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#NVLeg Week 11: Policing, Criminal Justice Reform Top Of Agenda As Building Reopens

A stack of legislative bills being placed in cubbies.
David Calvert
The Nevada Independent
A Senate Sergeant-At-Arms places copies of proposed legislation in the cubbies outside the chamber inside the Legislature on Monday, March 15, 2021 in Carson City, Nev.

With less than six weeks until the end of the 2021 legislative session, the general public can, once again, enter the Legislative Building in Carson City, albeit, with some hoops. KUNR's Political Editor, Paul Boger spoke with Morning Edition host Noah Glick about the latest from the Capital City.

NOAH GLICK: Tell us, were there throngs of people waiting to get into the Legislative Building in Carson City yesterday?

PAUL BOGER: I would not call them throngs. As a matter of fact, checking with Capitol Police, there were fewer than 20 people who signed in, to get into the Legislature yesterday, all of them lobbyists. And the reason for that is because it is a little bit difficult to still get into the building. You have to go across the street and submit yourself for a rapid COVID test [and] wait till you get the results. Then you have to have an appointment to get in to see a lawmaker, and you can only see one lawmaker per day. So there are definitely hoops.

You still can't go onto the floor and watch these sessions, so lobbyists are trying their best. They went into the building yesterday. We saw them talking to lawmakers. It was actually kind of funny. Lawmakers were running to lobbyists just to try to get some sort of news and gossip about what's going on outside the building. So, it did feel a little bit more like a normal session, but it's still very quiet in the building and it's difficult to get inside, still.

GLICK: It does seem like a good week for reopening, as you know, because lawmakers did spend much of their time this week on the floor of the Senate and the Assembly working through a lot of these bills. So it seems like lawmakers were able to stick to that deadline last week.

BOGER: They absolutely were. And that's going to be crucial. You mentioned at the top of this, that there [are] less than six weeks left. You know, they have to be done by May 31. So keeping to that deadline was important, and we saw about 300 bills from both chambers die. There were about 950, close to a thousand bills. There's less than that, now. There's about 600-650. So lawmakers will continue working through that process. Of course, we're going to have another deadline here in the next week or so to get all of these bills out of their original house and onto the next house. So this is really good to keep things flowing, but they still have a lot of work to do.

GLICK: Can we talk about one bill, specifically AB395, which would abolish the death penalty? Where are we on that?

BOGER: So that [bill] was passed by the Assembly this week. And that was probably, I think, the biggest bill that we saw come out of those floor sessions. That bill, of course, would abolish [the] death penalty. It would make all death sentences in the state life without parole, and that was passed along party lines, which was interesting. I thought that would transcend the party a little bit, but of course, Democrats [voted] in favor [and] Republicans [voted] in opposition. I did talk to Republican Assemblywoman, Jill Tolles about it. She voted in opposition, and this is why...

JILL TOLLES: You may remember from 2017, I disclosed that I had a family member that was brutally murdered. And so I understand that there can be forgiveness, but there also are consequences. And I'm personally not comfortable removing that from being one of the options. Also [it's] used, to plead down deals and to get more evidence to help go [and], potentially, find those missing bodies.

BOGER: That's interesting because this bill will now head to the Senate. The Senate is led by a prosecutor, in Nicole Cannizzaro. The head of the Senate Judiciary is a prosecutor. So we don't even know if this will get a hearing.

This isn't the only criminal justice bill we saw this week. We've seen a few criminal justice and police reform bills come through, most notably, SB212. I talked about it in a newscast. That was passed by the Senate, and that places [police] limits on the use of force during demonstrations. And [it] requires, whenever the police use force, to report those details to the state's central report repository in the Attorney General's office. So that's one bill that was passed along party lines.

Another one, SB148 requires all state and local law enforcement to submit monthly reports on hate crimes. So definitely just trying to get a little bit more reporting [and] understanding of what these issues are that lead to things like we saw last summer. I mentioned “last summer” because I think a lot of folks have pointed to these criminal justice and police reform bills and said, ‘Oh, these are linked to last summer.’ I spoke to Dallas Harris. She's a state Senator. She says this is not just about last summer.

DALLAS HARRIS: It's my opinion that, you know, systemic racism permeates throughout society, right? Less likely to get a loan, less likely to have your house valued at certain prices, right? Maybe less likely to get treated equally in the healthcare system; however, when it comes to interacting with police, that systemic racism leads to serious consequences, like more likely to die. So the imperative to address that gap is there, at least for me.

GLICK: Just real quick, in the time that we have left, what are some of the other things that are coming up here in the Leg[islature]?

BOGER: You know, one thing we haven't talked about yet is education. We've kind of touched on it. Lawmakers passed SB173, that's that back on track summer school bill that's going to now head to the Assembly.

The Assembly passed this homeschooling standards bill, AB19. That was a weird vote, in that it was very much split with Republicans and Democrats joining each other's side. And of course SJR7, which would remove the regents from the constitution. You know, another attempt on that again.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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