The 32nd Special Session Of The Nevada Legislature: July 30 Through Aug. 5

Aug 5, 2020

The 32nd Special Session of the Nevada Legislature adjourned sine die early Thursday, August 6, after lawmakers spent a week passing several resolutions and pieces of legislation addressing policy issues.

Watch the recorded streams on YouTube.

2:38 p.m. | August 5, 2020

Nevada Lawmakers Pass Controversial Bill Removing Protections For Officers Under Investigation
By Lucia Starbuck

Lawmakers in Nevada are rolling back protections granted to law enforcement officers under investigation. The protections were just put into place last year. Law enforcement agencies and progressive groups both denounced the bill. Click here for the full story.

10:50 p.m. | August 4, 2020

Activists Say Police Reform Bill To Ban Chokeholds In Nevada Isn’t Enough
By Lucia Starbuck

Black Lives Matter protests have erupted across the country, and in Nevada, and with them, demands for police reform. In response, lawmakers in Nevada have approved a bill meant to change how law enforcement officers in the state handle arrests, but activists say there’s more to be done. Click here for the full story.

10:00 p.m. | August 4, 2020

Assembly Votes To Roll Back Law Protecting Police Under Investigation, Approves Unemployment Measure
By Paul Boger

Lawmakers in Nevada are sending a pair of bills aimed at police reform and improving the state’s unemployment system to Governor Steve Sisolak. 

The Assembly spent the fifth day of the 32nd Special Session passing a measure that would roll back portions of a 2019 law that extended certain protections to law enforcement under investigation for non-criminal misconduct charges.

SB2 eliminates a prohibition on using an officer’s compelled statement in a civil case without their consent. In addition, it only allows an officer’s attorney to inspect evidence after the investigation is completed, among other provisions. 

The Assembly also approved a measure meant to improve the state’s beleaguered unemployment system. SB3 would make submitting and processing unemployment claims faster and easier, expand benefits for some and gives the Department of Education, Training and Rehabilitation the authority to react more quickly to federal policy changes. 

Lawmakers will now turn their attention to the last measure left on the agenda, a controversial COVID-19 liability bill that would provide legal protections from COVID-19-related death and injury suits. 

Senate Introduces Measure Offering Legal Protections From COVID-19 Lawsuits
By Paul Boger

The Nevada Senate is considering a measure that would provide most businesses legal protections from COVID-19-related lawsuits.

Under the bill, businesses, governmental agencies such as schools and non-profits would get immunity from COVID-19-related death or injury suits if they follow local health guidelines. 

However, most health care facilities, including hospitals, would not be covered by that immunity under the bill.

Supporters of the measure including the Nevada Resort Association, the Culinary Workers Union and MGM, say the protections will help bolster the state’s beleaguered tourism industry. 

Opponents such as teachers, healthcare workers and progressive groups say the measure doesn’t do enough to protect workers. 

If the bill becomes law, the liability protections will remain in effect until the end of Governor Sisolak’s emergency directive or July 1, 2023.

9:57 p.m. | August 3, 2020

Lawmakers Advance Mining Tax Proposals, Will Take Them Up Again In 2021
By Paul Boger

Lawmakers took final procedural actions on a set of resolutions aimed at increasing the state’s mining tax. 

The passage of Senate Joint Resolution 1 (SJR1), as well as Assembly Joint Resolutions 1 and 2, start the process of amending a provision in the state constitution that caps mining taxes at five percent of gross mining proceeds. The next step for lawmakers is to pass the resolutions once more in the 2021 regular session before sending them to voters during the 2022 election. 

Two of the proposals -- AJR1 and SJR1 -- would replace the five percent cap on net proceeds with a 7.75% tax rate on gross mining proceeds. However, the two proposals differ on how to distribute the collected tax money. SJR1 would send half of the new money to the state and the other half to residents in the form of annual dividends. AJR1 would send all of the money to the state but earmark about a quarter of it for education or healthcare. According to Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB) analysis, the two measures could generate more than $500 million for the state annually. 

The third resolution, AJR2, is far more conservative. That proposal would set the net mining tax at the local property tax rate, capped at no more 12 percent. If taxed to the full extent, it would add about $170 million to the state coffers. 

The resolutions were almost universally lambasted by both Republicans and members of the public who spoke in opposition to the proposed amendments. Most argue that the high tax rate would devastate rural Nevada, forcing mines to lay off workers and either mothball their operations or close outright. 

GOP lawmakers also took issue with the process itself. Some criticized bringing the resolutions forward in a special session in which the public is barred from entering the building. Others took issue with how late in the evening the hearings were scheduled with some stretching into the wee hours of the morning.

Despite the criticism, Democrats were able to pass the resolutions on a party-line vote, and by approving them during a special session, Democratic leaders hope to have a proposal on the ballot by 2022 — cutting the amendment process down by nearly two years.

