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Assembly OKs drug program bill

CARSON CITY — The Assembly unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that clears the way for Clark County to participate in a program that can provide discount prescription drugs to its residents.

Under Assembly Bill 6, any Nevada county may enter into contracts to participate in a National Association of Counties’ prescription drug discount card program.

Eight Nevada counties offer the program, but Clark County, on the advice of its lawyers, had refused to participate because no state legislation specifically allowed it to join.

The author of the bill, Assemblyman Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said the approximately 18,000 Nevadans already enrolled in the program have seen an average decrease of 21 percent in the cost of their prescriptions.

"If you have five prescriptions, it is like getting one for free," Hardy said.

Hardy, a physician, said the drug card potentially can help everyone, including people with insurance. If the discount from the card program is greater than the discount offered by a person’s insurance, then pharmacists will give the card discount, Hardy said.

Before it can become law, Hardy’s bill needs the approval of the Senate and the signature of Gov. Jim Gibbons. So do the more than 40 other bills approved by the Assembly in a more than three-hour floor voting session Wednesday.

For bills to survive past Tuesday, they must receive approval from at least one house of the Legislature.

Another one of the bills that won solid Assembly support is Assembly Bill 519, which would block judges from sealing, at their discretion, court decisions and civil court actions.

Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, had proposed the bill because of Review-Journal stories that said Clark County District Court judges had sealed 115 cases between 2000 and late 2006. The bill passed with a 39-2 vote.

Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, tried to change the bill to allow judges to seal cases when they think it is "best for the community."

The Assembly Judiciary Committee "had no appetite for the amendment, and thus it was rejected," Anderson said.

Other bills approved Wednesday included the following:

• Assembly Bill 261, which requires child welfare agencies to release more information about children who died or nearly died in cases of abuse or neglect.

They must release the information, including the cause of the injury and photographs of the child, within 48 hours after a fatality or five days after a near-fatality.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, introduced the bill because of a report that estimated the number of child fatalities caused by abuse or neglect between 2001 and 2004 in Clark County was more than three times the number reported in that time.

"While we have built-in privacy protections, it is important that all cases are reported fully so that we can learn from every child death or near-death and make needed changes to our child welfare system to better protect our children," Buckley said.

• Assembly Bill 94, which repeals a law passed in 2005 that prohibited citizens from testifying in state licensing hearings unless they had a financial stake in the matter.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said the bill "gives back a seat for our citizens at the table."

Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, said he was the only person to vote against the bill two years ago and wanted it repealed.

Carpenter said some people might think "mining and ranchers" would not want people speaking out against their wishes at state environment hearings, but "everybody needs to have their say."

• Assembly Bill 191, which authorizes judges temporarily to seize the firearms of people named in restraining orders related to cases of domestic violence.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said the firearms would be taken only "during the heated portion of the conflict."

• Assembly Bill 118, which allows the Department of Transportation to post signs for truck lanes on freeways of three or more lanes.

Assemblyman Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, described the bill as setting up a pilot project and emphasized truckers would not be fined if they drove in a non-truck lane.

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