By Megan Messerly, Michelle Rindels and Riley Snyder
Monday marked the first major deadline for Nevada lawmakers, as the last day legislators could introduce bills bearing their names as primary sponsors.
And lawmakers didn’t waste any time, with more than 190 bills introduced in both the Assembly and Senate as lawmakers burned the midnight oil and held floor session late into the day.
The Nevada Independent tracked the scores of bills introduced throughout the day, ranging from the controversial Education Savings Accounts to a measure officially banning bestiality.
Here’s a look at some of the noteworthy bills introduced yesterday that will drive discussion in Carson City over the final 77 days of the session.
A more expansive, opt-out sex ed
Sex education courses in Nevada are currently opt in — requiring parents or legal guardians to consent in writing before the student can participate in the course. That would no longer be the case if Democratic Assemblywoman Amber Joiner’s bill becomes law.
The legislation, AB348, would require parents and guardians to be given notice of the course and a form to opt the student out of the instruction. It also requires factual instruction that complies with certain standards of content and performance as laid out by the Council to Establish Academic Standards for Public Schools.
The instruction must include “evidence-based” and “medically accurate information” about HIV/AIDS, the human reproductive system and communicable sexually transmitted diseases, according to the bill text. It would also require education about domestic violence, exploitation and human trafficking and sexual assault.
It also specifies that the course of instruction use methods appropriate for students of any race, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ethnic or cultural background, English learners and students with physical or mental disabilities.
The legislation also makes changes to the makeup of the advisory committee appointed by the school district’s board of trustees, requiring that two students sit on the committee and adding the word “spiritual” to the appointed representative from the religious community. It also allows the board of trustees to appoint no more than three community members to sit on the committee, if the board so chooses.
A separate community college system
Nevada’s two-year schools are lumped with the state’s universities under the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), but a bill proposed by Republican Ira Hansen would break them out into their own system by mid-2018. Members of the proposed State Board for Community Colleges would be appointed by the governor, unlike NSHE regents, who are elected. The bill, AB331, also creates boards of trustees for each of the individual colleges, and makes changes to the law to ensure that students in the community college system are still eligible for NSHE programs such as the Millennium Scholarship and the Silver State Opportunity Grant.
Clark County School Board appointed, not elected
Republican Sen. Michael Roberson wants the members of the Clark County School District to be appointed, not elected. His bill, SB381, would divide the county into “trustee districts” and create a community education advisory board within each one. The members of that board would choose the person to represent their district on the main school board. Roberson has had an adversarial relationship with the Clark County School Board, which has sued the state over a reorganization he’s leading.
Lawmakers are also considering another Republican-backed measure to make more trustees appointed — SB243, which would apply to Clark and Washoe counties.
ESAs make a comeback, but treasurer won’t be in charge
The stalled Education Savings Account program, which allows parents to use public funds for private school tuition or other educational expenses for their child, is making a comeback under SB359. The bill aims to address provisions in the original program, passed in 2015, that held it up in the courts.
It applies $60 million to administer the program and provide grants to parents, and creates a new office to administer the accounts. Rather than having the state treasurer’s office administer ESAs, the bill creates the Office of Educational Choice within the Department of Education and tasks a director to deal with that program and the Nevada Educational Choice Scholarship Program, which is funded by businesses in exchange for tax credits.
The measure makes ESAs a first-come, first-served program. Additionally, it removes the old requirement that participating students attend public school for 100 days and instead requires them to attend public school for two consecutive quarters.
The program is a major flashpoint in the legislative session, with Republicans in support and Democrats mostly opposed.
Continuing coverage for chronic health conditions
Democrats have introduced a flurry of health care-related legislation this session — much of it in anticipation of a repeal and replacement for the Affordable Care Act. But freshman Republican Assemblyman Keith Pickard is joining the fray too with a bill that prohibits insurers from denying coverage for certain pre-existing conditions.
The bill, AB352, would prohibit insurers from denying coverage for a chronic condition for which the current or former insurer provided coverage, or from requiring prior authorization or other preconditions for coverage. The legislation would allow civil penalties to be imposed against insurers to violate the requirements to provide coverage.
Publicly funded health care for non-citizen children
Existing federal law generally bars non-citizens from receiving certain public benefits until five years after they have entered the United States. However, the law contains an exemption allowing states to choose to allow non-citizen children under 21 who have been in the country lawfully for less than five years to enroll in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
A bill brought forward by Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela, SB325, would opt Nevada into that program, authorizing the director of the Department of Health and Human Services to include such provisions in the state’s plan for Medicaid and CHIP and take any necessary action to comply with federal law in carrying out those provisions.
