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#NVLeg Week 1: All’s Quiet In The Legislative Building, Kind Of

An individual walks down a hallway.
David Calvert
The Nevada Independent
State Senator Dallas Harris on the fourth day of the 81st session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021.

Week One of Nevada's 81st legislative session is in the books. And while it may be off to a slow start, lawmakers are digging into bills. KUNR Morning Edition host Noah Glick checked in with political editor Paul Boger for an update from Carson City.

NOAH GLICK: We're a few days into this new session. So I'm curious, what's the tone so far in the building?

PAUL BOGER: It’s quiet, very, very quiet. Normally this time of year there's a lot of pomp and circumstance on that first day of the session. There are families. There are friends. They’re there flanking lawmakers as they're being sworn in. There are lobbyists. It's a lot of excitement that first couple of days of the session. A lot of folks you haven't seen in a couple of years, or you're excited to see and you're excited to catch up. That's just not happening right now. Of course, that's because of the pandemic. So, lawmakers are trying to do the session virtually. That means they're having those virtual committee assignments. They are in their offices and they are Zooming into those committees, and the only time you really see them is on the floor. Lawmakers say they're looking forward to a time when they can open up the building.

THERESA BENITEZ-THOMPSON: We very much want a time for the building to be full of people when it's safe to be. We want the public here. We want our committee hearings to be as full as they possibly can be and safe. So, we're looking forward to the building getting open and running as close to normal as we can, as safely as we can, as quickly as we can.

BOGER: That was Assemblywoman Theresa Benitez Thompson. She's talking about when the building will open up. But when we know that building will open up, if there are any criteria for when the building will open up, we don't know that quite yet.

GLICK: Earlier this week, leaders from both the Republican and Democratic caucuses spoke with reporters and talked about a willingness to work across the aisle this year. Have you noticed a more bipartisan spirit in the legislative building?

BOGER: I think it's early in the session. People are willing to work together earlier in the session. No feelings have been hurt yet. We haven't dug into those bills and really gotten those big votes yet. So we'll see, but talking to leadership there is that willingness. It seems like there have been discussions at least on some bills to work together. And of course, this all comes out of what happened in Washington D.C. last month and with the insurrection at the Capitol and the contentious election. So, I think a lot of lawmakers are really trying to move past that. Here's what Speaker of the Assembly Jason Frierson had to say about it.

JASON FRIERSON: We are here to talk about what we're going to need to do, and they're going to be tough decisions and everybody's aware of that. But how? Is together. There's no other answer.

BOGER: And [here’s] his colleague, Minority Leader Robin Titus.

ROBIN TITUS: But I feel very good about our relationship and having that discussion on, you know, how do we move forward? I mean, you'd have to be living under a rock. Just think that we don't need to move forward in this state and that there's problems that we have to solve.

GLICK: A story did break this week reporting that former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is actually working with the party officials to make Nevada's presidential caucus the first contest in the primaries. So, what role does the state play in that movie?

BOGER: You know, that's a really interesting question in that the primaries are very much a party decision. They are handled by the state parties. But what gets to go first? Which state gets to go first? That's a party decision. Now the state may have some role, in that, one of the things that makes Nevada unique, and one of the reasons that it was moved forward in the primary season is because it has a caucus. Well, some states don't like that. In fact, they actually have laws that require it to be the first primary or the first caucus. So, we may actually run into those sorts of situations, but it's really going to come down to a party decision. And a lot of the reason that people want Nevada to go first is that they see Nevada as more emblematic of the rest of the country. Right now, Iowa goes first, New Hampshire goes second. Those are two predominantly white states. Nevada is very much not a predominantly white state. It is very much a multicultural state. So it would be really interesting to see that happen, but it's a party decision.

GLICK: While I have you here, I just want to ask you briefly to touch on some new reporting that we're seeing about this proposal from Governor Steve Sisolak that would actually allow tech companies to form their own governments? Just briefly, in like 30 seconds or so, where did this proposal come from?

BOGER: That's a really good question because we don't really know right now. This is a bill draft request, or I should say this is bill draft language that we've seen. So this will be a bill, potentially in the next couple of days, but right now it seems like it's from the governor's office. And this is something he talked about in his State of the State. As a matter of fact, he was really hyping-up those innovation zones in his State of the State. So, it's really crazy in that allowing tech companies, if they have enough land, if they have enough money, to essentially form their own county-style government. There are some really interesting things in this bill, or I should say potential bill. But right now we just don't have a solid idea of what the final language will look like. And so I don't want to make too much of a mountain out of a molehill at this point until we see language and until we see some votes.

KUNR's Jayden Perez adapted this story for the web.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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