Assembly Sends Bill Allowing For Greater Leeway In Eviction Proceedings To Governor
By Paul Boger

Roughly an hour and a half after taking up Senate Bill 1 (SB1), the Assembly approved the bill with fairly bipartisan support. 

If signed by Governor Sisolak, the bill will give courts the ability to halt an eviction for up to 30 days while landlords and tenants work through mediation in an alternative dispute resolution program. 

According to the non-partisan Guinn Center for Policy Priorities, an estimated 142,000 households in Nevada could face eviction once the state’s moratorium ends next month.

10:13 p.m. | August 2, 2020

Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Connect More Nevadans With Unemployment Benefits
By Lucia Starbuck

Lawmakers are considering a measure that would expand unemployment benefits in Nevada.

With most businesses in the state reopening, between 10,000 and 20,000 Nevadans have started making too much money to qualify for weekly unemployment benefits but not enough money to survive. 

SB3 proposes that Nevadans can still receive unemployment benefits if they make up to one and a half times more than they receive through unemployment. It also allows people who refuse to return to work due to COVID-19-related health concerns to still collect benefits. In addition, the measure allows the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) to send certain documents electronically instead of through the mail, to speed up the process.

DETR has come under fire in recent months for a myriad of reasons, including not filing claims or issuing payments on-time and not doing enough to combat fraud. Many residents have also complained that it is incredibly difficult to file initial claims. 

Several senators on both sides of the aisle voiced concerns that the bill did not go far enough to address those issues.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

8:17 p.m. | August 2, 2020

President Trump Threatens Legal Action After Nevada Lawmakers Pass Election Reform
By Paul Boger

President Donald Trump is calling for “immediate litigation” after lawmakers in Nevada approved a bill requiring mail-in ballots to be sent to all active voters ahead of November’s general election. 

In a tweet, Trump criticized the bill as outrageous and called on Republican Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel to file a suit against the state.

Republicans including the president have voiced strong opposition to voting by mail claiming the process is rife with fraud.

But when pressed by lawmakers for any evidence of vote tampering during Nevada’s recent mostly mail-in primary in June, Nevada’s Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegaveke said “no”. 

“To my knowledge… we’ve not had any cases of fraud that have been reported to us,” she said.

Trump also threatened to take legal action against Nevada in that election too. 

Senate chambers on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020 during the third day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City.
Credit David Calvert / The Nevada Independent

Senate Gives Final O.K. To Election Reform Bill
By Paul Boger

The Nevada Senate has given the final okay to an election reform measure that will send an absentee ballot to every active voter ahead of November’s general election. Passed along party lines, Democrats approved the measure Sunday. 

It requires election officials to send ballots to all active registered voters whenever an emergency is declared ahead of an election. AB4 also requires counties to implement a certain number of in-person polling places based on population. 

The bill now heads to Governor Steve Sisolak who will likely sign it in the coming days.

12:05 a.m. | August 2, 2020

Assemblyman Steve Yeager on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, during the second day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City. Yeager sported pins in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and law enforcement, and explained the significance of each while presenting Assembly Bill 3.
Credit David Calvert / The Nevada Independent

Lawmakers Introduce Two Bills To Address Police Reform
By Lucia Starbuck

Lawmakers in Nevada are considering a set of bills meant to address police reform.

Nevada law currently allows law enforcement officers to use all necessary means to make an arrest. Assembly Bill 3 would change that language, giving police the ability to use reasonable force when necessary.

Among other provisions, the bill also bans chokeholds and requires officers to intervene and report if they see others using excessive force.

Another measure, SB2, looks to roll back a controversial measure from the 2019 legislative session that added protections for police under investigation. That includes only allowing an officer’s attorney to inspect evidence after the investigation is completed. 

Both measures are before the Senate.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Legislature Mulls Special Election Rules For Emergencies
By Paul Boger

Lawmakers in Nevada are considering a measure codifying mail-in elections during statewide disasters and emergencies such as the current pandemic. 

Passed by the Assembly, Friday, AB4 would require state and local election officials to send a mail-in ballot to all active registered voters in Nevada when a prolonged emergency or disaster is declared within a certain time frame before an election. The measure also requires counties to open a specific number of in-person polling places. For example, Washoe County would have to open 15 polling places for early voting and 25 for election day.

“Voters will now have the options in a manner that is the most safe, secure and convenient for their health,” said Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas). 

Voting-by-mail has become a divisive issue in recent months, with President Donald Trump claiming the process will lead to increased voter fraud despite a lack of evidence. And during “debate” on the bill, many Republicans in the Assembly echoed those concerns. 

One particularly controversial provision of AB4 would allow some voters to request help from a third party to turn in a ballot. Current state law only allows family members to do that.