Medicaid for all
Individuals would be able to purchase coverage through Medicaid on the health care exchange for an annual premium set at 150 percent of the median expenditure paid on behalf of Medicaid enrollees in the preceding fiscal year. Though none of the current federal or state dollars going to fund Medicaid would be used to cover any portion of the new enrollees, they would still be entitled to the same benefits provided to other Medicaid recipients.
The legislation allows the director of the state Department of Health and Human Services to seek any necessary waivers of certain provisions of federal law to allow the program to be offered on the state’s health insurance exchange and to allow individuals to use the federal income tax credits and cost-sharing reductions created by the Affordable Care Act to purchase Medicaid coverage.
Preserving the ACA
Nevada Assembly Democrats are pushing to codify popular portions of the Affordable Care Act into state law amid a looming federal vote to dismantle the law.
Portions copied from the federal health insurance law by the AB408 include:
- Requiring all insurers to offer health insurance regardless of a person’s pre-existing conditions without denying, limiting or excluding a benefit or forcing them to pay a higher premium.
- Allowing children to stay on their parent’s insurance until the age of 26.
- Requiring all health insurance plans to include coverage for maternity and newborn care.
- Including coverage for preventative health services including screenings and tests for diseases, counseling, vaccinations and contraceptive drugs. Extends requirement to health insurance plans purchased by local governments and the Public Employees’ Benefits Program
- Prohibiting health care providers and insurers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, gender identity or expression or sexual orientation.
A similar measure codifying parts of the ACA — SB394 — was introduced late Monday in the Senate.
A task force on drug pricing
Amid national discussions on what the future of health insurance will look like, Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela has introduced a bill, SB348, to create a Health Care Funding and Pricing Task Force, with members selected by the governor, Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker.
The panel will analyze the costs of public and private health care in the state compared to other states, study ways to maintain or increase the percentage of low-income individuals currently covered by a health plan and reduce the costs of publicly funded health care. Members of the panel will include representatives of consumers, hospitals and people who suffer from chronic disease, as well as others involved with health care in the state.
An end to the pink tax
Bills brought forward by Democratic Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (AB402) and Democratic senators Yvanna Cancela and Joyce Woodhouse (SB415) would exempt feminine hygiene products from the Sales and Use Tax Act of 1955. Jauregui’s bill would also exempt diapers from the tax.
However, because that act was approved by the voters by a referendum, any changes require a vote of the people. Both bills would ask voters in 2018 whether to approve the exemption.
If approved by voters, the bill becomes effective on January 1, 2019 and expires on December 31, 2028.
Sales tax exemption for medical equipment
Hospital beds, oxygen equipment, crutches and other medical equipment would be exempt from the sales tax under SB419. The measure mirrors Question 4, which appeared on the statewide ballot and passed in November, but must pass a second statewide vote to become part of the constitution. SB419 would have to pass a vote in 2018 to take effect.
A second sanctuary bill
Democratic Assemblyman Chris Brooks has introduced a companion bill, AB357, to his colleague Yvanna Cancela’s immigration bill in the Senate, SB223. Both bills would prohibit state or local law enforcement from using their resources to conduct certain immigration enforcement activities and making any of their department databases available to anyone for immigration enforcement.
Like Cancela’s bill, the legislation would not prevent law enforcement agencies from responding to federal immigration authorities’ request for information about a person’s criminal history. More than a dozen other Democrats have signed onto the bill, including Cancela.
Prohibitions on sanctuary city ordinances and policies
Republican Sen. Michael Roberson’s anti-sanctuary city bill has finally dropped after he announced he would sponsor the legislation last month.
The bill, SB333, prohibits city and county governments from enacting ordinances or otherwise adopting policies that prohibit, limit or discourage cooperation with enforcing federal immigration laws. If passed, the attorney general would be required to investigate any complaints from residents and issue an opinion on whether a particular city or county has violated the prohibition.
Limiting disclosure of immigration status
Democratic Sen. Joyce Woodhouse is taking a different tack with her immigration bill, SB389. Where other legislation has focused on limiting the ability of state and local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration officials, Woodhouse’s bill prohibits any government entity that maintains a database or other records about individuals’ immigration status, nationality or citizenship from disclosing that information to the federal government.
The bill would allow government entities to disclose a record in response to a court order or if it’s determined that the disclosure would not be used to investigate or prosecute any immigration enforcement action and that it is necessary to protect the public safety or investigate a non-immigration related crime.
Making marijuana unappealing to kids
Nevada manufacturers would be barred from making marijuana-infused products that look like candy, or to advertise in ways that appeal to children, under SB344. The measure is backed by senators Patricia Farley and Tick Segerblom. It requires each edible marijuana product be labeled to indicate how much of the active ingredient THC it contains, and limits the amount of THC that can be in a single package.
