When the Nevada Legislature came to order Monday in Carson City, among the new members were a doctor, a lawyer, a UNLV professor, and a former Indiana lawmaker - and that's just one person.
Meet Assemblyman David Orentlicher.
Orentlicher, a Boyd School of Law professor, won election last fall as a Democrat to represent District 20, which is just southeast of the UNLV campus.
Along with his academic experience, which includes Harvard degrees in law and medicine, Orentlicher brings the experience of serving three terms in the Indiana House of Representatives.
He told State of Nevada that his legal and medical training will benefit the state.
“One of the important things I want to do is bring my understanding of medicine and law to the Legislature, especially now where healthcare is such an important issue,” he said.
One of the biggest issues for Orentlicher is finding ways to leverage the federal share of Medicaid healthcare dollars.
“One thing I’ve been talking with the Hospital Association and the state Medical Association about is how we can be more creative in terms of bringing in more federal dollars,” he said.
Orentlicher said Nevada is not doing enough to bring in federal matching funds for Medicaid. When the state turns that around, it will help the healthcare system in a number of ways.
When doctors get fair reimbursement for Medicaid patients, they are more likely to set up a practice here and more likely to take Medicaid patients. In turn, that gives more access to care for Medicaid patients, which means they are less likely to have to go to a hospital emergency room for care.
“It will do so much for improving access and affordability for our health care system,” he said.
The most important topic in the Legislature this year is the budget. While cuts will have to be made, many lawmakers are considering whether Nevada should make big changes to its revenue streams.
In Indiana, where Orentlicher served in the legislature, the top end of the gaming tax is 40 percent. In Nevada, it's 6.75 percent. The assemblyman said there are historical reasons for the big differences, but he said before Nevada decides to start raising taxes, it needs a broader view.
“One of the big issues for us is going to be how do we have the right kind of a tax system, and we need to make sure that it is a more equitable system. That everybody pays their fair share, and that we do more broad-based taxing,” he said.
Orentlicher said an optimal tax system is one that relies on broad-based taxes, not on high taxes for one industry. He would also like to see a simplified tax system.
Another important issue on his agenda this legislative session is race and policing.
“One of the things I’ve been working on with some colleagues of mine at Boyd Law School who have developed a program on race and policing, and how we can adopt optimal police reforms so that we don’t have the problems we’ve seen with systemic bias infecting our policing,” he said.
Orentlicher would like to see an advisory task force created that is filled with experts in the areas of criminal law, sociology and policing. The task force's goal would be to study race and policing and advise lawmakers on how to improve the system.
The new assemblyman believes he can move forward with more progressive policy ideas in Nevada than he could have in Indiana because Nevada is a purple state that is turning blue and Indiana was a purple state that was leaning red.
He would like to see more investment in education and a stronger social safety net in Nevada.
David Orentlicher, assemblyman and academic
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