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Senate approves snack-food legislation, other bills

CARSON CITY — Candy, chips and soft drinks that many students love would be prohibited in Nevada public and charter schools under a bill approved 12-9 Friday in the Senate.

Republican Joe Hardy, a physician in his non-legislative life, joined the 11 Democrats voting for Senate Bill 230, which outlaws foods and beverages containing trans fats in vending machines and in school lunches, except those provided through school lunch programs. Trans fats are unsaturated fats that increase cholesterol levels.

Hardy also joined Democrats in approving Senate Bill 144, Sen. Mike Schneider’s measure to require garages and oil changing businesses to check the air pressure in customers’ tires.

Both bills move to the Assembly for hearings, where Democrats hold a larger majority and there is less chance of a close vote.

Sixty-four bills were passed in the Senate as members worked past 6 p.m. Friday, instead of heading home early for Easter weekend. Both houses of the Legislature now will hold long floor voting sessions to beat a self-imposed Tuesday deadline to pass bills out of the house of origin. Bills that miss the deadline are dead.

The deadlines help legislators manage time as they consider 1,069 bills during a 120-day session that must adjourn by 1 a.m. June 7.

During Friday’s session, senators agreed by voice vote to amend Sen. Shirley Breeden’s cellphone bill to conform to the Assembly proposal. Under both Senate Bill 140 and Assembly Bill 151, drivers could not use a handheld cellphone or text while operating a vehicle. The fine would be $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $250 for third and subsequent offenses.

Breeden, D-Henderson, originally sought fines of $250 to $1,000.

If it becomes law as expected, the cellphone and texting ban would begin Oct. 1. Law enforcement officers, however, could not cite violators until Jan. 1.

While there were no floor debates Friday, Republicans did question Schneider’s tire pressure bill as an unnecessary intrusion into a private business matter. Schneider, D-Las Vegas, countered with reports that showed properly inflated tires save gasoline and prevent accidents.

Similar Republican objections were made to Sen. Mo Denis’ trans fat bill. During a hearing, Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, called it micromanagement of schools, although health advocates testified it would improve nutrition. Denis, D-Las Vegas, has been president of the Nevada PTA and now chairs the Senate Education Committee. There is also a move to remove trans fats in foods provided through federal school lunch programs.

In other votes:

■ Senators unanimously approved Senate Bill 277, which clarifies that juveniles who possess or transmit nude, pornographic and sexual pictures are not considered sex offenders subject to community notification and registering with police agencies.

■ Testimony during the hearings was that young people sometimes use cell phones for “sexting,” or transmitting sex-related pictures of themselves and others. Judges still could find the juveniles delinquent and impose sanctions.

■ Senators also on a 21-0 vote backed Hardy’s SB256 that specifies felony sentences, punishable by one year or greater prison sentences, apply in cases where people are caught growing more than seven marijuana plants. Seven is the maximum number of plants that people registered in Nevada medical marijuana program can grow as medication. But there have been recent arrests of people growing hundreds of plants who contended it was to supply medical marijuana patients.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.

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