Appeals court, driving ban for truant students among new Nevada laws taking effect in 2015

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LAS VEGAS — Four new Nevada laws are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. Here's a look at what's hitting the books in the new year:

TRUANT DRIVING BAN

—Starting Jan. 1, anyone under the age of 18 who applies for a driver's license or learner's permit must have a principal or other school official certify that he or she meets minimum attendance requirements set by their school board. In Clark County School District, that means to no more than 10 unexcused absences per semester in a school on regular schedule, and no more than seven for a school on block schedule.

Once a student receives a license or permit, they must maintain a good attendance record to keep their driving privileges. If a student is declared habitually truant — which could happen after three or more unexcused absences in a school year — they could have their privileges suspended for 30 days or more.

Minors who have already completed high school are exempt from the law, and students can fight the suspension of their driving privileges on the basis that it causes a hardship.

The bill was part of an effort to discourage students from skipping class in Nevada, which has one of the worst dropout rates in the country.

"We are definitely excited about anything that encourages students to attend school," said Clark County Assistant Superintendent Tammy Malich. "This really impacts students very directly."

NEW APPEALS COURT

—The Nevada Court of Appeals is authorized to begin operations on Jan. 1 and will begin work on Jan. 5. In the past, the state had no intermediate court beyond the district court, and any challenges to district court decisions were sent to the Nevada Supreme Court. Voters in November narrowly approved a plan for an appeals court, which is expected to reduce the backlog of cases before the state's Supreme Court justices.

LONGER TRAILER REGISTRATION

—A new law allows people the option of registering recreational vehicles and certain utility trailers for up to three years at a time instead of annually. Bill proponents say people with seasonal-use vehicles such as ATVs and motor boats often forget to register them every year and only discover the registration has lapsed when they're ready for an outing.

A three-year registration costs three times as much as a one-year registration; there's no "bulk" discount on registering a trailer for multiple years, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

A related provision allows people to register a commercial trailer — the kind pulled by a tractor-trailer — permanently instead of annually. Permanent registration costs $110, plus a $3.50 fee for the license plate.

DMV spokesman David Fierro said neighboring states allow permanent registration for trailers. Some truck operators are now registering trailers elsewhere, and the state has lost out on registration revenue.

WATER DISTRICT ELECTION CHANGES

—A new law changes the way the five board members of the Virgin Valley Water District, located in southern Nevada, are chosen. Two members will be elected from south of the river, while three will be elected from the north. In the past, three members were elected by voters in the water district, while one was appointed by the mayor of Mesquite and one was appointed by members of the board of the town of Bunkerville.

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