Bills tackling trans fats, school bullies advance

A bill to ban trans fats in schools advanced in spite of Republican objections that the proposed rules are meddlesome.

SB230 requires school districts to approve policies barring trans fats, which are known to raise levels of bad cholesterol in the body, but makes exceptions for food at fundraisers such as bake sales. The bill now heads for the Senate floor after a 4-3 vote in the Senate Education Committee.

"We've got bigger fish to fry," said Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, who opposed the bill as "micromanagement" and wondered aloud why it didn't ban refined sugars, too.

The vote was one of several Wednesday as legislators hurry to meet a Friday deadline to pass bills out of their initial committee.

SB276, which is sponsored by Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, and sets up requirements for anti-bullying programs, training & incident reporting, passed out of the Senate Education Committee 4-3 on party lines.

Republicans who opposed the bill said schools already have their own anti-bullying policies and procedures in place.

SB276 was diluted to reduce the financial impact to school districts - a requirement that schools appoint an anti-bullying coordinator was removed, while an October "Week of Respect" remains intact.

A vote was postponed on SB247, which creates a School-Based Health Centers program in statute. The centers offer health care at schools, and students can apply Medicaid or insurance to pay for the services.

The clinics would not be allowed to counsel students on abortions or distribute contraceptives.

Proponents say the centers give children better access to medical care, especially if they live in remote areas. Opponents said they wanted to adjust some of the language about liability.

Other bills that passed and head to the Senate floor for a vote include SB315, which authorizes an expedited path to get a teacher's license, and SB212, which creates a State Board of Charter Schools separate from the State Board of Education.

In the Assembly Education Committee, members Wednesday referred two bills implementing programs backed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to the Ways and Means Committee. AB554 implements a letter grading system for schools and AB557 establishes a pilot program for performance-based incentive pay for teachers.

The Assembly committee also passed AB393, which requires criminal background checks for education personnel upon license renewal; and AB455, which requires the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association to adopt policies to prevent and treat concussions suffered by student athletes.

A bill that would let school districts set class size requirements was backed by school officials and some lawmakers, but questioned by others who feared it would lead to larger class sizes and ultimately harm students.

"I just don't want to be overloading teachers," said Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas. "We're asking a lot of them and we're going to be asking more."

But the bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, said the intent of AB129 is to give district's flexibility to decide how many students should be in a class based on a number of factors, including their learning needs and parental involvement.

"I think the decision is better made at the local level," Kirner said.

No action was taken on the bill.


Associated Press writer Sandra Chereb in Carson City contributed to this report.


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