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Politics and Policy

#NVLeg Week 13: Innovation Zones And Public Options

Two people are walking next to each other through a doorway.
David Calvert
The Nevada Independent
Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro walks out of the Senate chambers inside the Legislature on March 15, 2021, in Carson City, Nev.

There’s little more than a month until the 81st Session of the Nevada Legislature comes to an end, and lawmakers are still considering hundreds of bills. KUNR Morning Edition host Noah Glick spoke with political editor Paul Boger about how the week played out in Carson City.

Noah Glick: Well, let’s talk about innovation zones. You know, that’s been a topic that we’ve been talking about quite a bit. So earlier this week, Governor Sisolak and Democratic leaders in the legislature announced they will study the measure over the next couple of years. What happened there?

Paul Boger: All right, so let’s recap, shall we? Innovation zones are this proposal that Governor Steve Sisolak mentioned in his State of the State in January. We didn’t get a whole lot of information at that time, but as the session began and a few weeks in, we did see the language of the bill for the innovation zones. ... [That bill] would have given tech companies the ability to essentially buy large parcels of land and form their own county governments.

This was a very controversial bill when it came out, when we first saw the language. [We] did see some attempts by the governor to maybe change some minds; they held a press conference early in those talks, but then the bill just went by the wayside. We didn’t hear anything about it, and that was a key indication that maybe this was not working out like the governor wanted it to.

Earlier this week, we did see that they were moving that to a study. Studies are what lawmakers do to kill things without necessarily killing things. That’s not to say that they won’t actually study it and try to see if there is some form of innovation zones that would work for Nevada, but at this point, that is not going to happen in the near future.

Glick: Sure, it’s like lawmakers speak.

Boger: It’s lawmakers speak, right.

Glick: Well, the other big news this week seems to be the public option health insurance bill that was introduced in the Senate. So what does the legislation do? And could it help limit the number of uninsured in the state?

Boger: You know, that’s a really good question because, at this point, it’s hard to say what that bill does.

I mention that because it requires insurers who want to provide coverage through Medicaid … it would require them to create a public option. Now that insurance option would have some stipulations. It would have to have a 5% markdown over [other plans]. Essentially it would create a bronze plan, right?

That’s interesting in that it’s just kind of like it’s more of the ACA, the Affordable Care Act. I don’t really see how this is a “public option” as yet; however, the bill was just introduced. We’re going to have a hearing next week. We’ll get more information on it.

But it is an interesting bill in that you’re already seeing this kind of become maybe the focal point of the session in that you have Senate Democrats really trying to push it already. And you’ve got healthcare providers, insurers, hospitals, coming out against it. Those are the groups that typically come out against these sorts of bills. So it’s going to be a fight in the last month.

Glick: Is there anything else catching your eye this week from Carson City?

Boger: Yeah, a few things I want to mention.

First off, you know, we have AB286, that was that gun bill, that ghost gun bill that came out of the Assembly. That was amended to remove a really interesting aspect. It was more of the October 1 aspect of it in that it would have increased trespassing penalties for people who bring guns onto properties where property owners say they’re not allowed. That was taken out of the bill. So it’s now just the ghost gun ban.

There’s also AB88. It would remove [offensive and] Indigenous names from high school mascots. That’s actually been amended to include the Sundown Siren in Minden. That is incredibly controversial. The siren goes off at noon and at six in Minden. Those sirens have been typically tied to racist sundown laws, where minorities had to leave the city limits by sundown. That siren now goes off in “honor of first responders.” But a lot of the folks, especially the Washoe Tribe down there, want it gone.

Glick: So, you know, we are entering the final month of this session, and May 31 is the last day. So what are you keeping your eye on in the coming weeks as we wrap up here?

Boger: I want to mention next week in particular because that is the Economic Forum. And the Economic Forum is everything, kind of? That’s when lawmakers will get their final projections for the next biennium, their final financial projections. So they’re going to get a good idea of how much money the state will actually have to work with, to budget with, over these final budget negotiations. And what we’re seeing is the state is recovering a lot faster than previously predicted. We saw that a lot of the minor accounts will have about $80 to $100 million more than they were expected to have, and those are just the minor accounts. We’re not talking sales taxes [or] gaming taxes, which are really starting to get a lot better.

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