Democrats argue allowing third parties to turn in a ballot will allow voters such as the elderly or the physically disabled to participate in the election without risking their health during the pandemic. 

Republican lawmakers, however, have serious concerns. 

“If we allow any person to handle and deliver our ballots for us, what sort of corruption are we opening ourselves up to,” asked Glen Leavitt (R-Boulder City). 

Supporters argue the measure helps ensure every voter will have the opportunity to cast a ballot in the safety of their own home. 

But testifying on the bill, Deputy Secretary of State for Elections Wayne Thorley told lawmakers the extra protections are not needed for the upcoming general election. He says anyone who feels at-risk can request an absentee ballot under the state’s existing laws.

“There are safe alternatives to voting in person that already exists and are easily available to those that want to not vote in person. Automatically mailing a ballot to every registered voter is costly and not needed to ensure voter safety,” he said.

Opponents of the measure, on the other hand, see it as a way to weaken the state’s democratic processes through fraud to sway the election in favor of Democrats. 

When Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske was pressed if any fraud was found during the state’s June primary election, which was conducted mostly by mail, she told lawmakers her office hadn’t found any. “Too my knowledge… we’ve not had any cases of fraud that have been reported to us,” she said.

The Senate has also already held a hearing on the measure, but chamber rules require the body to hold the bill for three days before they can take a final vote.

5:40 p.m. | August 1, 2020

Nevada Senate Passes Its Version Of A Proposal To Raise Mining Taxes
By Lucia Starbuck

The Nevada Senate has approved a proposed constitutional amendment potentially raising taxes on mining companies. 

A Democratic majority okayed Senate Joint Resolution 1 (SJR1) on a party-line vote, Saturday afternoon.

Under the Nevada Constitution, taxes on mine operators are capped at five percent of their net proceeds. SJR1 would raise that cap to 7.75%. The proposed amendment would also send half of the money collected by the state directly to residents in the form of an annual dividend.

Yet, Republicans argue Democrats are trying to rush the resolution through the legislative process. 

State Senator Keith Pickard on Friday, July 31, 2020 during the first day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City.
Credit David Calvert / The Nevada Independent

"If this thing goes through, at what point do we stop, and say, 'This is important for us to take the time to do it right, rather than ram it through,’” said Senator Keith Pickard (R - Henderson). “I urge my colleagues to consider how you're going to affect the real lives of people living in these areas that will be essentially obliterated. Their dreams, their futures will be gone. They'll have to leave, or they'll have to submit to a life of poverty, and yet we seem to be so cavalier about it.”

Under Nevada’s constitutional amendment process, if lawmakers propose a constitutional amendment, they must then approve it again during the next legislative session. It then would head to the ballot for voters to make the final call. Normally, that process would take roughly four years.

By approving this proposal during a special session, Democrats hope to have the amendment on the ballot by 2022 — cutting the process down by nearly two years.

State Senator Julia Ratti on Friday, July 31, 2020 during the first day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City.
Credit David Calvert / The Nevada Independent

Sen. Julia Ratti (D-Sparks) said starting the process now gives lawmakers plenty of time to examine ways to collect the new tax revenue as part of an effort to stave off the economic fallout associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We're either going to have to make devastating and meaningful cuts to the basic services that we provide to our constituents—education, health care, outdoors, everything that we do as a state—or we're going to have to consider raising revenue,” Ratti said. “There's some hand-wringing about: does it devastate rural Nevada? I am of, and from, rural Nevada. That is where my roots are. I still have many family members who live in rural Nevada. I have family members who have worked the mines. I would not sit here and take a vote that I believed would devastate rural Nevada."

Based on the calendar year 2019, if SJR1 was in place, mining companies would have generated $607 million. After distributing money to local governments, a potential $270 million would have gone directly to taxpayers, according to nonpartisan Legislative Counsel Bureau staff.

SJR1 now heads to the Assembly which is proposing its version of a mining tax increase.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

8:16 p.m. | July 31, 2020

Senate Looks To Increase Mining Taxes, Send Half Of The Money Directly To Residents
By Lucia Starbuck

The Nevada Senate is considering a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at raising taxes on the state’s mining industry and sending a portion of the money directly to taxpayers. 

Senate Joint Resolution One (SJR1) would raise state taxes on mining companies to 7.75 percent of their gross proceeds annually. The Nevada Constitution currently caps taxes on mining operators at five percent of their net proceeds. 

The proposal would also earmark the money collected from mining, with 50 percent going to the state while the other half would go directly to Nevadans’ pockets. However, details on the direct payments would still need to be ironed out in the future. Currently, mining taxes are divided, with half going to the state and the other half going to the counties in which the mines are located.

This is not the first time lawmakers have attempted to get more money from mining in recent weeks. During the 31st Special Legislative Session earlier this month, Democrats attempted to place a cap on the amount of money mines can deduct from their state taxes. That measure ultimately died when it failed to garner support from a single Republican. 

