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Local News

Paid leave, prison reform, health measures among dozens of state laws taking effect with new year

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Michael Lyle, Nevada Current
January 2, 2024

Housing for people experiencing homelessness,  paid family leave for state employees, and “human composting” are among issues addressed in new Nevada laws that took effect January 1.

Eighty-five bills enacted during the 2023 Legislative Session went into effect with the new year, including several measures designed to address barriers to building more affordable and low income housing.

Through Assembly Bill 310, the Nevada Housing Division created a supportive housing grant fund designed to develop housing with wrap-around social services for unhoused folks.

Supportive housing, according to the bill, includes subsidized housing that “reduces barriers to retaining housing that are caused by a person’s rental history, criminal history and income. To qualify, a person must be experiencing homelessness or “at imminent risk of homelessness.”

The Corporation for Supportive Housing, a national nonprofit that advocates for building more affordable housing, estimates that 6,924 in Nevada need supportive housing.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, allocates $30 million over the biennium to support grants. Before approving grants for any funding, the division must consult with the Nevada Interagency Advisory Council on Homelessness.

“It is cost-effective to provide supportive housing to end homelessness,” Christine Hess, the former executive director for Nevada Housing Coalition, told lawmakers in May.

One year of supportive housing services costs about the same as nine days in the emergency room or three months in jail, Hess said. 

Also seeking to address affordable housing stock, Assembly Bill 213 allows local governments to approve increased density or multi-story developments, in the interest of augmenting affordable housing stock and taking advantage of infill opportunities. 

Referred to as the Housing Modernization Act, the bill was sponsored by Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Sandra Jauregui.

The bill mandates localities to start publishing online a list of all applications relating to land use planning for residential housing, including the date of the application and the number of days an application is pending. 

Under Assembly Bill 386 allows state employees up to eight weeks of paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child, to recover from a serious illness or care for a family member with a serious illness, or to address needs after a family member’s military deployment. 

The leave would be paid at 50% of the person’s regular wage.

Any sick leave accrued that’s more than 40 hours must be used before an employee can use paid family leave.

Several provisions bring long-sought after reforms to the Nevada Department of Corrections.

After several unsuccessful sessions of trying to restrict the use of solitary confinement, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 307, which requires the department to adopt a regulation on the use of solitary. 

The department must use the “least restrictive manner” when separating inmates from the general population, according to the bill. 

“This type of segregation for prisoners is especially detrimental for those with mental illnesses,” said Democratic state Sen. Pat Spearman, who sponsored the bill. “We’re not doing any justice by them by forcing them into this kind of situation but we are also virtually ensuring their mental health will suffer from this treatment.”

The bill restricts solitary confinement use to 15 consecutive days, after which a multidisciplinary treatment team, including a mental health clinician, would conduct a review to determine where to place the inmate.

Assembly Bill 452, which was co-presented by the prison advocacy group Return Strong and NDOC director James Dzurenda, creates an ombudsman to offer independent oversight of the prison system.

During the bill’s hearing, Dzurenda said states that have independent oversight “show a reduction in litigation cases.”

The bill also enhances protections around visitation, including requiring prisons to give at least 72 hours notice if visits are being canceled. 

Several bills that took effect with the start of the year also seek to expand access to health care. 

Under Senate Bill 232, Nevada Medicaid’s postpartum coverage will be extended beyond the 60 days required by the federal government to one year after giving birth. 

The legislation was sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro.

Senate Bill 241 requires Nevada Medicaid to pay the “non federal share” of hospital costs for outpatient services and administratively flexible “swing beds” for rural hospitals that are designated as Critical Access Hospitals (CAH).

Senate Bill 280 requires hospitals to have on hand intrauterine contraceptive devices, commonly known as IUDs, which birthing women can then request to be inserted during their hospital stay. 

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Rochelle Nguyen, would also require Medicaid and other insurers to cover the insertion of an IUD immediately after birth.

If a hospital objects to the insertion of contraception for religious reasons, it must give the patient written notice for why the procedure was refused. The health care provider must then refer the patient to other willing service providers. 

Other bills taking effect include one dubbed the “human composting” bill. Assembly Bill 289 allows for the Nevada Funeral and Cemetery Services Board to regulate and oversee any business that uses “natural organic reduction.”

And Senate Bill 211 allows a person whose name has been legally changed by a court to present that documentation to a county clerk or recorder and have their marriage certificate amended to reflect that name.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.