Legislature starts second week focusing on state workers’ health benefits | NevadaAppeal.com

Legislature starts second week focusing on state workers’ health benefits

Associated Press Writer

The 2007 Nevada Legislature opens its second week Monday with an Assembly hearing that’s expected to focus on a huge, long-term liability of up to $4.1 billion in health benefits for current and future state government workers.

The Government Affairs Committee will hear from Leslie Johnstone, executive officer of the state’s employee benefit program. The liability issue is one of the big concerns facing lawmakers. Potential solutions to reduce the liability range from big appropriations for some 30 years to smaller appropriations of taxpayer dollars coupled with moneysaving limits on benefits, higher premiums and reduced pay raises for state employees.

Also Monday, Assembly Democrats plan a press briefing on their education agenda, which includes a bid for all-day kindergarten in Nevada’s public schools. The kindergarten plan, opposed by Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons, also will be discussed at an Assembly Education Committee hearing.

Gibbons’ proposed budget for his office and the governor’s mansion will be reviewed Monday in Senate Finance. The panel and its Assembly counterpart, Ways and Means, also will review the state Gaming Control Board, which oversees the state’s gambling industry.

Ways and Means also is scheduled to review spending plans for the state agency that has been battling federal efforts to open a high-level nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain.

Senate Judiciary will review a plan for early release of some prisoners from county or city jails to relieve overcrowding. Assembly Judiciary is scheduled to discuss penalties for graffiti and other damage to property.

Assembly Natural Resources looks at the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on Monday, while Senate Human Resources reviews the state’s big Medicaid program. The total of Medicaid recipients in Nevada is about 170,000. That’s up from about 100,000 in 2000.

On Tuesday, a joint Senate-Assembly budget panel will discuss the state Department of Motor Vehicles and the federal Real ID Act, which calls for a national driver’s license. DMV chief Ginny Lewis says the new federal requirement could lead to chaos, including DMV wait times for Nevadans that could double.

An Assembly panel dealing with corrections, parole and probation will hear from state Department of Corrections officials and also from former Chief Justice Bob Rose.

Also Tuesday, the Assembly committee that deals with election rules will discuss AJR10, a resolution that would change the residency requirements for voter registration.

On Wednesday, joint Senate-Assembly education committees will discuss a school adequacy study that says Nevada should spend at least $1.3 billion dollars more a year on public education to meet a goal of having most students meet federal and state standards.

Assembly Judiciary plans a midweek hearing on AB49, which would reinstate exemptions from jury duty for any federal or state officer, judge or lawyer, various county officials and state prison guards. A new exemption would be created for local jail guards.

Assembly Health and Human Services will get a report Wednesday on uninsured Nevadans. In trying to help the state’s roughly 400,000 uninsured, lawmakers say they may seek more insurance and health-care opportunities for target populations such as pregnant women, poor children or those who work for small businesses.

Also Wednesday, Senate Government Affairs will review SB13, which restricts local governments from trying to prevent people from carrying signs on public sidewalks “on the basis of content or viewpoint” of the signs.

On Thursday, Assembly Ways and Means will discuss the budget for the Health and Services Department, including spending plans for mental health programs and rural clinics.

Friday’s hearings include a Senate Human Resources and Education meeting on SB8, which says that repeated misuse of drugs or alcohol by someone responsible for a child’s welfare is evidence of negligent treatment.

Also Friday, Assembly Judiciary will discuss AB8, which would require that someone arrested for driving under the influence could not be released on bail for at least 12 hours.

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