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The 32nd Special Session of the Nevada Legislature Officially Begins

The Nevada Legislature has returned for its second special session of 2020, this time to handle several policy matters that were held back during the previous special session that was dominated by the state’s COVID-19 induced budget shortfall. So what exactly is the Nevada Legislature doing this time, and why should we care?

Editor’s Note: Scroll to the bottom for updates on the new voting rights/vote-by-mail bill and the two new mining tax proposals.
So what are they doing?
Steve Sisolak, Nevada Legislature
Photo provided by the Office of Governor Steve Sisolak

As we glanced upon last night, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) laid out an agenda for the 32nd Special Session of the Nevada Legislature that focuses on these issues: police brutality and criminal justice reform, voting rights and election protection, worker safety and corporate liability “relief”, fixing the state’s unemployment system, and preventing a spike in evictions once Sisolak’s eviction moratorium fully expires in September. 

In addition, Sisolak’s inclusion of constitutional amendments has some progressive activists hopeful that legislators will also begin the process of removing the 5% mining tax cap on net proceeds from the Nevada Constitution.

So far, here are the bills that came online this morning: AB 1 is a policy grab bag that includes a broadening of the restoration of the right to vote for formerly incarcerated Nevadans that began with 2019’s AB 431 (now extending to people still on parole, and to those convicted of certain category A and category B felonies), a clarification on the 2019 session’s SB 151’s five day “unlawful detainer” rule for commercial tenants who’ve been served eviction notices for not paying rent, and a clarification on the 2019 session’s SB 161’s allowance of online lenders to offer financial loans despite having no physical presence in Nevada.

What else are they doing? 
Photo by Andrew Davey

AB 3 contains some more of the demands made by the Black Lives Matter movement: a ban on police chokeholds (as in, how Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd), further change in the state’s use of force matrix to direct officers to use “only the amount of reasonable force necessary” instead of Nevada’s current “all necessary means” standard, a requirement for other officers to intervene if they see colleagues using unjustified force against a person, a requirement for officers to seek immediate medical aid for people who are injured by the police, and legal protection for civilians who record police activity while avoiding any obstruction of the police. AB 3 also provides “whistleblower” legal protection against police department retaliation for officers who intervene in excessive use of force incidents as described above and/or file reports calling out such incidents.

AB 2 is the vehicle legislators can use to introduce any constitutional amendments (see above) during this special session, and it codifies into law the rules changes made earlier this year to allow more virtual participation in legislative activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. And finally, SB 1 allows state courts to stay (or postpone) residential tenant evictions for up to 30 days and direct the parties to an “alternative dispute resolution” program instead, kind of like how Nevada’s Foreclosure Mediation Program has helped distressed homeowners since the days of the Great Recession. 

There was a late-night drop of a proposed SJR 1 to take the 5% mining tax cap out of the Nevada Constitution and ditch the net proceeds tax for a 7.75% gross receipts tax, but they can’t plan on a second legislative vote next year and a final ballot box referendum in 2022 unless and until AB 2 becomes law.

Oh, look. They finally got started.
Nevada Legislature
Photo by Andrew Davey

Some time after Sisolak’s scheduled 9:00 AM start time, the Assembly and the Senate officially began and quickly launched into contentious fights over rules packages that Democrats ultimately passed on party-line votes. From there, the Senate’s Committee of the Whole began hearing SB 1 while the Assembly’s Committee of the Whole took up AB 2. 

Interestingly enough the AB 2 hearing had little in the way of fireworks, even though it’s ultimately very consequential in terms of laying the groundwork for this SJR 1 proposal or whatever other mining tax amendment ultimately lands onto NELIS (the online portal where everyone can see the full text, fiscal notes, public testimony, and vote tallies of bills once bills are officially published).

But wait, this can’t be all, right? Considering today is the first day, considering how contentious the fight over workplace safety and corporate liability has already become, and considering the logistical intricacies (including ongoing opposition from Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske [R] and President Donald Trump’s undermining of the U.S. Postal Service) that must be worked out to guarantee safe and functioning vote-by-mail for the general election, we’ll probably need to hang tight until the rest of the bills drop. And then, the Nevada Legislature may very well give us fireworks that we thought were long and gone when July 4 came and went.

3:10 PM UPDATE: Election and mining tax bills drop.
Photo by Andrew Davey

The legislative calendar is changing (as in, others meetings are being canceled), and that’s almost certainly because the Nevada Legislature is gearing up for several more days of work during this special session.

After last night’s SJR 1 glitch, we now have AJR 1. This not only removes the 5% of net proceeds mining tax cap from the Nevada Constitution, but it also sets in place a 7.75% gross receipts mining tax. In addition, AJR 1 sets aside 25% of the new gross receipts mining tax revenue for public education, health care, and other social safety net purposes, while the remaining 75% of revenue is unrestricted.

Photo by Andrew Davey

But wait, there’s more: While there’s still no official SJR 1 yet on NELIS, the R-J‘s Colton Lochhead is reporting that the Senate side will unveil their own mining tax proposal that will set aside 50% of revenue for resident dividends akin to the Alaska Permanent Fund for that state’s oil and gas extraction tax revenue, while the state keeps the other 50%. According to Lochhead, Democrats plan to pass both bills this summer and decide during next year’s regular session which of the two to advance to the 2022 general election ballot.

And finally, we have AB 4: This is the long awaited omnibus voting rights bill that includes vote-by-mail available for all active registered voters (as in, we’ll all be mailed our ballots again), the allowance of third-party ballot collection for select voters who sign their ballots and request third-party assistance, revising the state’s standard on ballot signature verification, allowing for county election offices to (again) designate secure ballot drop-off sites, allowing county election offices to begin counting returned ballots 15 days before the traditional election day, requiring all counties to have sufficient in-person vote sites to accommodate people who choose to vote in person (including in-person sites on Native American tribal lands, at least 30 vote sites in Washoe County, and at least 100 vote sites in Clark County), and providing an additional $2 million for the state and county election offices to run this year’s general election.

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