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Bills tackling trans fats and school bullies move forward

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

Senate Bill 230 would require school districts to approve policies barring trans fats, which are known to raise levels of bad cholesterol in the body, but make 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.

Senate Bill 276, which is sponsored by Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, and would set up requirements for anti-bullying programs, training and incident reporting, passed out of the Senate Education Committee 4-3 on a party-line vote.

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” remained intact.

A vote was postponed on Senate Bill 247, which would create a School-Based Health Centers program in statute. The centers offer health care at schools, and students can apply for 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 Senate Bill 315, which would authorize an expedited path to get a teacher’s license, and Senate Bill 212, which would create 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.

Assembly Bill 554 would implement a letter grading system for schools and Assembly Bill 557 would establish a pilot program for performance-based incentive pay for teachers.

The committee also passed Assembly Bill 393, which would require criminal background checks for education personnel upon license renewal; and Assembly Bill 455, which would require 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 Assembly Bill 129 is to give school districts 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.

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