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Sisolak Signs Bills As Democratic Division Grows

Sisolak is sitting as he signs the bill. Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers stand behind him. They are all wearing bright blue union t-shirts.
Photo Courtesy of Governor Steve Sisolak's Office
Governor Steve Sisolak signs SB448, which passed during the 81st Legislative Session, in front of union members in Las Vegas.

Nevada is now the second state in the country to adopt a so-called public option health insurance law. That measure is supposed to drive coverage costs down over the next several years and was among a number of bills signed into law by Governor Steve Sisolak this week. To talk about that, and more, KUNR host Michele Ravera spoke with political editor Paul Boger.

Michele Ravera: What has the governor signed at this point?

Paul Boger: A number of bills this week. All of those bills that lawmakers took months to legislate and debate and talk about, well, it just takes a few minutes to sign those bills, and he has been busy. We saw the governor sign the Right to Return bill, essentially that gives casino workers and some other workers in the hospitality industry the ability to get their pre-pandemic jobs back if they haven’t already. There’s that ghost gun ban. That’s the bill, the law now, that bans so-called ghost guns. Those are the guns that you can manufacture at home, or you can 3D print. Essentially you can buy a kit, and they don’t have serial numbers, and they can’t be tracked. They have been related to a number of criminal cases now across the country. That’s a big push we’re seeing, not just here in Nevada but across the country.

That big energy infrastructure bill, that’s been signed. That essentially is going to expand transmission lines across the state for green technologies, as well as put more electric vehicle charging stations across the state. Another bill I think we should mention is SB290. That’s a measure that makes birth control much easier to obtain over the counter.

I think we got to talk about SB420, that’s that public option healthcare bill, essentially, I talked about this last week, but it’s hard to call it a public option in that it’s not a public option. It’s essentially requiring private insurers to have a discounted plan. Democrats say that’s going to drive prices down over the next few years. We’ll see. But as of right now, those are the big pieces that have been signed.

Ravera: Are we waiting on any other large pieces of legislation?

Boger: We’re actually still waiting on election bills. Those are supposed to be signed today, [Friday, June 11, 2021], and the big one there includes making Nevada a permanent vote by mail state. That [and] moving Nevada from a caucus state to a primary state, that effort to become the first in the nation primary that Nevada Democrats really are coveting at this point. So that’s really the biggest bill that I’ve been paying attention to that has yet to be signed. But again, it’s supposed to be signed later today.

Ravera: So if a piece of legislation is left unsigned, I don’t know what happens, and has he even vetoed anything yet?

Boger: He hasn’t vetoed anything yet, and that’s interesting, but there are about a hundred bills left to be signed. So there could be several pieces of legislation in that group that he has problems with. I don’t know off the top of my head [if that’s the case]. But here’s what happens if the governor does veto a bill. That will be sent back to the legislature, who will take it back up when they meet next. So possibly in the special session in October, possibly the next legislative session in 2023. Typically, if a bill’s vetoed, it’s dead. It never comes back unless it’s a crucial piece of legislation. For those bills that are not signed after they are passed, the governor has 10 days to make a decision on those bills. If he doesn’t sign them, they become law. So if the governor doesn’t sign something by the end of today or this weekend, it goes into law, no matter whether he approves of it or not.

Ravera: So, in addition to the bill signings, we got a little election news this week. It looks like there’s a Republican going to challenge democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto next year.

Boger: We did get a little bit of election news. Former Attorney General and former Republican candidate for governor Adam Laxalt will be running or is supposedly considering a run for Catherine Cortez Masto’s seat. That’s not really a surprise. Most people were expecting him to run for something this election cycle, and most people were anticipating him running for Senate. It’s an interesting move in that Catherine Cortez Masto is an incredibly popular Democrat in Nevada, and I say that meaning she doesn’t have support just in Clark County and the democratic support in Washoe county; she’s popular even in the rurals. So it’s going to be interesting to see how a not-so-popular Republican does in those rural areas against a popular Democrat. Of course, we know that Dean Heller is considering a run for governor, along with Mark Amodei, but all of that election news is still up in the air. 2022 is still a long way down the road. We have plenty of time to talk about this stuff.

Ravera: And there’s also been a shakeup between the Nevada state Democratic Party and Washoe County Dems. Whats going on there?

Boger: Just to be as quick as possible about it, essentially, you had that “Democratic Socialist” takeover in the state Democratic Party. Well, elected officials, [including] Governor Steve Sisolak and Catherine Cortez Masto, they’re moderate Democrats. They want to see the state’s coordinated effort to elect Democrats to be dealt with by moderate Democrats. So they’re coming back up here, coming to Washoe county, saying, “Hey, in 2022, we want you guys to house the coordinating committee that will kind of decide electioneering and campaigning and canvassing.” That’s their job. There’ll be doing that over the next couple of months and over the next year in Washoe County.

Clark County, where most of the Dems in the state live, they want it to be there. So it’s going to be a back and forth over the next few months.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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