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Nevada Government Affairs & Advocacy Nevada Update – August 6, 2020

Government Affairs Daily Update

August 6, 2020

Our Government Affairs & Advocacy Team is dedicated to keeping you informed and up to date with political and COVID-19 information in Nevada.

Special Session Coverage

Legislature Adjourns Sine Die – The Nevada Legislature adjourned sine die shortly after midnight Thursday morning after six days of business in Carson City addressing various policy items and passing 11 pieces of legislation in total. Lawmakers concluded the session thanking legislative staff after several nights that ran into the early morning hours.  Legislators were under a significant amount of pressure to conclude their work in a timely manner after the first special session ran much longer than anticipated.  The Governor emphasized a desire to see an efficient session due to ongoing concerns over COVID-19 exposure in the legislative building. Among the most high-profile bills passed is a bill expanding access to a mostly mail-in ballot general election in November.  The bill drew the attention of President Donald Trump earlier this week and ultimately led his reelection campaign to file a lawsuit against Republican Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. Lawmakers also passed substantial police and criminal justice reform, resolutions that initiate the process to change how the mining industry is taxed, and a bill extending liability protections to businesses and various entities in the state. Governor Sisolak has signed four bills thus far, including Assembly Bill 4 expanding mail-in ballot access. In a statement released by his office following the adjournment of the legislature, Governor Sisolak announced he plans to sign all remaining bills in the coming days. The three resolutions passed, which propose constitutional amendments to mining taxes, do not require signature by the Governor and will be considered again during the 2021 regular legislative session. Here is a glance at all eleven (11) pieces of legislation passed during the 32nd Legislative Special Session:

  • AB 1 (Technical Changes) – Assembly Bill 1 corrects several technical errors in law relating to voting rights for those on probation and parole, as well as clarifying language relating to evictions.
  • AB 2 (Remote Participation and Constitutional Changes) – Assembly Bill 2 codifies remote participation for legislators during the COVID-19 pandemic, creates the Office of General Counsel in the Legislative Counsel Bureau and provides authorization and guidance on the process of amending the Constitution during a special session.
  • AB 3 (Police Reform) – Assembly Bill 3 presents a number of reform policies for law enforcement agencies, which includes banning the use of chokeholds, creating a “duty to intervene,” requiring a drug test for those in an officer-involved shooting and allowing the recording of law enforcement if it does not obstruct proceedings.
  • AB 4 (Election Reform) – Assembly Bill 4 provides for an expansion of mail-in voting during a state of emergency, mandates the minimum number of in-person voting locations in each county and appropriates $3-million in state funds to conduct the November general election.
  • SB 1 (Eviction Dispute) – Senate Bill 1 authorizes the stay of eviction proceedings for up to 30 days to allow for alternative dispute resolution and applies to tenants in both private and public rental agreements.
  • SB 2 – (Peace Officers) – Senate Bill 2, proposes changes to Senate Bill 242 of the 2019 legislative session to provide accountability and transparency for both officers and residents by requiring investigations to occur within a reasonable amount of time and allowing an investigation to be reopened without the discovery of new evidence.
  • SB 3 – (Unemployment Insurance) – Senate Bill 3 aims to expand access to unemployment insurance for Nevadans by expanding DETR authority to deem reasons for not working as “good causes” and accessing seven weeks of additional federal aid for regular unemployment applicants.
  • SB 4 – (COVID-19 Liability) – Senate Bill 4 extends limited COVID-19 liability coverage for businesses and government entities, including nonprofits and schools. It also implements stricter health standards for hotels and casinos at the direction of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Resolutions:

  • SJR 1 (Mining Tax) – Senate Joint Resolution 1 (SJR1) proposes to implement a 7.75-percent tax on gross proceeds of minerals, provides 50-percent of the proceeds toward payments to Nevada residents and removes the requirement for a two-thirds majority to pass a tax increase.
  • AJR 1 (Mining Tax) – Similar to SJR1,Assembly Joint Resolution (AJR1) proposes to implement a 7.75-percent tax on gross proceeds of minerals but allocates 25-percent of proceeds to education, health care and economic assistance for state residents.
  • AJR 2 (Mining Tax) – Assembly Joint Resolution 2 (AJR2) proposes to raise the cap for net proceeds on minerals tax from 5-percent to 12-percent.

Limited Liability Legislation Among Most Contentious of the Session – After a contentious five-hour hearing Wednesday night, Senate Bill 4 was approved by the Assembly in a 31-10 bipartisan vote, making it the last major piece of legislation to pass both bodies and head to the Governor’s desk for signature. The bill provides COVID-19 liability protections for businesses, certain government entities and nonprofits. It also establishes extensive protections for workers in the hospitality industry and mandates enhanced cleaning policies for large casino companies – provisions advocated for by the Culinary Union and casino employees.

Despite support from the Culinary Union, language in the bill explicity excludes hospitals, certain medical facilities and school districts, driving several democratic lawmakers to ultimately oppose the bill. School districts were covered under the original language of the bill, however pressure from teachers unions pushed legislators to introduce an amendment carving them out, saying it will lead schools to be more cautious in sending teachers and students back to school. Despite the adoption of the amendment to exclude schools, Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) testified in opposition to the bill, standing in solidarity with industries who were not included in discussions – namely health care. Representatives of the health care industry pushed for liability protection to be amended into the bill language, warning that the lack of liability protection may require hospitals and facilities to limit visitors, vendors and medical students as well as put a strain on overall capacity. Officials from the Governor’s office referenced Emergency Directive 011, which extends certain immunities to medical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as justification for their exclusion in the bill. However, general counsel of the Legislative Counsel Bureau Kevin Powers noted during the hearing he wasn’t certain whether the protections in Emergency Directive 011 extend to facilities.

