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2019 Nevada Legislative Recap

Lawmakers wrapped up at midnight on June 3rd after giving final approval to a two-year, $8.8 billion state budget. Among other things, the spending plan gives state workers and teachers a pay raise, fulfilling a promise by Gov. Steve Sisolak.

The Nevada Legislature passed almost 700 bills and resolutions during the 2019 session. These range from raising the minimum wage to revamping the state’s 1960s-vintage education funding formula, and much more. Among legislation of particular interest:

Healthcare

Medicaid reimbursement rate increases: The Nevada Legislature increased NICU rates 25%, PICU rates 15%, and raised acute per-diem rates by 2.5% for hospitals.

Out-of-network emergency room billing: Out-of-network ER providers must bill at slightly above in-network rates and work out disputes without putting the patient in the middle. After two years out of network, disputes payments will be settled by baseball-style arbitration. (Assembly Bill 469)

Pre-existing conditions: Nevada will be the fifth state to fully incorporate the federal Affordable Care Act’s protections for patients with pre-existing conditions into state law. This will help consumers navigate and resolve problems with their insurers. (Assembly Bill 170)

Medical marijuana: Anxiety, autism, autoimmune disorders, addiction, anorexia, and certain neuropathies will now be added to the list of allowable conditions for medical marijuana use. (Senate Bill 430)

Patient Protection Commission: A Patient Protection Commission will review issues of health care quality, accessibility, and affordability, and report twice a year to the Governor and Legislature. (Senate Bill 544)

Micro/Shadow hospitals: All current short-term acute care licensed hospitals must become CMS-certified and participate in Medicare by July 1, 2021. Any future such hospitals must be CMS-certified and accept Medicare prior to opening. (Assembly Bill 469)

Workplace violence: Every hospital must develop and maintain a plan for the prevention of and the response to workplace violence, and must carry out certain controls to prevent and mitigate the risk of workplace violence. Also, a committee on workplace safety will be established to assist in the development of these plans. (Assembly Bill 348)

Trauma centers: Each off-campus location of a hospital (specifically emergency departments, ambulatory surgery centers, and urgent care centers) must have its own distinct national provider identifier number. Also, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services must conduct an assessment regarding the necessity of new trauma centers. (Assembly Bill 317)

Business and Commerce

Minimum age to work for gaming businesses: A person will no longer have to be 21 to work for a gaming equipment company. The legislation allows 18-year-olds (and individuals as young as 16 who have been emancipated by a court) to work as licensed gaming employees for gaming manufacturers and distributors. (Assembly Bill 221)

Minimum wage: The state’s minimum wage will gradually rise to $12 per hour over the next five years. This will represent a change from the current minimum wage of $8.25 for employers that don’t offer health insurance and $7.25 for those that do. That will increase by 75 cents starting July 1, 2020, and will increase each year until 2024, when it reaches the $12 level for those who are not offered health insurance and $11 for those who are. (Assembly Bill 456)

Flat minimum wage: Lawmakers also began the process of amending the state constitution to set a flat $12 minimum wage for everyone, regardless of their health insurance, and to give the Legislature the power to further raise the minimum wage in the future. Assembly Joint Resolution 10 must be approved again in 2021 and then gain the support of the voters before it can take effect.

Campaigns, Elections, and Voting

Campaign reform: From now on, political candidates won’t be allowed to pay themselves a salary from their campaign accounts, and the new law also makes it clear that candidates can’t use any unspent campaign funds for personal use. Anyone caught violating these prohibitions will face a penalty of $10,000, up from the previous $5,000. The changes come after then-Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson resigned from the Legislature in March when it was revealed he had used campaign funds for personal expenses. (Senate Bill 557)

For voters: Nevadans will now be able to vote on the same day they register, and they’ll enjoy a longer period to register to vote online. (Assembly Bill 345)

Felony convictions: On July 1, some 77,000 Nevadans with felony convictions that prohibit them from voting will have their voting rights restored immediately. Anyone with a felony conviction who is released from prison after that date will have their voting rights restored upon their release. (Assembly Bill 431)

Recalling elected officials: It just got a little harder for people to remove their elected official from office. A new law will require county clerks to verify each individual signature on a recall petition, a far stricter requirement than the previous standard of using a 5% sample. The new law also requires recall organizers to pay to have the signatures counted. (Senate Bill 450)

Education

More money for schools: Education funding will increase by almost $300 per student next school year, thanks to an increase in for the state’s K-12 budget. Per-pupil funding will rise from $5,779 in the current year to $6,067 next school year under the new budget. (Assembly Bill 555)

Struggling readers: The state’s Read-by-3 program will receive an additional $63 million over the next two years. However, a key provision of the original law was deleted, meaning parents will now have to sign off for their child to be retained if they do not meet standards set by the state. The bill was championed by Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson, D-North Las Vegas, who died during the 2019 session. (Assembly Bill 289)

Funding formula: Lawmakers approved an overhaul to the state’s 52-year-old K-12 funding formula, which will be fully implemented in 2021. The new formula will allocate more funding to follow students who are in special education or gifted and talented programs, those who are at or near the poverty line, or those who are learning English. (Senate Bill 543)

Labor

Sick leave: Companies and organizations that employ 50 or more workers will have to offer at least 40 hours of paid sick leave a year. (Senate Bill 312)

Marijuana job tests: Starting next year, it will be illegal for an employer to refuse to hire a person just because he or she tested positive on a pre-employment test for marijuana. This new law does not apply to firefighters, doctors, or those who drive vehicles for a living. (Assembly Bill 132)

State worker collective bargaining: Some of Nevada’s 22,000 state government workers will gain the ability to bargain collectively for wages and benefits. However, the legislation gives the governor authority to determine whether to fund agreements that come out of the bargaining process. The new law prohibits state employees from striking. (Senate Bill 135)

Taxes

Fuel taxes: A change in law will allow all Nevada counties to impose a 5-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel. Previously, only counties with populations above 100,000 – just Clark and Washoe – were allowed to impose the tax on diesel. All counties were already authorized to tax regular motor fuel. (Senate Bill 48)

Vaping: Under the new law, e-cigarettes and related products will be subject to a 30 percent wholesale tax. (Senate Bill 263) 

Public Safety

Gun owners: An omnibus public safety measure will ban bump stocks, create red flag laws to take guns away from those deemed likely to do harm, enforce safe storage provisions to keep firearms away from minors, and drop the permissible blood alcohol content level while possessing a weapon to 0.08. (Assembly Bill 291)

Background checks: Requires background checks for private gun sales starting in January 2020. (Senate Bill 143)