Sandoval weighs bills on energy, expanded Medicaid
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval faced big decisions on the future of the state’s energy and health care policies on Tuesday with several bills the Legislature sent to him in the final hours of the session.
The Legislature’s final adjournment Monday night left for dead proposals that would have banned fracking, renamed the McCarran International Airport for Harry Reid and lowered the school age kids must start attending school from 7 to 6 years, among others.
The governor signed a dozen bills Tuesday, but hundreds more are on his desk. He must sign or veto them, or they will automatically become law at the end of the day on June 16.
Here are some of the bills awaiting the governor’s action:
STATEWIDE ENERGY STANDARD
Sandoval said early this week he was still undecided on Assembly Bill 206, which would mandate that 40 percent of the state’s electricity production come from clean energy sources by 2030. The state is currently working toward 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. In several interviews throughout the session, Sandoval echoed the concerns of the state’s monopolized energy provider, NV Energy, and opponents at the Legislature that forcing the electricity provider to build and connect clean-energy infrastructure ahead of a 2018 ballot measure to overhaul the market could leave resources stranded and cause rate hikes.
Tesla and Sunrun were quick to announce they plan to begin selling solar energy equipment in Nevada after the governor said on Monday he will sign a bill making rooftop solar energy more financially viable for residents and businesses.
Nevada’s solar industry entered a tailspin in 2015 when state utility regulators began implementing progressively decreasing solar energy credits, effectively driving up the cost for residents to generate solar power at home and prompting hundreds of layoffs.
Assemblyman Chris Brooks, who once ran a solar energy company in southern Nevada, set out this session to right the ship. The Las Vegas Democrat’s Assembly Bill 405 will reinstate favorable rates for home-solar generators to exchange some of their daytime energy for nighttime power from the state grid.
NEIGHBORHOOD SOLAR SHARE
Senate Bill 392 would provide various discounts and regulations to facilitate neighborhood solar energy systems of up to 12 megawatts. Renters, landlords, shaded homes and people who can’t afford the high — though decreasing — start-up cost of solar energy equipment could subscribe to off-site solar panels and pay based on how much energy they use. It would gear $1 million of the incentives toward low-and-moderate-income customers, homeless shelters and tribal reservations.
In 2012, Sandoval became the first Republican governor to decide to expand Medicaid. About 300,000 Nevadans have since been added to the rolls. Now he faces a Democratic bid to allow anyone who doesn’t have access to employer insurance, regardless of need, to sign up for the government-subsidized program beginning in 2019 under Assembly Bill 374.
HEALTH CARE FOR IMMIGRANT KIDS
Senate Bill 325 would end the current five-year wait period for immigrant children in low-income families to get on government-subsidized health insurance. Thirty-one other states have opted to expedite care. Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela amended the measure to allow state health officials to reinstate the five-year delay if Medicaid funds are slashed.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS
Senate Bill 391 from Democratic Sen. Mo Denis would provide $3.5 million next year in community college scholarships. Supporters claim the proposal would effectively make community college free, but the funds are limited and would be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. It is one component of a significant education boost the Legislature approved this session.
RAPE KITS BACKLOG
After Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s office led a two-year working group to investigate a backlog of Nevada rape kits totaling some 8,000 cases, lawmakers moved forward with a bipartisan proposal to implement time limits to test forensic evidence gathered in sexual assault cases. Assembly Bill 97 would require police to send kits to laboratories within 30 days of collecting them, and mandate that laboratories test the samples within 180 days of receiving them. The bill was amended this week to include a proposal from Republican Sen. Becky Harris to establish a statewide computer tracking system for the evidence.