All or parts of 208 bills passed by the 2021 Legislature take effect Thursday, including the so-called “public option” health insurance plan.
That ambitious measure seeks to create a health insurance program for all Nevadans that is at least as good as Medicare but to provide that coverage at a lower cost than Medicare.
In addition, the list includes raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, sending mail-in ballots to every active registered voter for every election and prohibiting the sale of appliances that don’t meet Nevada’s energy efficiency standards.
The public option outlined in SB420 won’t actually go live until 2025 and then only after an actuarial study determines whether it’s even feasible.
Much in the plan depends on whether the state can convince the federal government to grant waivers allowing the state to get federal funding to pay for it.
The plan would be available to all Nevadans and to small businesses to enable them to provide coverage for their workers.
The legislation also requires health care providers in the state who participate in Medicaid or the Public Employee Benefits Program to participate and it expands Medicaid coverage for pregnant women in Nevada.
The insurance would be purchased through the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange and provide at least the level of coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act at a cost at least 5 percent less than the premium rates set for a given zip code.
AB59’s ban on selling tobacco products to people under age 21 took effect when Gov. Steve Sisolak signed it. But all the other rules such as requiring third party verification of a person’s age and tightening controls over electronic or Internet sales are now also in effect.
AB321 requires county and city election officials to send mail-in ballots to every registered, active voter for every election. That requirement was in effect for the November 2020 General Elections. Clerks across the state along with the Secretary of State said it worked well and they found no evidence of voter fraud. But detractors, primarily Republicans, claim there were thousands of illegal ballots cast in Nevada, flipping the state from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. They have made that claim repeatedly but failed to produce evidence.
AB321 also requires drop boxes at every polling place and allows ballots postmarked by election day to be counted as much as four days after the election.
But the bill sets up a fairly rigorous system to verify signatures on the envelope of those mail-in ballots including mandating clerk staff training.
That measure is augmented by AB432 that expands automatic voter registration beyond DMV to the staff that handles Medicaid applications, the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange and other state and tribal entities approved by the governor.
AB383 directs the Office of Energy to adopt minimum standards of energy efficiency for appliances sold in Nevada and prohibits the sale, lease, rental or installation of new appliances that don’t meet those standards. Manufacturers would have to provide the state certifications showing their appliances meet those standards before they could be sold here.
AB262 allows students who are members of Nevada’s Indian tribes to attend classes at any Nevada System of Higher Education institution basically for free. The law waives all registration, per credit and other fees for all members of federally-recognized Indian tribes or nations that are all or partly located in Nevada. Students must be enrolled members of a qualifying tribe, a Nevada resident for at least one year with a 2.0 or higher grade point average and complete the application for federal student aid.
SB347 creates the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct at NSHE institutions, mandating a survey on the subject for those in NSHE and an annual report on incidents of sexual misconduct. It also puts in place protections for victims.
In addition, it opens the door for non-citizens to receive the Millennium Scholarship, Opportunity Grants and Nevada Promise scholarships whether legally in the U.S. or not.
AB416 orders a full audit of all revenues coming into the Nevada System of Higher Education and how those funds are spent. Lawmakers have long complained they aren’t provided thorough and accurate information about all the non-state money that feeds NSHE institutions. The bill includes $209,000 to pay for the audit.
AB419 puts rules in place to try to improve low performing charter schools, essentially mirroring the rules public school districts are already required to follow. Those charter schools would also have to report their progress and disclose if they have low ratings.
AB205 gives Nevada schools access to Narcan, an opioid antagonist that can reverse an opioid overdose in a matter of minutes. It also expands the ability of schools both public and private to get epinephrine, which can reverse the effects of anaphylactic shock for those, who have a severe allergy to such things as bee stings or peanut butter.
AB186, requested by police unions across the state, prohibits agencies from requiring officers to issue a certain number of tickets or make a certain number of arrests. Police agencies long denied such quotas exist but it was referenced several years ago in a lawsuit by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper whose supervisors said wasn’t writing enough tickets.
SB357 orders the Department of Corrections to track the expenses related to housing and managing youthful offenders in Nevada prisons.
That measure is accompanied by SB366 that bars housing juveniles judged incompetent mentally or otherwise in correctional facilities. They would, instead, be managed in programs operated by the Department of Health and Human Services.
SB430 expands the Nevada Infrastructure Bank, authorizing the bank to make loans or provide funding for a long list of infrastructure projects using up to $75 million in General Obligation bonds. The bank was created in a prior legislative session but never funded. This time, the authorization for the bonding was included in the budget.
Until SB430 was approved, the bank was only allowed to fund transportation projects.
Now it can make loans or fund a wide variety of projects including broadband and water and wastewater projects and practically any project that is related to economic development.
The bank can also accept contributions and hold local funding in its trust fund.
AB482 requires the Secretary of State to suspend a state business license or any other certification, registration or permit if the business owes the state a debt. The business would have to pay the debt, set up a payment plan or prove the debt was not owed to regain its license. The law doesn’t apply to DMV, the Insurance Division, Department of Business and Industry or local government debts.
Also taking effect are the bills that implement the state’s two-year budget. They include the Appropriations Act that spells out how General Fund and Highway Fund money is spent, the Authorizations Act that sets spending for federal and all other money, the capital improvements bill, K-12 Education funding, the bill that sets the state contribution to employee benefits and the pay bill that sets salaries and employee raises.
Some workers have indicated a possible challenge to the pay bill because state workers represented by a union get a 3 percent raise while those not union covered only get 1 percent. Employee groups including those in NSHE say that’s unfair because the law specifically prohibits them from collective bargaining. Opponents also described the disparity as an attempt to force people to join unions.