Lawmakers are quickly approaching the halfway point of the 2017 Legislative session. There are officially 62 days left, and there’s still a lot of work to be done. So let’s recap the past seven days.
COMMITTEE BILL INTRODUCTIONS
Monday marked yet another deadline for the introduction of bills by committees. Over the course of the day, the legislature 21 committees dropped another 175 bills.
Several pieces of the new legislation were introduced on behalf of Governor Brian Sandoval’s Office and included many of the proposals the governor made during his State of the State address in January. Among them was a proposal for an additional excise tax on recreational marijuana where the proceeds will be used for Education.
The Governor’s office also officially introduced a plan to fund the controversial education savings accounts. In many ways the measure appears to be identical to one submitted by Senator Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas).
That’s interesting because Democratic leaders have already emphatically told reporters that Hammond’s plan is a non-starter, but when it came to the Governor’s plan Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford (D-Las Vegas) was less forceful. “We’ll look at the bill when we get it,” he said.
With Monday’s deadline, there are now more than 1000 different pieces of legislation now before lawmakers.
Sanctuary State Legislation Dead
SB223, a bill that would prohibit state and local police from working with federal officials to enforce immigration laws, appears to have been abandoned. The measure was scheduled for a committee hearing last Friday, but was then rescheduled and eventually pulled from the docket.
The measure was controversial from the start. Law enforcement groups saw the measure as an overreach by lawmakers. Some said the bill was too restrictive, others said it would force police to break their oaths to protect and serve. Yvanna Cancela (D-Las Vegas), met with those representatives earlier this month to work out some sort of compromise, but it appears that never happened.
Republicans, however, are viewing SB223’s quiet death as a victory. In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson (R-Las Vegas) said “ is a victory for Nevadans and for keeping our communities safe. I made the defeat of the sanctuary state bills my top priority and neither bill even received a legislative hearing. However, despite today's news, I will remain vigilant and will fight against any effort to resurrect this legislation before the end of the session. But for now thank you to everyone who let their voice be heard."
As part of a slew of bills aimed at making Nevada more environmentally friendly, lawmakers are considering a bill that would bring back the state’s older, better net metering rates for consumers. It would also place a floor on the amount utility companies can pay per kilowatt-hour.
In 2015, state utility regulators made changes to the state’s net metering rules that lowered the amount of money residents with solar panels received if they sell their excess energy back to electricity providers. Those changes caused the Nevada’s rooftop solar industry to shrivel up.
Proponents of the bill believe it would continue to force the state away from the use of coal-fired electric plants toward greener sources of energy. They also say it could spark new life into the consumer solar panel industry.
During the hearing on AB270 no one voice opposition to the bill, however, amendments have been proposed to make changes to the bill making it more business friendly.
Prescription Drug Price Controls
Healthcare and greater control over prescription drugs seems to be a major agenda item for the Democrat-led legislature. Among the bills that seek to place portions of the federal Affordable Care Act into state law is a measure that would place price controls on diabetes medication (insulin). SB265, introduced by Senator Yvanna Cancela (D-Las Vegas) also looks to require pharmaceutical sales representatives to be licensed in the state Nevada.
The two-hour hearing, brought dozens of private residents, healthcare providers and lobbyists to the table. Many residents and health care providers spoke in favor of the measure saying it would be a boon to not only the state’s poorest residents but also those living on a fixed income.
However, lobbyists for the pharmaceutical companies doubted the bill would have the desired effect of lowering drug prices. According to Kipp Snyder with Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PHARMA), much of the pricing for medications are outside the control of his industry.
Lawmakers are also spent a lot of time examining a number of bills aimed at Clark County and Southern Nevada exclusively, We won’t spend much time on covering these bills, however, it’s worthy of a mention due to either their funding impacts or their controversial matter.
Assembly Bill 469 looks to make the reorganization of the Clark County School District official state policy. The impact of the reorganization of the largest district in the state could have a major impact on funding by giving district officials more autonomy over spending decisions. So far it seems this bill has bipartisan support in both chambers.
Another lengthy committee hearing was held on AB227, a measure that seeks to change the zoning laws around the national conservation or recreation areas. The bill would affect the whole state, but it’s really aimed at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area outside of Las Vegas. The measure has been debated for the better part of 15 years. Business leaders and developers say the canyon is primed for building. Detractors believe development would have a harmful impact on the environment around the conservation area.
LOOKING AHEAD TO NEXT WEEK
Expect more of the same… lots of committee hearings. The reason for this is because lawmakers are facing a April 14 deadline to pass all legislation moving forward out of committee. That being said, look for a number of education bills to move through the process. I would also expect some movement from lawmakers on crafting the budget for the 2018-2019 biennium, but it’s still a little early in the session to begin making predictions on what the budget will look like over the next two years.