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Nevada Lawmakers Struggling With School Voucher Issue

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada lawmakers are counting down the final eight days of the biennial session with a key budget issue still unresolved.

A two-year state spending plan of over $8 billion hangs in the balance as Republicans and Democrats negotiate how to implement a school voucher program in a way that both parties can agree on.

Republican leaders have said for months that their caucuses will oppose any budget that does not include the Education Savings Accounts program.

But neither side had made concessions by this weekend, nearly two weeks after lawmakers split into working groups to negotiate the contentious issue.

The Education Savings Accounts program is aimed at providing public funds for families to spend on K-12 education outside the public school system. But it has been bogged down in legal challenges since its inception in 2015.

In a split ruling in September, the Nevada Supreme Court decided the concept was constitutional, but funding it with dollars dedicated to public education was not.

As the dealing continues, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval signed more than 150 bills into law ranging from updating a statewide prescription drug donation initiative to protecting the rights of juvenile offenders.

Sandoval has vetoed nine bills including proposed expansions of prevailing wage laws, which he called costly; changes in conservation policies that he called unnecessary; and additional methods for releasing people from police custody without bail that he called unproven.

Here’s a look at some of the bills the governor has signed into law:
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JUVENILE OFFENDERS
Assembly Bill 180 establishes juvenile offenders’ rights to clean clothing, personal hygiene products, education and treatment with “basic human dignity and respect” at correction centers. Minors detained in state and local lockups will also get religious accommodations and regular communication with family.

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CHILD VICTIMS
A bipartisan measure will give people 20 years after they turn 18 to file suit and seek restitution against people accused of sexually assaulting them.
Currently, victims have 10 years. Assembly Bill 145 also would extend from three years to 20 years the time limit to file civil suits involving child pornography.

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RX DONATIONS
Sen. Joseph Hardy sponsored a bill that will merge two existing prescription drug donation programs currently focused on HIV/AIDS and cancer. It also expands the scope of medicines that can be donated to include any expensive drugs.
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CLEAN ENERGY
Assemblyman William McCurdy’s Assembly Bill 223 aims to force utility companies to direct at least 5 percent of the money they spend on energy efficiency programs to low-income neighborhoods.
The proposal from the Las Vegas Democrat is among a slew of renewable energy proposals pursued by Democrats this session. Lawmakers are still working on bills that will be a heavier lift at the governor’s office, including doubling the state’s renewable energy standard.

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SUICIDE PREVENTION
Assembly Bill 105 will require doctors and physician assistants to take two hours of suicide prevention training within two years of receiving their license and every four years after that. It was sponsored by Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson, a North Las Vegas Democrat.

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DISABLED VOTERS
Poll workers must offer Nevada voters with disabilities a separate line and priority access to ballot boxes under a measure from Sen. James Settelmeyer, a Minden Republican. It will take effect in October.

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SEXUAL CONSENT
The Nevada Youth Legislature sponsored Senate Bill 108, directing the State Board of Education to study how secondary schools could implement teaching about the legal definition of sexual consent and how to comply with it. The measure also deals with instruction on domestic violence, sexting, driving under the influence and stalking.

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