordinances; however, an additional provision referring the bill to the ballot for voter consideration would need to be added to meet the requirements of the Voter Protection Act.
Due to the Voter Protection Act, which was passed as a ballot initiative in 1998, Arizona is one of two states—the other is California—that requires voter approval to make substantive changes to voter-approved ballot initiatives.
- The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
- The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
- The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
- California Proposition 209 (1996)
- Michigan Proposal 2 (2006)
- Nebraska Measure 424 (2008)
- Oklahoma State Question 759 (2012)