An additional provision of the bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services to adopt stricter sanitation requirements for hotels and casinos in the state and defers to local health districts to enforce the standards by conducting regular inspections. Both the Southern Nevada Health District and the Washoe County Health District released statements Wednesday saying they were not consulted in the bill’s drafting, despite the new requirements being imposed on the entities. They additionally noted that funding to conduct the inspections is only provided through the end of the calendar year, making the provision an unfunded mandate on the districts.

Four Democratic members of the Assembly – Selena Torres, Edgar Flores, Richard Carrillo and Brittney Miller – joined four Republicans – Alexis Hansen, John Ellison, Robin Titus, Greg Hafen, Al Kramer and Chris Edwards – in opposing the bill. Senator Marcia Washington was the sole Democrat to oppose the bill in the Senate, joining Republicans Pete Goicoechea, Ira Hansen, Joe Hardy and James Settelmeyer. Lawmakers in both houses made note of the difficult decision to vote for the bill, saying it cut out some of Nevada’s most important industries from the conversation. Several legislators made a point to acknowledge the bill is not perfect, but it is a necessary step in protecting Nevada’s businesses and tourism industry.

Trump vs. Nevada Over New Election Law Passed in Session –President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske after the Nevada Legislature passed a bill opening the door to a mostly mail-in election in November. Assembly Bill 4 requires the state to send a mail-in ballot to every registered active voter in the state and authorizes a system for ballot collection regarded by Republican lawmakers as “ballot harvesting.” Under the provision, an individual can be authorized to collect and turn in a ballot on behalf of another individual. Despite the distribution of mail-in ballots to all active voters, the bill also mandates a minimum number of in-person polling locations in each county during early voting and on Election Day. In the weeks of early voting, at least 35 polling locations must be available in Clark County, at least 15 in Washoe County and at least one in all other counties. On Election Day, Clark County must have at least 100 polling locations, Washoe County must have 25 and all other counties must have at least one. The provisions of the bill are only applicable during a declared State of Emergency. The bill passed on expected party-line votes in both houses.

The lawsuit, filed in conjunction with the Nevada Republican Party and the Republican National Convention, requests a federal judge enjoin implementation of the bill, saying it “upends Nevada’s election laws and requires massive changes in election procedures and processes, makes voter fraud and other ineligible voting inevitable.” Specifically, it claims the bill extends the deadline for Election Day by allowing ballots with unclear postmark date to be accepted up to three days after Election Day. The lawsuit additionally claims the bill violates the Equal Protection Clause for rural counties by only requiring one polling location, despite some counties have higher populations. President Trump has continued to criticize Nevada’s plans for the election, despite recently announcing support for mail-in voting policies in Arizona and Florida.

Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske previously indicated a desire to return the state to a mostly in-person election for the November general election prior to the passage of Assembly Bill 4. However, her office has yet to make an official comment regarding the lawsuit or the passage of Assembly Bill 4. Democratic Senators Pat Spearman and Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro have appeared on national news networks in recent days in defense of the bill, arguing it provides the safest path for Nevada to conduct a secure election in November. Governor Sisolak released a statement upon signing the bill, affirming his support and upholding the provisions in the bill.

Racial Disparity Declared Public Health Crisis in Last Minute Resolution – Hours before adjourning sine die, the Senate introduced and passed a resolution identifying racial inequities during the COVID-19 pandemic as a public health crisis. Senate Concurrent Resolution 1 specifically noted underlying issues relating to systemic racism and the unequivocal display of disparity in treatment during the pandemic. Several lawmakers rose to speak on the topic and called upon colleagues to pass the resolution. While there was no roll call vote, the resolution passed with resounding voice votes in both houses. Governor Steve Sisolak issued a proclamation shortly after the resolution’s introduction that named racism a public health crisis. The Governor pledged to work with Nevada’s Office of Minority Health and Equity to combat health disparities and promote widespread equity in the state.

Governor Sisolak Announces Changes to DETR – During a press conference Thursday, Governor Sisolak announced several changes in staffing for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) to address the growing backlog of unemployment claims in the state. Barbara Buckley, a former lawmaker and current Executive Director of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, was named to lead a “strike force” focused on improving the department’s handling of unemployment insurance. He additionally appointed Elisa Cafferata, a deputy administrator of field operations in the Welfare Division, as the new acting director of DETR after Heather Korbulic resigned in June. Sisolak said Buckley will work for the next 60-90 days using federal CARES Act funds to improve the business and technology of the agency. In this capacity, Buckley plans to work with both public and private entities to find solutions to ongoing issues such as fraudulent claims and identity verification. Since the pandemic, over 1-million initial unemployment insurance claims were filed and of those, hundreds of thousands have yet to be processed and paid. During the press conference, Governor Sisolak also signed Senate Bill 3, which passed the legislature with near unanimous support and gives the unemployment agency more flexibility in its processing of claims.

COVID-19 Numbers in Nevada

New Cases: 759

Total Cases: 53,687

Total Recoveries: 44,273 (+1,108)

Total Fatalities: 901 (+10)


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