With only 11 days to go before the next major bill deadline, Nevada lawmakers are spending Tuesday holding lengthy hearings on a variety of bills ranging from a ban on private prisons to allowing for marijuana-infused massages.
Here’s what to watch for on Tuesday:
Private prison ban
Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget calls for housing 200 of Nevada’s riskiest inmates in an out-of-state prison in the upcoming biennium as a way to ease overcrowding, but it won’t happen if some Democratic lawmakers have their way.
Nineteen Democratic legislators are sponsoring AB303, which would bar the state from using private companies for “core correctional services” including housing, protecting and disciplining prisoners. Those duties would be exclusively carried out by state or local government employees.
Private companies could still provide the state with other services, including mental health and substance abuse treatment, transitional housing and life skills training.
The Nevada Department of Corrections estimates the bill would cost nearly $19 million more than the state has budgeted for the biennium using the private prison option. It would also cost $85 million in future biennia to build an extra housing unit to permanently address a department-wide space shortage, according to the agency.
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, one of the primary sponsors, said an amendment is planned to allow the state to use private prisons for the next few years as temporary housing while Nevada remodels one of its state prisons. That’s expected to significantly reduce the fiscal note.
Watch the hearing at 8 a.m. in the Assembly Corrections, Parole and Probation Committee.
Marijuana massages & apprentices
Regulating Nevada’s rapidly growing marijuana industry has become a focal point for legislators this session, with a legislative panel hearing two pot-related measures sponsored by Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman on Tuesday.
SB396 would allow licensed massage therapists and health care providers to administer or recommend a “marijuana-infused product” to a patient or client. The measure would protect them from punishment from an occupational licensing board and exempt them from prosecution of marijuana-related crimes.
Lawmakers are also scheduled to hear SB416, which would authorize medical marijuana businesses to propose and carry out agreements for apprenticeship programs.
Watch the hearing on both bills at 1 p.m. in the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Tax credits for child care
Employers who help certain workers with child care assistance may be eligible for certain tax credits if legislation sponsored by independent Sen. Patricia Farley is passed.
SB455 allows employers to receive a credit against the modified business tax if the employer pays money to an entity that contracts with the Department of Health and Human Services to determine eligibility for child care subsidies with the purpose of providing child care assistance to employees with one or more children younger than 13 years old and whose household income does not exceed 85 percent of the median income in the state. The credit will be equal to 50 percent of the amount the employer pays to the contracted entity not to exceed a $2,500 credit per employee per year.
But the legislation wouldn’t come cheap. The bill makes an appropriation from the state general fund of $25 million for the 2017-18 fiscal year and $25 million for the 2018-19 fiscal year to the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services of the Department of Health and Human Services for the costs associated with the Program for Child Care and Development.
For background, see our story on the challenges Nevadans face finding affordable, high-quality child care.
Watch the hearing at 3:30 p.m. in the Senate Committee on Revenue and Economic Development.
Credit hour changes for the Silver State Opportunity Grant
A needs-based financial aid program created during the 2015 legislative session may be getting some tweaks under legislation put forward by Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer.
Students who receive the Silver State Opportunity Grant must be enrolled or accepted to be enrolled in at least 15 credit hours of classes per semester at a community college or state college that is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education. SB310 creates an exception to that minimum credit hour requirement for students in the final semester of their program of study.
The legislation also states that if a course required for a student’s program of study isn’t offered at or doesn’t have any available space a community college or state college and the student instead enrolls in such a course at a university that is part of the system, those university credit hours must be counted toward the 15 credit-hour requirement for the grant program.
Watch the hearing at 3:30 p.m. in the Senate Committee on Education.