It’s almost the halfway point of the session, which means lawmakers are squeezing as many hearings as they can each day ahead of an upcoming deadline for committee passage.
Today, lawmakers will take a second look at a set of big energy bills, hear a package of controversial education-related measures including bills to delay or entirely repeal the Achievement School District and legislation that would make sex ed classes opt-out instead of opt-in and consider the first of two “Medicaid for all” bills.
Here’s what to watch for today at the Legislature:
YELP without penalty
Nevada Democrats are proposing a measure that would protect consumers’ ability to review and comment on businesses.
SB185, which is sponsored by Sen. David Parks, would prohibit businesses from limiting or imposing a penalty on consumers who provide reviews, comments on other statements about the business or service. It creates an escalating penalty for violators starting at a misdemeanor and a fine starting at $2,500, with an additional $10,000 penalty if a court finds the violation to be “reckless, willful and wanton.” The measure wouldn’t prohibit an online forum from removing comments or statements that they’re lawfully entitled to remove.
Watch the hearing on SB185 at 8 a.m. in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy.
Big energy bills get a second set of eyes
An Assembly energy subcommittee already took a first crack at hot topics, including a fix for Nevada’s stalled rooftop solar industry (AB270) and an aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard that would require utilities eventually get 80 percent of their power from renewable sources (AB206).
Now it’s time for the full, regular Commerce and Labor Committee to dig into those issues. Subcommittee members were split Monday on passing the work to their counterparts, saying that some of the seven bills up for discussion on Wednesday were still half-baked and needed major work.
Watch the hearing around 1 p.m. in the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee.
Nothing but controversial education bills
Lawmakers are taking up some of the most contentious education issues they’ll face this session during a single hearing on Wednesday.
First, they’ll consider the fate of the Achievement School District — an initiative created in 2015 to turn a handful of persistently underperforming schools into privately managed charter schools. The idea was to bring radical change to the schools, but families at the schools in question are none too happy with it.
Democratic Assemblywoman Dina Neal wants to abolish the concept through AB103, while Democratic Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson wants to delay implementation until 2019 through AB432. The two run up against Gov. Brian Sandoval, who backed the concept of the Achievement School District and opposes efforts to unravel it before it really takes effect. The Democrats do not have enough votes to override an almost-certain gubernatorial veto.
Another bill sure to bring fraught debate is Democratic Assemblywoman Amber Joiner’s AB348, which would make sex education courses opt-out, rather than opt-in. It also directs the state to develop state standards for such courses.
In the past, such proposals have stoked the anger of parents concerned children are learning about mature topics too young or that the curriculum goes against their religious beliefs.
Lawmakers are capping off the hearing with a planned vote on AB469, which codifies controversial regulations on the Clark County School District reorganization in an effort to stave off a lawsuit from the district’s board.
Watch the hearing at 3:15 p.m. in the Assembly Education Committee.
More proposed election changes
Under current law, voter registration ends the third Tuesday before an election, unless it’s a recall or special election, in which case registration closes the third Saturday before an election.
A bill brought forward by Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, SB94, would extend that deadline until the last day of early voting for the election, the Friday before election day, or until the fourth day before the election for recall and special elections. It would also allow people to register to vote for a primary or general election on election day at certain polling places, provided they complete a voter registration application and provide proof of identity and residence.
Voters who choose to register on election day would only be able to vote at the polling place at which they registered to vote.
The legislation also allowed people who are 17 years old to pre-register to vote, requires that a permanent polling place in Clark and Washoe counties remain open for at least four hours every Sunday during early voting and requires county and city clerks to establish a system to distribute sample ballots electronically.
The legislation is one of at least two dozen pieces of legislation this session that would make changes to voter registration and the electoral process in Nevada.
Watch the hearing on the bill at 4 p.m. in the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee.
First Medicaid for all hearing
The first of two “Medicaid for all” bills is up for discussion today.
SB394, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman, would open up the state’s Medicaid program to anyone who wishes to buy in. Individuals would be able to purchase the insurance on the exchange at a certain premium while current Medicaid recipients would continue to receive government assistance through the program. The bill is similar to another piece of legislation, AB374, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle.
In addition to the provisions in Assembly bill, SB394 would also require insurers to offer health insurance coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, offer coverage for other essential health benefits — everything from hospitalization to prescription drugs to preventative care — without an annual, lifetime or other maximum limit on coverage and cover adult children of the primary insured until age 26.
Also, while AB374 would set the annual premium of the insurance at 150 percent of the median expenditure that was paid on behalf of a Medicaid recipient during the immediately preceding fiscal year, SB394 will allow the director of the Department of Health and Human Services to determine the amount to charge for the annual premium, to be set at an amount that doesn’t require any federal or state money to be used to provide coverage.
Watch the hearing on SB394 at 3:30 p.m. in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.