Of the hundreds of bills passed by the Legislature during the 2021 session, roughly 150 began to take effect Friday, including a law prohibiting the suspension of a driver’s license over unpaid fines or fees and policies aimed at limiting police use of force.
The new laws taking effect also include a requirement that employers allow employees to use sick leave to care for ill family members, a reduction in the penalties imposed on minors found in possession of alcohol or marijuana and an authorization for veterinarians to administer certain CBD products to animals. And starting today, purchasing a new Vegas Golden Knights license plate will cost an extra $10 (the extra proceeds go to charity).
Although the legislative session adjourned in June, not all bills approved by lawmakers kick in immediately — many approved bills do not become law for months to allow state agencies or local governments time to implement the new changes. The next major implementation date for new laws is Jan. 1, 2022, when more than 50 new laws will take effect.
Here’s a look at the new laws that are now in effect:
SB219: Prohibits suspension of a driver’s license for unpaid fines or fees
This new law, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas), removes a court’s authority to suspend a driver’s license or prohibit a defendant from applying for a driver’s license as the result of any unpaid fine, fee or restitution.
Driver’s license suspensions have frequently been used as a tool to enforce collection of court-related debts usually related to traffic citations. However, advocates for criminal justice reform have argued that the system of suspensions disproportionately affects people who are poor and may be unable to pay off debts without the ability to drive to their jobs.
The law could lead to the reinstatement of thousands of suspended drivers’ licenses because it also applies to drivers whose licenses were suspended for court-related debt before Oct. 1.
Between July 2017 and June 2019, more than 38,000 Nevadans had their driver’s licenses suspended because of unpaid court fines and fees, and The Nevada Current reported earlier this week that the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has already identified more than 33,000 licenses that could be eligible for reinstatement under the new law.
As the DMV reviews different cases, the agency will send postcards to eligible drivers, informing them that their license has been automatically reinstated. Those who receive that notice can resume legally driving if their license has not expired.
“Without the ability to legally drive, it’s impossible for many Nevadans to get to work and access basic necessities,” Leisa Moseley, Nevada state director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center, said in a statement. “This practice has targeted the most vulnerable among us and this new law will go a long way toward ending the criminalization of poverty.”
This portion of the article is shared as part of our collaboration with The Nevada Independent. This story was originally published on October 1st, 2021, and written by Sean Golonka.