It also requires marijuana-infused brownies and cookies be sealed in an opaque bag. Opponents of legalizing recreational marijuana argued that cooking marijuana into gummy bears, lollipops and other kid-friendly products could inadvertently attract children and prompt an accidental overdose.
Medical marijuana research, permanent cards and more dispensaries
Medical marijuana research facilities would be authorized in Nevada under SB329, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Tick Segerblom. His bill creates a framework for certifying and operating a marijuana research facility, and prohibits research that’s not approved by a scientific panel.
It also makes a range of other changes to the state marijuana law, including allowing veterans or people with a permanent or terminal medical condition to get a medical marijuana card that would not have to be renewed every year. The bill adds post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that qualify for a card. It also moves the state’s medical marijuana program from the Division of Public and Behavioral Health to the Department of Taxation, which regulates recreational marijuana.
Another bill, SB341, would allow municipalities to request the registration of additional medical marijuana businesses beyond the amount the state has already approved. It would allow pot research at any public Nevada college, not just the University of Nevada School of Medicine, and would prohibit municipalities from imposing taxes on dispensaries that exceed 3 percent of that business’ gross revenue.
Medical marijuana card holders could have an easier time registering and legally carrying a concealed firearm under one proposal from a Nevada Democrat.
Sen. Kelvin Atkinson is the main sponsor of SB351, which would specifically note in state law that a person with a valid medical marijuana card isn’t subject to prohibitions on gun ownership or concealed carry permits for anyone that is an “unlawful user of, or addicted to, any controlled substance.”
As of February 2017, Nevada has 26,519 medical marijuana cardholders.
No retribution for workers using marijuana
Existing law already protects people who are legally using medical marijuana from discipline from a professional licensing board, but SB374 would expand protections to people who use pot recreationally.
The measure makes it illegal to punish an employee or a prospective employee based on their lawful use of marijuana or involvement in a legal marijuana business during their off-hours, as long as using the substance isn’t adversely affecting their work performance or putting fellow employees in danger.
With an initiative petition requiring the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to automatically register voters is sitting on the desk of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, Nevada Democrats have introduced a backstop measure.
SB327, which is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford and Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, contains nearly identical language to Initiative Petition 1. Both measures would automatically register eligible Nevadans to vote when they do business with the DMV, unless they affirmatively opt out.
The initiative petition, which passed on party lines in both the Senate and Assembly, can either be signed by Sandoval by Wednesday or, if vetoed, will go to the ballot in 2018.
DMV notification of suspected non-citizen voters
Republicans have raised concerns about the possibility of non-citizens registering to vote should IP1 become law.
They’re seeking to address some of their concerns through SB319, a bill that would require the director of the Department of Motor Vehicles to notify the secretary of state if, based on their department’s records, they have reason to believe that a registered voter is not a citizen of the United States. If the information is found to be credible, the secretary of state would have to notify the voter, who would be required to prove their citizenship status or face cancellation of their voter registration.
Slowpoke drivers on notice
Two similar measures introduced by Republicans Chris Edwards and John Ellison seek to penalize slowpoke drivers who stay in the fast lane.
AB329 and AB334 both contain similar language that would create escalating fines from $50 to $100 to $500 for each offense of knowingly backing up traffic by staying in the leftmost lane on a highway. Both bills include several exemptions, such as if a person is preparing to making a left turn, overtaking another vehicle or is forced to drive in the left lane due to inclement weather.
Edwards, the main sponsor of AB329, is asking the Nevada Department of Transportation to use public service announcements to announce the change for at least two years and to erect signs publicizing the change on the most affected highways.
Expiration of driver’s authorization cards
Under current law, Nevada driver’s licenses remain valid until the fourth or eighth anniversary of the birthday of the license holder, depending on certain circumstances, while driver’s authorization cards expire annually on the date it was issued or renewed.
Legislation put forward by Democratic Assemblyman Edgar Flores, AB322, would require the expiration dates for driver’s authorization cards to match those of driver’s licenses.
Softer penalties for lapsed car insurance
A bill backed by Republican Sen. James Settelmeyer would ease Nevada’s strict penalties for letting car insurance lapse. Existing law calls for a $250 fine the first time liability insurance lapses and the Department of Motor Vehicles must reinstate it, a $500 fee for second offense and a $750 fine for a third offense. The bill, SB339, would cap that reinstatement fee to not more than half of the car registration fee.
Banning auto remote disabling
Democratic Sen. Kelvin Atkinson has introduced a bill that would make it a “deceptive trade practice” for lenders to install or use a remote disable device in a motor vehicle.
