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Nevada Democrats Unite Behind Labor, Energy, Obamacare Bills

CARSON CITY — Back in control of the Nevada Legislature, Democratic lawmakers proclaimed Thursday they're united in an effort to reform state labor and energy laws and lock in certain policies of the Affordable Care Act.

The state's 38 Democratic legislators are rolling out bills that would speed up Nevada's move toward renewable energy, ask government contractors to prove they pay men and women equally and require private employers to offer paid sick days. Government workers already accrue paid sick days.

Other Democratic legislation would require health insurance companies to cover contraception and screenings for cancer and autism. Both are provisions of former President Barack Obama's landmark health care law.

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Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, called those proposals "investments that will save hospitals, taxpayers and the state considerable money over time."

Democrats are crafting bills to give tax credits to employers who cover the cost of child care, boost specialized training and vocational programs, fund more scholarships for people who go on to teach in public schools, refinance student loans and rewrite the per-pupil funding formula for public schools.

Republicans aren't biting on those proposals, but most legislation requires only Democrats' simple majority to pass.

If they pass out of the Legislature, business and energy mandates could face a significant hurdle at the desk of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Ford and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, also a Las Vegas Democrat, cheered bipartisan education reforms Sandoval pushed in 2015.

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"Regarding education, we did make important gains last session and we now must keep pushing forward," Ford said. "We need to repeal mandates for high-stakes testing and make STEM education and financial literacy a key part of our public school curriculum."

The debate over "school choice" continues to be a sticking point between the two parties. Republicans want to give parents public dollars to use on private education, but Democrats would rather spend that money on vocational schools and other programs administered by the state government.