This measure also seems unlikely to pass. Not a single person offered support for the measure in public comment. One caller argued that the additional revenue needs to be earmarked for health and education programs, which is what lawmakers in the Nevada Assembly are proposing under a similar resolution. 

If SJR1 does pass, lawmakers must take it up again during the regular session in 2021. It would then appear on the 2022 general election ballot.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

3:51 p.m. | July 31, 2020

Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities (“Guinn Center”) estimates of how many renters in Nevada will be facing evictions once Gov. Steve Sisolak’s moratorium on evictions ends on Sept. 1, 2020.
Credit Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities

Lawmakers In Senate Introduce Bill To Halt Some Evictions For 30 Days After Moratorium Ends
By Lucia Starbuck

An estimated 142,000 households in Nevada could face eviction once the state’s moratorium ends next month, according to the Guinn Center. Lawmakers could soon pass a bill aimed at preventing some evictions in the state. 

Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered an eviction moratorium in late March to protect Nevadans from housing insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. That moratorium expires on September 1.

To mitigate a potential court backlog, lawmakers are considering a measure introducing an alternative dispute resolution for renters. That means, if tenants are facing eviction for non-payment of rent, they can remain in place for 30 days while they work out some kind of mediation with their landlord to stay and pay rent. 

Deonne Contine, the Director of Washoe Legal Services — one of the groups pushing for the measure — said additional considerations are needed before an eviction can be served, especially during the pandemic.

“I think that the concept is to make sure that people who the eviction has been noticed against them, make sure that they have all of the resources that are potentially available to them. ... So are they available for rental assistance? Have they received rental assistance? Are they entitled to unemployment that they haven't received yet? So, kind of really looking at those types of issues that would put people in a place where they could pay their rent so they would not get evicted.”

If passed, it’ll be up to the courts to decide what the mediation process will look like. 

Judges can already order mediation between tenants and landlords, but SB1 allows tenants to remain in their residency for 30 days.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

1:24 p.m. | July 31, 2020

The Assembly chambers on Friday, July 31, 2020 during the first day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City.
Credit David Calvert / The Nevada Independent

Lawmakers Call Special Session To Order
By Paul Boger

A little more than a couple of hours into the 32nd Special Session, lawmakers have, so far, introduced four bills. 

AB1 makes technical changes (read: clarifies/fixes typos) to a series of laws including former felon re-enfranchisement and how long a landlord has to wait before they can begin eviction procedures, and adds online businesses to the list of regulated money lenders.

AB2 gives lawmakers the ability to continue participating in interim committee meetings remotely in future years. Committees have worked remotely for the past several months under the governor’s current emergency orders. This bill would give them the option to continue the practice in future interim periods. The measure would also require that any constitutional amendment proposed during a special session be printed immediately, thereby skirting a rule that any proposed amendment be submitted three months before the next legislative election.

AB3 looks to take on policing reform. The proposed legislation clarifies that anyone can record any law enforcement activity. It also tones down the language currently in state statute requiring police to use “only the amount of reasonable force necessary” to carry out an arrest. Current law allows police to use “all necessary means.” In addition, the measure bans chokeholds which have been linked to several deaths of individuals in police custody including George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died with a police officer’s knee on his neck, sparking weeks of civil unrest across the country. It would also create a “duty to intervene” in which officers must step in and stop or prevent another officer from using unreasonable force. 

In the Senate, lawmakers spent their first day of the special session examining SB1, a measure giving courts greater leeway to create alternative dispute resolutions in eviction cases. The measure brought forward by Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty looks to potentially curb an expected avalanche of evictions once the governor’s moratorium on evictions ends in August.

Lawmakers are also expected to propose a constitutional amendment aimed at changing the state’s mining tax structure. However, they can only start that process in this session. It’ll still be years before voters would see any proposal on the ballot.

8:43 p.m. | July 30, 2020

Sisolak Calls Special Session For Friday
By Paul Boger

Governor Steve Sisolak has called for the 32nd Special Session of the Nevada Legislature to begin on Friday, July 31 at 9 a.m.   

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signs a proclamation calling for the 32nd Special Session of the Nevada Legislature to meet at 9 a.m. on Friday, July 31, 2020.
Credit Courtesy of the Nevada Governor's office.

In the proclamation, Sisolak directs lawmakers to take on a proverbial laundry list of policy issues.

That includes addressing criminal and social justice reform as well as ensuring the right to vote amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He's also calling on the legislature to create protections and additional support for the unemployed, business owners and renters facing eviction. 

In a statement released along with the proclamation, Sisolak says he expects the session to be "thorough and as efficient as possible."

This is the second special session called this month. The first was dedicated to addressing a roughly $1.2 billion budget hole created by the pandemic's economic fallout.