By Megan Messerly, Riley Snyder and
The Nevada Independent
Nevada lawmakers ended Monday night having passed hundreds of bills amid a frantic rush to the end of the legislative session, but many high-profile measures including bail reform, a Reno property tax ballot question and reimbursements for recycling became casualties of the legislative process.
Out of nearly 1,200 bills and resolutions introduced during the 120 day legislative session, roughly 480 measures failed to advance out of the Senate and Assembly and make it to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s desk. Hundreds of bills were culled during legislative deadlines for committee and initial house passage earlier in the session, but some — including a measure creating an all-payer health insurance claims database — were in limbo until the clock struck midnight on Monday.
Other major bills that failed to advance out of the 2019 Legislature included last-minute efforts appropriating money to legal aid organizations, requiring all public and charter schools to have a library, raising the smoking age to 21 and requiring that Medicaid cover the cost of donor breast milk. A common graveyard for dead bills was the legislative budget committees, where measures costing the state or local governments money are often kept until the last minute until the budget is approved. (Legislators approved nearly $60 million in extra spending on the final day of the session.)
Here’s a look at some of the bills that did not pass out of the 2019 Legislature:
SB446: Supplementing Medicaid payments for personal care services
This bill, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer, proposed to authorize Medicaid recipients to receive reimbursements for personal care services covered under Medicaid so they could use that money to pay a personal care assistant directly.
The overall goal of the bill was to allow Medicaid recipients to supplement the Medicaid reimbursement rate with some of their own money in order to find someone willing to care for them in the home. Settelmeyer proposed the legislation after a wheelchair-bound constituent came to him, unable to find a personal care assistant at the current Medicaid rate.
The bill received a last-minute vote on the Senate floor Monday night, passing unanimously, but failed to advance in the Assembly.
AB545: Legal aid funding
An emergency bill introduced in the waning days of the session by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson that would have annually allocated several million dollars to legal aid organizations statewide failed to gain traction and died without ever coming up for a vote.
As written, AB545 would have created a new budget account in to which the attorney general’s office would be required to deposit all money acquired through settlements or judgments, with requirements to annually transfer $3 million proportionally to the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Nevada Legal Services and Washoe Legal Services.
But the bill never came up for a hearing, amid concerns from the attorney general’s office that the measure was drafted too broadly and would place more funds than intended into the special budget account.
SB191: Mandatory school libraries
Lawmakers failed to advance SB191, which would have required every public school — including certain charter schools — to establish and maintain a library. It would have given the state Board of Education the authority to develop regulations on the minimum qualifications for a library.
The bill was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Joyce Woodhouse and passed out of the Senate Education Committee but failed to emerge from the Senate Finance Committee or get votes of the Senate and Assembly.
SB191 was considered an unfunded mandate, and districts said it would cost millions to implement.
SB310: Reimbursement for recycling bottles and cans
A bill that would have required a 5-cent deposit be paid on recyclable cans and bottles, and then reimbursed when a customer turns those in at a recycling center, failed to get any votes in the full Senate or Assembly.
The measure was backed by Democratic Sen. Melanie Scheible and would bring Nevada in line with 10 other states that offer monetary incentives for recycling. It passed a committee vote but never advanced further.
Nevada adopted a goal in 1991 of recycling 25 percent of its waste. Since 2003, however, the state reports it’s recycling about 21 percent.
SB145: Battle Born Opportunity Grant
A bill that would have created a need-based scholarship for university students failed to come up for any final votes.
The measure — developed out of the work of an interim committee on college affordability — would have expanded upon the concept of the Silver State Opportunity Grant. That need-based scholarship supports students in community colleges and at Nevada State College.
But the Nevada System of Higher Education estimated it would cost $126 million each biennium to cover all eligible students.
The Legislature did advance other measures to offer financial aid, including a bill to put $33 million to continue the merit-based Millennium Scholarship for another two years and funding for the Nevada Promise Scholarship for community college students.
AB125: Bail reform
A last-ditch effort by progressive groups to pass substantial reforms to how courts in the state require cash bail for pretrial release died without a vote in the Senate and with lawmakers approving an interim study on the issue.
Sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Dina Neal, AB125 passed on party-lines out of the Assembly but never made it out of the Senate Judiciary, where it was criticized during a bill hearing by district attorneys and other legal professionals as overly vague and potentially difficult to comply with in rural counties. It would have prohibited bail schedules, allowed “own recognize” release (without conditions) for most misdemeanor crimes and require pretrial release hearings be held within 72 hours of arrest.
Instead, lawmakers quickly introduced and approved SCR11, an interim study on pretrial release and cash bail.
AB544: Raising the smoking age
A last-minute measure to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 cleared the Assembly 38-3 on Sunday but never received a hearing in the Senate. Had the Senate heard the measure on Monday, it would have had to suspend its rules to advance the measure before the end of the session.
The proposal surfaced after legislative leaders declined to add a provision raising the smoking age into a bill to put a 30 percent wholesale tax on vaping products.
SB556: Reno property tax bill
A last-minute bill proposed by Democratic state Sen. Julia Ratti would have allowed cities and counties to ask voters in 2020 whether to raise property taxes 5 cents per $100 of valuation to pay for more police officers and firefighters failed to advance out of the Senate Revenue and Economic Development Committee after a hearing on Saturday.
The proposal was pushed for by the City of Reno, which projected the proposal would allow it to raise $4 million a year. It wouldn’t have applied to Clark County or any cities within it.
SB115: Donor breast milk
A pricey proposal to require the state’s Medicaid program to cover the cost of donor breast milk and human milk fortifier for premature babies with a birth weight of 1,500 grams or less or those suffering with intestinal issues met its end in the Senate Finance Committee.
The bill, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Scott Hammond, came with a $7.8 million price tag to cover Medicaid’s share of paying for the donor breast milk.
SB472: All-payer health insurance claims database
A bill that would have required the state to establish an all-payer health insurance claims database containing information for all medical, dental and pharmacy claims in the state failed to advance in the waning hours of the legislative session. The measure would have also required the Department of Health and Human Services to publish an annual report looking at the quality, efficiency and cost of health care in the data and break trends down by demographics, income, health status, geography and language.
The creation of the database was going to be contingent upon the state receiving a 90-10 match from the federal government.
AB539: Office of county counsel
A bill backed by Clark County that would have allowed counties to create county counsel offices assuming many non-criminal duties typically assigned to a district attorney failed to advance out of the Assembly before the end of session.
The measure, which would have created an office for a separate legal counsel to review contracts or draft ordinances, came amid reflection of the fact that the district attorneys and their clients don’t always agree. The bill was exempted from legislative deadlines and passed out of the Assembly on May 24, but the body rescinded the action and placed the measure on the desk until the end of the legislative session.
This article was reprinted with permission by The Nevada Independent. Visit them online at thenevadaindependent.com.