231 bills pushed through before deadline
CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada lawmakers crammed in hundreds of bills Monday, dealing with everything from Medicaid and marijuana to voter ID, vehicle registration, fuel taxes and same sex marriage, as they faced a midnight deadline for bills requested by individual legislators to be introduced or die.
Legislators introduced 231 bills before floor sessions that ran into the evening concluded, with 104 being read in the Assembly and 127 introduced in the Senate. Four resolutions were also introduced during the day.
One bill would require newly eligible Medicaid recipients to pay a copayment for going to a hospital emergency room or urgent care center for non-emergency treatments.
SB306, sponsored by Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, would apply only to newly eligible Medicaid recipients under the federal health care reform law. A copayment of $5 would be imposed for recipients who go to an emergency room for non-emergency treatment. Similarly, $2 would be charged for seeking treatment at an urgent care center for a non-emergency.
There would be no copayment for an office visit with a primary care physician.
States are allowed to impose cost-sharing requirements for Medicaid recipients under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Under the law, the number of Nevada Medicaid recipients is expected to swell from 313,000 to 490,000 by 2015 as the eligibility threshold is expanded to include people with slightly higher incomes, as well as single childless adults — a population never before covered under Medicaid in Nevada.
A resolution to repeal Nevada’s constitutional ban on same sex marriage was also introduced. SJR13 would have to be approved by lawmakers this year and again in 2015 before it would go to voters in 2016.
Nevadans would legally be able to possess small amounts of marijuana under AB402, sponsored by Assembly Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas. The bill seeks to decriminalize adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and set up a system to tax pot to fund K-12 education. Another bill, SB374 pushed by Sen. Tick Segerblom, would authorize medical marijuana dispensaries.
Non-U.S. citizens could obtain Nevada driving privileges under SB303. Sponsored by Republicans and Democrats alike, it sets up procedures and requirements for them to get driving privilege cards. Applicants would still have to prove their identity by showing some form of identification, such as birth certificate or passport issued by the United States or a foreign government.
The cards would have to be renewed annually.
Sponsors of the bill, including Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, say the privilege card would allow people to drive legally and get insurance, but couldn’t be used for identification.
But another bill, SB367 introduced by Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, would prohibit anyone in the country illegally from obtaining a driver’s license or state and local benefits, and ban them from being eligible for the state’s Millennium Scholarship program.
Some other bills introduced Monday:
— Clark County would get $40 million over the next two years to implement pre-kindergarten programs to help a large number of children learn to speak and understand English before they enter elementary school.
— The value of vehicles on which government services taxes are paid when vehicles are registered would be reduced under SB300. There’s a caveat: the reduction would only be implemented if the loss in revenue is offset by new taxes that may be approved by the 2013 Legislature.
— Medical marijuana patients would be exempt from prosecution for having marijuana metabolite in his or her blood or urine under AB351. Medical pot users would still be banned from driving while under the influence of the drug, but they would not face prosecution just because marijuana metabolite, which can show up for days in a person’s blood or urine, is detected.
— Voters would have to show a photo identification card to cast a ballot in person under AB319, sponsored by some Assembly Republicans. Backers say county clerks would provide voter ID cards for free to anyone who doesn’t have another form of official, government identification. It’s in contrast to another measure sponsored by Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller to digitize Nevada’s polling books and add electronic images from Department of Motor Vehicle records. His bill would not require voters to carry a card.
— Nevadans would pay more at the gas pump under SB377. It seeks to increase the motor fuel tax by 2 cents, to 19.65 cents per gallon, beginning Jan. 1, 2014, with annual increases of 2 cents per gallon until 2023.
— People who fraudulently present themselves as a military war hero with the intent to obtain money or property would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor under SB365, which establishes the crime of stolen valor.
— The mining industry would pay be subject to higher taxes under two bills introduced in the Senate, SB400 and SB401. Both would revamp how the industry is taxed, and are contingent upon the Legislature and voters in 2014 removing the industry’s constitutional protections.
— Intentionally feeding wildlife would be a misdemeanor under SB371, though it would still be permissible to feed wild birds.