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Nevada Lawmakers Reach Budget Deal, Revive Insulin Bill

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada lawmakers approved a final budget deal Sunday night that would levy marijuana taxes, send more money to public education and avoid a massive funding shortfall — one day ahead of the Legislature’s final deadline.

State senators passed the crux of the agreement after 11 p.m. Sunday.

The Assembly is scheduled to concur on Monday. With Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s expected approval, the deal would allow the state to dodge a nearly $290 million politically motivated budget hole .

Leaders of both parties praised the solution to what was a political stalemate over a school voucher program that Democrats scrapped days earlier.

“I’m proud that we’ve been able to work in a bipartisan fashion to close out this session with these important pieces of legislation,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford said in an emailed statement.

The agreement includes a 10 percent tax on marijuana sales and 15 percent tax on growers. Over the next two years, that revenue would largely fund a $20 million boost for the state’s Opportunity Scholarships and provide $25 million to build a medical building at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas contingent on matching funds from private donors.

Another $17 million would be divided between K-12 schools in Clark and Washoe counties. It will cover an unexpected loss of $6.6 million for Reno-area schools caused largely by population distribution and the state’s per-pupil funding formula.

In a separate political deal, lawmakers revived major aspects of an insulin pricing transparency bill that the governor vetoed last week.

Republican Sen. Michael Roberson worked with Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela to incorporate into his Senate Bill 539 the provisions of Cancela’s bill that would require pharmaceutical companies to disclose the list prices they set and profits they make on insulin.

Cancela said she was pleased to work with the governor as well to address the concerns he outlined in his Friday veto statement.

The bill retains Roberson’s proposal to require drugmakers to justify price hikes and prohibit market middlemen that negotiate rates for insurers, called pharmacy benefit managers, from using what he calls a “gag rule” to keep pharmacists from telling patients about alternate or less-expensive prescriptions.

It removes a provision of Cancela’s vetoed bill that would have mandated pharmaceutical companies to give public notice 90 days before raising prices. Sandoval said in a veto message that that could create a perverse incentive for some companies to manipulate insulin supplies.

“Through bipartisan collaboration, Nevada has an opportunity to pass the strongest drug transparency language in the nation,” Cancela said in a statement.

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