So the Nevada Legislature has finally wrapped up its 32nd Special Session. What exactly have they done? Quite a lot, actually, so let’s review the good, the bad, and the weird from this extra special of a special session.
First, some last(-ish?) words on AB 4 and voting by mail
Nevada State Sen. Spearman on passing a law that makes vote by mail easier, "This bill ensures that every person who wants to exercise their constitutional right to vote can do so.
"Mr. Trump, we won't be intimidated … Nevadans are not afraid of you."https://t.co/hQc92ZDEv6
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 5, 2020
"They're trying to create a scenario here that doesn't exist," says Nevada's Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak on Pres. Trump's attacks on mail-in voting. "They are trying to raise people's suspicions… We have never had any problems." https://t.co/tImDBpHp8u pic.twitter.com/tqMH1NBrmE
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) August 5, 2020
Before we dive into other pressing matters, let’s clear up President Donald Trump’s Sturm und Drang over AB 4. Despite Trump’s and his “well connected” lawyers’ assertions to the contrary, AB 4 conforms with longstanding Nevada state and federal election law. More specifically, (pre-AB 4) NRS 293 already established the procedure for “mail-in precincts”, for mailed in ballots received after Election Day to be counted so long as they’re postmarked by Election Day, and for mailed in ballots with indeterminable postmarks to be counted so long as they’re received within three days of Election Day.
Next, let’s take up Trump’s continuing “fraud” allegations: Even while speaking against AB 4, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R) admitted that her office found no evidence of “voter fraud” during the vote-by-mail primary she agreed to conduct. While a Trump campaign representative decried AB 4 on CNN, CNN’s Brianna Keilar fact-checked her in real time as she pointed out that even the right-wing Heritage Foundation recorded just six cases of voter fraud over the last 38 years, with zero of those incidents coming from vote-by-mail.
And finally, let’s remember what happened when far-right groups sued to try to stop Cegavske from mailing ballots to all active registered voters during the primary. Unless the Trump campaign runs into the same amazing luck that Texas Republicans did with their suit to try to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act, it’s hard to see this lawsuit going much further. Yet even if they do make it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court this fall, keep in mind that Chief Justice John Roberts already joined with the four Democratic-appointed Justices in ruling against far-right attempts to overturn Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D) order limiting indoor gatherings.
Next, we jump from the buzzy AB 4 story to the murky SB 4 situation.
Since we got the “sexy story” out of the way, let’s jump back into the rest of the Nevada Legislature’s agenda that isn’t attracting a ton of national media attention. SB 4 is the omnibus workplace safety and corporate legal immunity bill. In recent hours, it’s been undergoing some changes – chiefly, it now excludes public schools and most hospitals from legal immunity.
Basically, SB 4 is a tradeoff that gives the Culinary Union the casino safety rules they’ve been demanding all along in exchange for a very broad business liability shield that not only covers casino resorts that adhere to these new rules (along with the state rules that are already in place), but also businesses and most governmental entities that will not be subjected to the same health safety rules as the casinos. SB 4 passed the Senate on a bipartisan 16-5 vote, then the Assembly on a 31-10 vote with a mix of Democrats and Republicans voting for and against.
While SB 4 may result in better enforcement as casinos like the Sahara, MGM Grand, and Caesars Palace where workers have already died or become seriously ill just for reporting back to work, it doesn’t offer the same protection to workers in other industries. Instead, it restricts these workers’ ability to hold bad employers accountable. And as both I in these pages and Hugh Jackson at the Nevada Current have pointed out, corporate legal immunity does nothing to “save jobs” when such jobs have been lost due to the very real danger posed by an active pandemic rather than the overblown threat of “frivolous lawsuits”.
And before we go, an update on the police bills and how they measure up to the Black Lives Matter movement’s demands
To be fair, different groups of activists have made some different demands. While DeRay Mckesson and Campaign Zero had been advancing “Eight Can’t Wait” with eight demands (such as banning chokeholds and requiring police officers to intervene when they see colleagues use excessive and/or unjustified force) they claimed were backed by data and simple to implement, other activists and researchers panned “Eight Can’t Wait” for the lack of supporting data and what they consider its failure to address the core problem of police departments having extensive authorization and resources to subjugate communities of color.
So naturally, the Nevada Legislature opted for “Eight Can’t Wait”. AB 3 largely covers the “Eight Can’t Wait” list of demands, and it passed the Senate on a bipartisan 19-2 vote following the Assembly’s 38-4 vote to pass AB 3. Meanwhile, SB 2 merely amends the 2019 “Officers’ Bill of Rights” (or SB 242) rather than a full repeal of the 2019 law that restricts police departments’ ability to investigate officer misconduct cases and impose penalties. SB 2 passed the Senate on a 13-8 party-line vote, but SB 2 only passed the Assembly 25-17 with Democrats Richard Carrillo (D-Las Vegas), Skip Daly (D-Sparks), Edgar Flores (D-Las Vegas), and Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas) joining all Republicans in voting against it.
And finally, we have SB 1 to empower courts to grant 30 day stays for eviction cases and redirect these eviction cases to an alternative dispute resolution program, as well as SB 3 to expedite approval for unemployment insurance (UI) income and help Nevadans qualify for an additional seven weeks of traditional UI income. SB 3 passed the Senate unanimously, and it passed the Assembly 41-1 (with only Chris Edwards [R-Las Vegas] opposing). SB 1 passed the Senate 18-3 and the Assembly 38-4.
Next week we’ll go more in-depth and assess more of the fallout from this 32nd Special Session of the Nevada Legislature, particularly when it comes to the police bills. But right here, at first glance and hot on the heels of sine die that will almost certainly last until the next regular session begins next February, we’re left with another complicated picture that displays some of the best of what our Nevada Legislature can do during these trying times… And quite a bit of the worst that we’ve regularly come to expect.