Bills to increase pricing transparency for asthma drugs, creating a payday loan database and requiring more information sharing on student vaccinations were approved by state lawmakers amid Tuesday’s looming deadline to pass measures out of their first house of origin.
In total, members of the Senate and Assembly approved 38 bills on Thursday, which included measures banning sale of cosmetics testing on animals and requesting Congress to not ask a question on citizenship on the 2020 Census.
But lawmakers still have hundreds of bills to get through before their Tuesday deadline and will likely hold marathon floor sessions next week.
Here’s a look at what passed on Thursday:
SB201: Payday lending database
On a party-line, 13-8 vote, members of the Senate voted to approve a bill that would create a statewide database for tracking information related to payday and other high-interest loans.
The bill, SB201, is sponsored by Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela and would authorize the state’s Financial Institutions Division to contract with an outside vendor to create a loan database, charged with tracking information on individual loans and lenders to collect information on compliance with state laws and other information, including how often an individual took out a loan and any individual with more than one outstanding loan.
A late amendment to the bill adopted Thursday restores a “safe harbor” provision requested by the industry that gives companies legal protections if an individual takes out multiple loans that in total make up more than 25 percent of their income. Although members of the industry strongly opposed the bill during a hearing in March, Cancela said the bill would allow the state to ensure the payday lending industry was complying with all laws and regulations in a more effective way while not raising taxes.
“We’re not looking to profit in any way,” she said. “Rather, we are looking to ensure that our current laws are enforced to the best of FID’s abilities, and that requires electronic communication; it requires 21st century technology.”
But Republican lawmakers directed their criticism towards the funding aspect of the bill, questioning whether the arrangement authorizing a department head to enter into a contract with an outside vendor to assess a fee ran afoul of the constitutional requirement for a two-thirds quote on any tax increase.
“It’s a creative workaround,” Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer said. “I don’t dispute that it’s legal. But it’s inappropriate.”
Cancela said that the constitutional language requiring the two-thirds majority only applies to the creation of “public revenue,” which the bill avoided by ensuring any transfer of funds never entered into the hands of a government body.
“In function, the money never becomes public revenue,” she said. “Rather, it just goes between the lender and the database management company. That ensures the money never enters into public coffers.”
Cancela also provided The Nevada Independent with an opinion from the Legislative Counsel Bureau determining that the funding structure of the bill was constitutional.
“In conclusion, (SB201) provides for the State to relinquish control over the database that will be created and used by licensees to carry out their statutory duty,” the opinion states. “By requiring the Commissioner of Financial Institutions to contract with a vendor or other entity to create and manage the database, the bill shifts this function and the right to receive the fees meant to cover the cost of performing the function to a private entity.”
SB262: Asthma drug pricing transparency
A bill sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Yvanna Cancela that would expand the state’s diabetes drug pricing transparency law to apply to asthma drugs passed the Senate 19-2 on Thursday afternoon, with only Republican state Sens. Ira Hansen and Joe Hardy in opposition.
The legislation builds on the bill passed by Cancela during the 2017 session that required manufacturers of drugs the state deemed essential to treating diabetes that experienced significant price increases over the previous year and the drug pricing middlemen who sell them to submit annual reports to the state detailing the costs and profits associated with manufacturing and selling the drugs. The bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday extends those requirements to essential asthma drugs.
The legislation passed with little discussion despite the fact that Senate Republicans proposed and Democrats killed an amendment Wednesday night that would have removed a carveout in state trade secret law for information required to be disclosed under the law.
State Sen. Scott Hammond, a Republican who backed both the diabetes and asthma transparency bills, said that he liked that the original bill was “shedding light on the whole process” of drug pricing.
“I think the bill does the same thing here,” Hammond said. “I’m grateful for the sponsor and what she’s trying to accomplish.”
SB482: Affordable Care Act innovation waiver
This legislation, which aims to stabilize the individual health insurance market, passed the Senate unanimously on Thursday.
The bill, sponsored by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, allows the insurance commissioner to apply for a Section 1332 federal innovation waiver, which states have used to waive certain requirements of the Affordable Care Act. It would also allow the Division of Insurance to enter into compacts with California, Idaho, Oregon and Utah and allow for reciprocal licensing of those states’ health insurers to ensure that Nevadans living near the state line have access to health insurance.
The legislation initially proposed to create a state-based reinsurance program to stabilize the individual market as other states have done, but an actuarial study commissioned by the Division of Insurance found that such a solution would not be the most effective in Nevada.
AJR6: Urging Congress to exclude a citizenship question from the 2020 Census
The Assembly voted 33-8 to support a resolution urging the federal government not to include a question about an individual’s citizenship status in the 2020 Census. Eight Republicans — Chris Edwards, John Ellison, Gregory Hafen, Alexis Hansen, Al Kramer, Lisa Krasner, Robin Titus and Jim Wheeler — opposed it.
The measure is sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson, who said his participation in an annual count of the homeless population informed his work on the resolution. Municipalities try to get as accurate of a count of homeless individuals as possible each year because the outcome determines how much money the area gets from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Proponents of the resolution fear that if the federal government asks people their citizenship status, immigrants will shy away from participating, resulting in an undercount and then less money from the federal government. Such a chilling effect could be especially pronounced in Nevada, which has a high share of undocumented immigrants.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether the Trump administration’s proposal to include the citizenship question will stand.
Gov. Steve Sisolak has prioritized an effort to ensure an accurate count, establishing a Complete Count Committee earlier this month. He said that even a 1 percent undercount in the 2010 census would have meant the state missing out on $17 million from five health-related grant programs in the year 2015 alone.
Thompson said he hopes the resolution makes a difference in the debate.
“We’ve already been talking to our representatives, but I think this gives them a bigger push,” he said.
SB197: Banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals
Members of the Nevada Senate voted to advance a bill that would ban the sale and import of any cosmetic product that was tested on an animal.
The bill, SB197, would prohibit the sale or import of any cosmetic item which was tested on an animal on or after Jan. 1, 2020, but wouldn’t apply to any product which was tested on an animal prior to that date. The bill creates several other exemptions for any testing required to comply with federal state or foreign regulatory requirements and authorizes district attorneys to prosecute any violation of the bill.
The bill was approved on a 14-7 vote, with Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer crossing party lines and voting with Democrats to advance the measure.
AB123: Vaccination bill
A bill that attracted heated testimony because it would have required government agencies share more information about unvaccinated children and narrowed opportunities for parents to claim exemptions for vaccines passed unanimously in the Assembly in a watered-down form.
AB123 now requires schools collect forms from families claiming a religious or medical exemption to immunizations and keep them on file in the child’s student record.
The school district must report to the state the number of children claiming an exemption, but not their names. If an outbreak occurs, all students — not just the unvaccinated ones — must be notified.
Democratic Assemblywoman Connie Munk, the bill’s sponsor, emphasized that the bill does not require parents to vaccinate their children.
“What this bill does do is improve the response time if there is an outbreak,” she said. “Our children are counting on us to get it right.”