Education funding. Paid sick leave. Child care subsidies. Stipends for foster youth. The census.
That’s right. The census.
Social service, education, health care and child welfare advocates and experts will be watching the long list of policy proposals expected to be deliberated, and potentially passed, at the 2019 legislative session. The Children’s Advocacy Alliance, meeting first in Las Vegas on Monday and in Reno Wednesday, hosted the Children’s Policy Forum to highlight some of those topics.
The group, along with Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy and United Way of Southern Nevada, described intended benefits they hope drafted bills can have on Nevada’s children, and encouraged experts in the field to weigh in on legislation.
“You understand how these issues impact real people,” says Denise Tanata, the executive director for the Children’s Advocacy Alliance.
Thinking beyond policy proposals that could enhance the lives of Nevada’s children, Tanata says one of the most pressing issues for the Children’s Advocacy Alliance is to urge the Legislature to secure funding to conduct outreach and awareness campaigns for the 2020 Census.
During his State of the State address this week, Gov. Steve Sisolak recommended an unspecified amount of additional in-state funding to make sure “every Nevadan is counted in our census.”
Without every community participating in the census, and every Nevadan being counted, Tanata says “Nevada misses out on federal dollars.”
Nevada analysts have warned that the state’s demographics, coupled with the Trump administration’s aggressive citizenship question and the administration’s policies and tone in general, render Nevada distinctly vulnerable to a census undercount that could cost the state millions of dollars. A federal judge ruled earlier this week blocked the census question, and the Trump administration is appealing the decision.
An accurate census count is “going to have the largest impact on our state in the long term,” Tanata says. “I’m fearful of what potentially could happen if we don’t position resources into outreach and education around that.”
But policies are still important, and the organization is following a several proposals dealing with education, safety, health and economic well-being.
Some bills the organization is tracking are straight-forward: enacting a law for children to use helmets on bicycles or skateboards, establishing a Nevada Fresh Food Financing Initiative to address food deserts, issuing a study on juvenile detention in the state and expanding resources for fictive kin providers, family members who take in foster children.
Others are more complicated, such as how to fix the funding formula for education or the details of paid sick leave legislation.
From the Children’s Advocacy Alliance to Make the Road Nevada, a nonprofit that works to address economic obstacles hindering immigrant and working class communities, paid sick leave has been a priority for many organizations.
“We see a lot of low-income families have to choose between staying at home with a sick child, taking that sick child to the doctor or going to work to get paid,” Tanata says. “These are primarily hourly workers who can’t afford (to take time off). They are making a decision between putting a roof over their head or compromise the health of their child. It’s a decision children shouldn’t have to make.”
Legislators approved a bill in 2017 that required businesses with 25 or more employees to provide full-time workers with paid sick leave — State Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, who also attended the event, said the bill went through major amendments during the course of the session. Though a final version passed both houses, former Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed it saying it would be a “substantial cost to businesses, particularly small businesses.”
Woodhouse says the language for a new paid sick leave bill is still being drafted. “We don’t know if (the new bill) will look like what we had at the beginning of the (2017) session, what we had at the end of the session or something in between, ” she says. “We really want to see this one pass this time. We will work with everyone to come up with the best piece of legislation that will be successful and will get a signature by the governor.”
The alliance is also looking at other “economic well being” bills such as legislation to address Nevada’s affordable housing crisis and even an attempt to remove the sales tax on diapers — the bill would create a ballot initiative for voters to approve similar to the 2018’s Question 2, commonly referred to as the Pink Tax.
The Children’s Advocacy Alliance has ranked Nevada poorly when it comes to school readiness, funding, and economic well-being for children — the state received many Fs in the 2018 Nevada Children’s Report Card. Tanata says she is “cautiously optimistic” that the state will move forward on many of these new proposals that could address some of the shortfalls.
“I think there is going to be a lot of rich discussions happening,” Tanata says. “There are a lot of things we need for our state, and they are going to take some resources. It’s going to take a multisession approach to do that.”