Nevada Complete Streets bill – Good news and bad news

Muscle Powered led ride in Carson City
Muscle-Powered-organized ride in Carson City. The Nevada Complete Streets bill may provide funding for improvements such as bike lanes on this street in Carson City.

The Nevada Complete Streets bill was designed to provide a local funding source for transportation improvements to make local streets “Complete Streets” – streets that are safe and inviting for people using all transportation modes – walkers, baby strollers, people using canes, people using wheelchairs, bicyclist, buses, trolleys – rather than just for cars and trucks.

The bill would have provided an opt-out fee of $2 on all Nevada motor vehicle registrations, with the fee going directly to local transportation agencies to use only on complete streets projects – projects like bike lanes, curb ramps for wheelchairs, safety improvements near schools, bike boulevards and more.

The good news is that the bill passed.

The bad news is that the bill won’t be implemented until the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles finds some funding to make the changes to their computer system that would allow them to collect the fee.

Government by fiscal note

In the Nevada legislature, state agencies are asked to put a fiscal note on bills being considered by lawmakers. That means the agency goes through the bill and estimates how much it will cost to implement it. When the DMV looked at the Complete Streets bill, the agency estimated it would cost over $225,000 to implement the bill – this was mostly to pay for contract computer programmers.

This large a fiscal note, in these constrained times, is the death of a bill. In an Assembly committee hearing on the bill, Assemblyman Dave Bobzien expressed frustration at this, noting that he has seen more than one good bill go down because the DMV never has enough money to upgrade its computer system.

But bill supporters scrambled for a solution, and in meetings with DMV administrators, crafted amendments that would essentially put off implementation of the bill until funding was available for the DMV to add the complete streets fees to its system. The amended bill passed both houses unanimously and was signed by the governor.

Nevada Complete Streets advocates say they’re considering bringing the bill back to the 2015 legislative session, this time as a mandatory fee, which wouldn’t cost so much to implement.

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