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Lawmakers OK Proposed Birth Control, Mom Accommodations

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — With 200 measures facing a midnight deadline, Nevada lawmakers on Tuesday passed several bills on women’s issues including workplace accommodations for mothers and expanded access to birth control.

The state Senate and Assembly worked into the evening to vote bills out of the chambers in which they were introduced to keep the proposals alive, including legislation being considered in part to counter Republicans’ continued effort to unravel the Affordable Care Act.

Democratic Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel is seeking to expand on former President Barack Obama’s federal health law with a bill requiring Nevada businesses employing 50 or more people to provide a place that is not only private but also clean for women to express breast milk at work. Six Republican Assembly members joined Democrats in a 33-9 vote to approve Assembly Bill 113.

Democratic Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro has proposed the state outlaw businesses with 15 or more employees from discriminating against pregnant women — a federal law since 2000. Her bill would go further to also mandate that, upon request, those employers adjust work conditions for pregnant women, such as allowing them to sit down intermittently or take additional restroom breaks.

“I don’t think that we should be saying no to legislation that can make it possible for women to say ‘I want to have a family, but I also worked really hard for my career or I have to provide for my family and I want to do both,'” Cannizzaro said.

Senators passed Senate Bill 253 unanimously.

Both bills would allow companies who would face an undue hardship to come up with a reasonable alternative for maternity accommodations or nursing rooms.

Another proposal would allow women to pick up a year’s supply of birth control at a time, which proponents say would decrease health risks and unplanned pregnancies that occur between contraceptive prescriptions.

Birth control pills are typically provided in one- or three-month quantities. Four states have enacted laws allowing 12-month supplies.

Additionally, Assembly Bill 249 would enact on the state level an “Obamacare” provision requiring birth control to be provided free of co-pays or other costs on top of insurance premiums.

Democratic proponents backed off of their attempt earlier this session to ban religious exceptions for contraceptive coverage. No insurance companies in Nevada currently claim that exemption, and the state does not track whether individual employers seek release from the federal law, Nevada Division of Insurance spokeswoman Yeraldin Deavila said.

Republican Assembly members Lisa Krasner and John Ellison were the lone opposition to the birth control proposal in a 40-2 vote.

Facing a shortage of federal contributions for rural reproductive clinics, Nevada Democrats are attempting to establish a public-private revenue stream for family planning services. However, it’s unclear how much money the initiative would raise and a Democratic proposal for the state to contribute $4 million is outside the governor’s proposed budget.

“Regardless of what happens in Congress, we already have a health provider shortage in Nevada,” Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela said ahead of a 12-9 vote to pass her Senate Bill 122.

Lawmakers also approved bills that would expand the jurisdiction and codify goals of the Nevada Commission on Women, put baby-changing tables in both men’s and women’s restrooms in most newly constructed public buildings, and study ways to better connect low-income families with diaper assistance programs.

The bills all move to their opposite chambers.

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