SB350 would prohibit anyone other than the manufacturer of a motor vehicle from installing or requiring installation of “electronic repossession technology” that can be used to remotely prevent a car from starting if a person misses a payment. Nevada customers filed a lawsuit against a remote disable device company in 2014, alleging that lenders were ignoring repossession law through use of the devices.
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Taxing renewable energy
One Nevada lawmaker is proposing to tax renewable energy produced or delivered into Nevada for resale to the public.
Republican Sen. Joe Hardy is sponsoring SB336, which would require the state’s Department of Taxation in conjunction with the Public Utilities Commission and Office of Energy to develop a system of taxation for wholesale energy sales. The bill doesn’t set a tax rate, but instructs state officials to create a varying tax rates “based upon the total annual amount of electricity generated from renewable energy produced and sold by the person upon whom the tax is imposed.”
Plastic bag ban
Plastic bags at the grocery store could soon be a thing of the past if lawmakers pass AB344. The bill requires stores to charge 10 cents per bag between July 2017 and Dec. 31, 2021, then bans stores from distributing plastic bags altogether in 2022. It wouldn’t bar them from providing bags at checkout that are made of other, non-plastic materials.
Money from the fee would go to a Plastic Bag Environmental Cleanup Fund. The measure is sponsored by Democratic lawmakers Sandra Jauregui, Heidi Swank and Tick Segerblom, but would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to pass because it raises a fee.
Room tax dollars to Clark County School District
During the 2016 special session, the Legislature authorized a $750 million public contribution to build a $1.9 billion NFL stadium through increased hotel room taxes.
The Legislature specified that should the professional football stadium project fall through, room taxes would be raised by a smaller amount and would be directed toward building a collegiate football stadium for UNLV. As a secondary backup if the collegiate stadium fell through, the dollars would help renovate and expand the Las Vegas Convention Center.
SB421, proposed by Democratic Sen. Tick Segerblom, would change that secondary backup, directing room tax dollars to fund capital projects for the Clark County School District instead of the convention center.
Saving the Huntridge Theater
Legislation brought forward by Democratic Assemblywoman Heidi Swank would appropriate $3 million from the state general fund to purchase the Huntridge Theater. The bill, AB371, would allow state officials to enter into contracts with private partners to assist with purchasing, repairs and restoring Huntridge Theater.
Plans to renovate the dilapidated, historic theater have been in the works since it closed in the late 1990s, but efforts to renovate it have thus far been unsuccessful.
Grants to help inmates re-integrate
Nevada would put $1.2 million toward programs to re-integrate prisoners into the community under SB321. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Scott Hammond and Democratic Sens. Tick Segerblom and Mark Manendo, comes as the state is considering a broad range of measures to more effectively and efficiently move inmates out from behind bars and ease prison overcrowding.
The measure calls on the Department of Corrections to create a grant program that funds nonprofits that offer case management, job skills, life skills, housing placement and other services.
Undoing Republican-backed collective bargaining law
Democrats hope to roll back parts of a major collective bargaining reform bill that passed when Republicans were in charge in 2015. The bill from 2015 shortened the timeframe for the Local Government Employee-Management Relations Board to conduct a hearing on a complaint from 180 days to 45 days after deciding it had merit. The new bill, SB356, would undo that change.
The 2015 bill barred administrators who make more than $120,000 a year from collective bargaining. The new bill allows them to bargain, but puts them in a separate union. It also reinstates a clause repealed last session allowing certain benefits and salary raises to take effect for employees even after an agreement expired and another one did not take its place.
Expanding lobbyist gift ban
After enacting a total ban on gifts to legislators from lobbyists in 2015, Republican Sen. Michael Roberson wants to expand the ban to include local governments.
SB380 would prohibit local lobbyists from giving gifts of any monetary value to members of “local legislative bodies” — such as county commissioners or city councils — or their families, with a handful of exemptions. It defines lobbyist as anyone who communicates with an elected official on behalf of someone other than themselves, but includes exemptions for individuals representing themselves, lobbyists who exclusively appear at formal meetings, public officers and employees and members of the press.
As with the 2015 bill, violations of the law would be considered misdemeanors, and the measure authorizes the state attorney general to enforce the ban.
Believe it or not, bestiality is not currently a crime in the state of Nevada.
Though existing law outlines various crimes against public decency and good morals, the crime of bestiality is not explicitly criminalized. Legislation brought forward by Democratic Assemblyman Richard Carrillo — AB391 — would define the crime of bestiality and makes committing it a gross misdemeanor, unless the crime causes the death of or serious bodily injury of an animal, in which case it becomes a felony.
The bill also allows the court to order a person convicted of bestiality to undergo psychological evaluation, give up all of their animals, not have any animals in their house for a certain period of time or pay all costs incurred for the care and maintenance of the animal involved in the crime.