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Lawmakers Pile on New Bills, Pitch for Student Loan Aid

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The Nevada Legislature will jump-start the week with dozens of new bills and a debate on whether the state should pitch in to help people pay down student loans.

Here’s more on the issues facing legislators this week:

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STUDENT LOAN AID

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, a Las Vegas Democrat, wants Nevada to sell bonds for college students to refinance their loans.

Members of Congress and state legislatures across the country are pursuing different ways to help people afford the climbing cost of postsecondary education — from financial literacy programs to a bill in the House of Representatives proposing tax breaks for companies that help pay down employees’ college debt.

Senate Bill 90 would put money behind an existing student loan program in Nevada.

One caveat: It appears the tax-free special-finance bonds that Ford suggests to fund the program cannot be used to refinance student loans, according to the state Department of Business and Industry.

Director Bruce Breslow will work with Ford “to see if there are other viable options,” a fiscal note from the department says.

C.J. Manthe, administrator of the Nevada Housing Division, estimates that bonding for $100 million under the proposed method could help about 4,000 people whose loans average $25,000. The true cost of the bonds — before interest — would be about $150 million once fees are paid, Manthe said.

If implemented, the program could cost $17 million a year for contracted services, new employees and information technology, according to the business department.

The Senate Committee on Government Affairs will hear Ford’s bill Monday.

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NAMESAKE BILLS DUE

Lawmakers have requested their attorneys at the Legislative Counsel Bureau draw up 1,145 bills for the session. As Friday afternoon, 680 of those had been composed and filed online.

Dozens of bills not yet written that are sponsored by individual lawmakers — a type of namesake legislation that accounts for roughly 70 percent of all requests this year — must be drafted and introduced in their respective chambers before a Monday night deadline.

That means scores of new bills will be published Monday.

Most proposals that are unpublished by Tuesday will be those sponsored by committees or state agencies. Those must be introduced by March 27.

Proposals that don’t meet the deadlines could be amended into other bills or face a two-year wait for the next legislative session.

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END IN SIGHT FOR BUDGET HEARINGS

Lawmakers have discussed the finer details of two-thirds of the state budgets they’ll hear this session. They and legislative staff will wrap up budget meetings this week and prepare to weigh in on the future of 449 state accounts.

Members of the Senate and Assembly financial committees will move those hearings off their plates only to be served an onslaught of policy proposals that would, if passed, each cost the state hundreds to billions of dollars.

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