They may be in the minority, but Republicans in the Nevada legislature have set an agenda that includes bolstering the economy and reopening the state's schools. They also want to enact what they're calling common sense election reform. KUNR political editor Paul Boger joined Morning Edition host Noah Glick to break down the latest developments in Carson City.
Noah Glick: So as I was just saying, Republicans have released an agenda for the current legislative session. So what is it that they're trying to accomplish this year?
Paul Boger: Well, you underlined it pretty well there a second ago, but there are a number of things, [like] bolstering the state's economy. Nevada has been hit hard during the pandemic, so trying to get more people back out to work. Trying to bolster small business [and] make sure that they have the grants and resources they need to succeed.
There's also a push to limit the governor's powers. You have seen Republicans talk time and again, over the last year now, about how Governor Sisolak’s restrictions due to COVID have been hurting businesses, families [and] students because schools are closed. So, they're really pushing for this reopening, and they're really looking to limit the governor's emergency powers. Now what that will look like as it goes through a bill is going to be up for debate.
Talking about what those legislative priorities are, Minority Leader Assemblywoman Dr. Robin Titus said that Republicans will focus on what is truly important to Nevada's family.
Robin Titus: “I firmly believe that we must exponentially get our businesses back to work, full operation and quickly. We all know that losing livelihoods can be just as damaging as the virus itself, and the same goes for our school children. They need to get back into school. Life cannot be lived in a perpetual idleness and isolation. I am truly encouraged by the governor's loosening restrictions, but must more needs to be done.”
Glick: So it's a tall order. I mean, will Republicans be able to get any of this through?
Boger: That's a really interesting question considering they are in the minority in both chambers. Now, again, they're not the super minority they were in the assembly in 2019, but they are just 15 members. It's not a large caucus and they're going to have to work in a bipartisan manner if they [hope] to get anything done.
One of their big pushes will be election reform. They have maintained that there were errors and inconsistencies in the general election last fall. There, of course, were some inconsistencies. There are always some inconsistencies in elections. That does not mean there was widespread voter fraud. However, they say that the integrity of the election was compromised and that's left millions of Nevadans worried about the election. So they're going to push to repeal that AB4 that was so crucial in the special sessions last year that allowed Nevada to have that mail-in election. They're hoping to repeal that law and maybe enact some other voter ID or some other voter “integrity laws.”
Andy Matthews, he's a lawmaker from southern Nevada [and] he was also with the Nevada Policy Research Institute, one of those conservative think tanks down south. He's now a lawmaker, and this is what he had to say about that election reform.
Andy Matthews: “The right to vote is sacred. It is indispensable to maintaining stability and peace in a democratic republic because the power to vote is ultimately what holds our elected officials accountable. But for that power to mean anything, citizens must be able to trust that only legitimate votes are counted.”
Glick: So we've been talking about the Republicans, but have we gotten a sense of what the Democrats are looking to get done?
Boger: Normally, at this point in the session, we would have had some sort of press conference talking about those Democratic blueprints or their agenda. That's been customary my last two sessions here. We haven't seen that yet. We may not see that this session because there really isn’t, it appears at least, a whole lot of coordination between the Senate and the Assembly. They are kind of two chambers doing their own thing right now, whereas, in the past, the leadership in both chambers was very, very much in lockstep.
We also heard from Speaker Frierson on the first day of the session. This is a strange session. There are budget issues, the pandemic, the building's closed. They're just looking to get through this session, take care of what they need to be taken care of, maybe touch on some policy issues, such as criminal justice or education, but they're not going to do large program building or look at programs considering they just don't have the money.
Glick: Sure. Just briefly, Paul, while we still have you here, it's week three of the legislative session. What have lawmakers gotten done so far and what's on tap for next week?
Boger: We got the PETS grant last week. That was the first major bill. They're going through these committee hearings and holding bill hearings. So we're going to start seeing legislation come through.
We were expecting to see some sort of legislation on those innovation zones that allows a tech company to make their own county. We were maybe expecting that this week, we heard talk that we may see that language this week, [but] we did not. So maybe we'll see that bill come through next week, and that's what we're looking at.