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#NVLeg Week 7: With Deadline Pushed, Lawmakers Get Another Week To Introduce Bills

The front entrance of the Nevada Legislature.
David Calvert
The Nevada Independent
The legislature on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Carson City, Nev.

Nevada lawmakers gave themselves a little breathing room this week, delaying the first major deadline of the 2021 legislative session. But even though they'll have more time to introduce bills, pacing in the legislature still feels sluggish. KUNR’s Morning Edition host Noah Glick spoke with political editor Paul Boger to get the latest from Carson City.

Noah Glick: All right, Paul, let's dig in here. When we spoke last week, you were expecting a legislative deadline on Monday. Well, that didn't happen. So what happened there?

Paul Boger: Yes, the lawmakers said they simply need more time due to some of the logistic changes created by the pandemic. Legislative staff, the people who actually write the bills, have been swamped. They've been working for months to get these bills out, to get them ready for lawmakers. And apparently, they need more time. So we're waiting to see, but as of right now, lawmakers are anticipating having all of these bills introduced by this [coming] Monday.

Glick: So, what could this mean for the rest of the session?

Boger: It's really hard to say. We are still somewhat in unprecedented times due to the nature of the pandemic. But further delays could mean complications, right? The next deadline is April 9. That's to make sure all of these bills get out of their original committees. Legislative leaders have the ability to suspend the rules if they need to. We saw that last week, but that could be a signal of more things to come, more delays. And at the end of the day, the session will end at midnight on May 31. That's called Sine Die. That's the last day. So, no matter what, whether they're done or not, that's the end of the session.

GLICK: So what, then, did lawmakers actually tackle this week?

Boger: In many ways, this is the first real week of the session. At least that's how it felt for me. I think it was because we saw committees really starting to dive into those bills, having several bills in every committee hearing, voting on things. So we're starting to see lawmakers actually get to work, pass those bills.

Some of the things they were talking about this week [were] mandating coverage for BRCA testing. That's that gene that is related to breast cancer. Many women, if they have a family history, can get screened and see if they have that gene. This bill would make sure it will conform with federal standards and make sure BRCA testing is covered. Of course, there was AB286, which is the gun reform measure. That's already sparking plenty of controversy. E-sports regulations, which I hope to talk about more in the future because that's really interesting to me.

Then there's this bill to reform juvenile justice, making sure more kids stay in the system, despite the severity of their crime. You know, a lot of kids, if their crime is severe enough and they're about 14, 15, 16 years of age, they'll automatically get put into the adult system. This is making sure that they'll stay in that child system in order to make sure they get the rehabilitation they need. That bill was brought forward by Assemblyman C.H. Miller of Las Vegas. He says this is all about trying to make sure this reduces recidivism and gets the kids the help they need.

C.H. Miller: The juvenile justice system does a better job at rehabilitating youth than the criminal justice system. So the goal would be to ensure that all youth, at some point, are able to stay in the juvenile system to get as much rehabilitation as possible to come out and be as productive in communities, in society as possible.

Glick: Now, at the same time, Assembly Republicans are pushing their own election reforms, right?

Boger: Exactly. Republicans have repeatedly voiced their concerns over the handling of the state's 2020 general election due to the lawmakers voting last year to send all active registered voters in the state a ballot. Since the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, I have noticed many of the state’s GOP members change their tune regarding fraud in the election; however, that change in language has not stopped them from continuing to talk about voter integrity and the need for election reform.

That being said, those bills that they're introducing, they're essentially DOA. They're dead on arrival. Democrats have introduced a measure to make those mail-in voting changes from last year permanent here in the state. That's a non-starter for Republicans. So it's somewhat a moot point, but I asked Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, he’s the leader of the Freedom Caucus, if there was any room for compromise on these election reforms. “What would it take to get Republicans and Democrats on the same page?” And he said there is room for compromise, but I'll let you listen.

Jim Wheeler: But you asked a good question. Is there room for compromise with the Democrats? There is always room for compromise. The compromise doesn't need to come from our side. It needs to come from their side.

Glick: While I have you here, Paul, I just want to ask, you covered Governor Steve Sisolak’s press conference on Wednesday where he announced opening COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to anyone 16 years or older starting April 5. I bring it up because I'm curious whether you think that'll help speed up reopening the legislative building.

Boger:  Yeah, hopefully soon. Many lawmakers and legislative staff are now among the fully vaccinated. I think the last batch happens here in the next week or so. After that, two weeks will need to go by before lawmakers feel comfortable, and they say there'll be ready to open the building by mid-April. So, we could be there. I would be really interested to see how that will actually change the pace of this session.

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

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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