Gov. Steve Sisolak signs legislation to create a Maternal Mortality Review Committee in May, 2019. (Governor’s press office photo)
With the new year, a slew of laws passed during the 2019 legislative session that include requiring paid leave, clamping down on surprise medical bills and helping homeless youth obtain drivers’ licenses will go into effect.
One of the more anticipated, and highly disputed, pieces of legislation progressive and union organizers and the business community alike had their eyes on during the session was paid leave policy.
Starting Jan. 1, Senate Bill 312 allows employees to accrue .019230 hours of paid time off per hour of work performed — 40 hours a year for full-time workers. An employee is eligible to use their pay leave on the 90th day of employment.
Supporters argued the policy, implemented in 11 other states, was needed to help workers who often have to forego a day’s wage in order to take care of health or personal matters. Opponents argued the policy would hurt small businesses.
Though the bill’s original language required businesses with more than 25 employees to implement the leave policy, lawmakers quickly amended the proposed legislation so it would only apply to businesses with 50 or more employees, a move to garner more industry support.
Employers, according to the new law, can’t deny requests from workers to use paid time off nor can they retaliate how it’s used.
Labor Commissioner Shannon Chambers said her office has received about 500 emails on this policy alone in recent months, though she notes she hasn’t seen any businesses resisting implementation.
“Every day I respond to five or 10 questions on that bill alone, which I think is good because it tells me people are taking steps to do what they need to do,” she said. “Everything has been pretty positive so far. We are getting a lot of questions about what is a temporary employee.”
Many of the larger employers, she said, already had some sort of paid leave policy and are just looking for clarification or help with writing language into employee handbooks.
Ahead of implementation, the Office of the Labor Commissioner has been hosting meetings to get the word out about who is and isn’t effected by the new policy and sent out information answering common questions on temporary workers, the definition of part-time employees and if they are included as well as noting exemptions to the law.
The office created a bulletin that is required to be posted for employees to see. In the next few months, Chambers said the office will follow up with businesses through surprise visits to make sure the required bulletin is posted and will be checking in with employers to make sure they are in compliance with the law.
Another bill to potentially affect employment is Assembly Bill 132, which prevents an employer from not hiring an applicant just because they test positive for marijuana with some exceptions.
The law doesn’t apply to firefighters, emergency medical technicians, professions that require employees to operate a motor vehicles and jobs an employer deems could “adversely affect the safety of others,” though no specifics are written into the statute.
The bill received pushback from groups like the Nevada Retail Association and various chambers of commerce.
Though Chambers, the Labor Commissioner, said the Labor Department has received some calls on the implementation of AB 132, the true test won’t come until after the law goes into effect.
She said the power of the Labor Commission isn’t explicit in the bill. “We will have to wait to see what complaints or claims come into the office,” she added.
If a new hire is asked to submit a drug test within the first days and it comes back positive for marijuana, the law also says the employee has the right to submit an additional drug test, at their own expense, to “rebut the results of the initial screening test.”
“The consumer will not receive a balance bill”
After toying with the idea for several years and even bringing similar legislation in past sessions, lawmakers were successful at passing a bill to tackle surprise billing, a practice that allows out-of-network health care providers to gouge patients in need of emergency care.
Assembly Bill 469 limits the amount out-of-network providers can charge in such circumstances to no more than a patient’s insurance co-payment, co-insurance, or deductible.
The legislation also provides a course of action for third party providers to transfer patients to an in-network hospital or independent center for emergency care within 24 hours, and establishes procedures to work out payments between insurers and third-party providers.
“Say an insured individual goes into an in-network emergency facility to receive medically necessary services and perhaps the physician they are seeing is out of network, that’s when balance or surprise billings occur,” said Carrie Embree a consumer health advocate with the Aging and Disability Services Division within the Department of Health and Human Services. “Of the many cases the (Office of Consumer Health Assistance) has received over the years (surprise billing) has been a concern.”
Instead of a patient receiving a bill, Embree said the statute removes them from the process and requires out-of-network providers and insurers to work out a resolution.
“The consumer will not receive a balance bill,” she added. “They will only be responsible for their normal fees under their health plan like their copay or deductible.”
The legislation doesn’t apply to any medical services before Jan. 1, though Embree said the office of consumer health provides assistance that could still help people navigate options.
While the law goes into effect at the beginning of the year, she added the department is still waiting for the Legislative Counsel Bureau to approve regulations on how to proceed if cases more than $5,000 go into arbitration.
Other notable bills
Assembly Bill 170 is another health care bill that adds protections for health coverage for pre-existing conditions into state law. This bill empowers the Office of Consumer Health Assistance within the Department of Health and Human Services to help Nevadans secure appointments for care with in-network providers.
Assembly Bill 271 requires the Labor Commissioner to be notified if a business is relocating a call center to a foreign country.
Assembly Bill 472 creates a maternal mortality review committee to examine the state’s mortality and morbidity rates among pregnant women.
Looking at Nevada’s affordable housing crisis, the legislature passed Senate Bill 448, which provides $10 million in transferable tax credits to encourage the development of affordable and low-income housing units.
During the legislative session, Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson died unexpectedly. One of his last pieces of legislation, Assembly Bill 363, requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to waive fees for driver’s tests for homeless youth as well as fees to replace a driver’s license.
During a hearing May 8, Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson read prepared remarks Thompson wrote on the bill in which he called having identification “a golden ticket.”
“In order to be successful in their future is to have access to identification in the form of a Nevada Driver’s License or Nevada ID,” Thompson’s statement said. “This is what this bill is about, as homeless adults currently are able to get duplicate licenses and or IDs.”
To honor the legislator, every lawmaker co-signed onto the legislation.
Thompson’s final bill also goes into effect Jan. 1.
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