Lawmakers will take their first stab on Friday at a massive bill aimed at reforming the state’s criminal justice system, reducing the prison population and saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade.
They’ll also discuss reversing a policy passed under Republican control in 2015 that reduces the rates schools will pay for construction projects, consider a bill that would ramp up penalties on employers for gender discrimination and hear changes to the state’s opioid prescribing laws.
For more information on the status of bills working their way through the Legislature, check out The Nevada Independent’s bill tracker. And for the bills in committee today, check out the Legislature’s website for committee times and links to watch live committee meetings and floor sessions.
Here’s what to watch for on Friday at the Legislature:
AB236: Sweeping criminal justice reform bill
Members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee will discuss a bill that implements some two dozen recommendations aimed at reducing Nevada’s prison population.
The bill is the product of a monthslong effort from the Boston-based nonprofit Crime and Justice Institute to comb through data and analyze the drivers of the prison population. It reduces penalties for some crimes and removes barriers for people to access specialty court programs that include drug treatment, among other things.
The institute predicted that if Nevada implements the recommendations, it will slow the growth of its prisons and save more than $640 million over a decade.
The interim Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice — which includes lawmakers and others who work in the criminal justice field — approved the recommendations, but many members voiced concern with some elements, suggesting at least some parts of the lengthy bill will face opposition.
The committee meets at 8 a.m.
AB136: Prevailing wage redux
Four years after Nevada Republicans placed limits on the state’s prevailing wage for school construction projects, legislative Democrats are hearing a bill that would undo many of the changes.
Proposed by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and scheduled for a hearing in the Assembly Government Affairs committee, AB136 would remove requirements that construction projects for school districts and higher education pay 90 percent of the prevailing wage — a kind of hourly minimum wage paid to the majority of skilled workers of a certain trade in a particular area.
The bill also lowers the threshold for public works projects that have to pay prevailing wage from $250,000 to $100,000, and removes an exemption that charter schools are not required to pay prevailing wage on construction projects. The bill does not apply to any projects awarded prior to July 1, 2019.
The committee is scheduled to meet at 8:30 a.m.
SB166: Equal pay
Members of the Senate Commerce and Labor committee are scheduled to hear a wide-ranging measure aimed at cracking down on pay discrimination.
SB166, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman, would give the state’s Equal Rights Commission the ability to levy fines — starting at $10,000 — for employers found to have willfully violated employment law, as well as giving the commission the ability to levy compensatory damages in cases of discrimination based on sex.
The bill also expands equal protections against gender discrimination to applicants for employment, as well as regular employees. It also clarifies reporting deadlines for when an unlawful discrimination complaint can be filed.
If a complaint is rejected, the bill also requires the Equal Rights Commission send a letter to the complainant notifying them of their right to appeal the decision to a District Court.
The committee is scheduled to meet at 12:30 p.m.
AB223: Dental care under Medicaid
Proposed by Democratic Assemblywoman Dina Neal, AB223 would require the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to apply for a federal government waiver to cover more dental procedures under Medicaid.
The bill, which is scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services, would require the state health department to request permission from the federal government to offer expanded dental care — including cleaning and cavity removal — for Medicaid patients who have diabetes and are over the age of 21. The bill allocates $7 million over each year of the two-year budget to fund the program.
The committee is scheduled to meet at the adjournment of the Assembly floor session, but no sooner than 1:30 p.m.
The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee will hear two bills that modify existing law on opioid prescriptions.
One of the bills, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Joe Hardy, removes a requirement that licensing boards that regulate practitioners who prescribe controlled substances adopt regulations providing for disciplinary action against those practitioners for inappropriate prescribing. It instead moves the requirement to adopt disciplinary regulations to the Board of Pharmacy, which will be required to create uniform regulations. (Boards would still be responsible for imposing disciplinary action for such violations.)
The legislation, SB170, comes in the wake of concerns by various licensing boards over the implementation of the disciplinary regulations in early 2018, following the passage of an opioid bill during the last legislative session.
The bill also makes a number of other health-care related changes.
Another bill, SB187, allows dentists and optometrists to write a 7-day prescription and doctors a 14-day prescription for opioids to treat acute pain so long as they first conduct a physical examination of the mouth, eyes, or body, as applicable. Previously, prescribers were required to conduct a full physical examination of a patient and were required to conduct a review of medical records in order to write an initial prescription for opioids.
Under the bill, prescribers would also be able to renew the prescription if medically appropriate without a full physical examination or review of medical records.
This bill, sponsored by state Sen. Keith Pickard and four other lawmakers, comes in the wake of prescriber concerns about the strict requirements placed on them to write initial prescriptions for opioids passed in the 2017 session.
Both bills will be heard upon the adjournment of the Senate Committee of Government Affairs.