The Nevada Legislature closed its second whirlwind special session of the summer Aug. 6 after passing bills that: mandate a statewide vote-by-mail system in November; regulate the actions of law enforcement agencies; allow judges to delay evictions; and protect most employers from liability relating to COVID-19 lawsuits.
A bill aimed at clearing the bottleneck in unemployment claims payouts also passed both houses. Lawmakers also approved three measures that would increase mining taxes. One of those proposals would have to survive the 2021 legislative session and then face a statewide referendum the following year in order to become law.
The special session is the second of the summer and follows the 12-day session convened to help ease the state’s budget deficit caused by the economic freeze in the wake of the pandemic. The Legislature has a Democratic majority and most of the votes on the bills followed party lines.
After the session adjourned, Assembly Republicans issued a statement complaining the bills were “hyper-partisan” and “passed under the cover of night, with multiple unanswered questions, and little to no input from experts or the public.”
“Apparently every day is Christmas for left-leaning special interest groups in Nevada… I have never seen a legislative body so open to the whims of unions and other special interest groups all to the detriment of Nevada’s economy. What we saw during this special session was an all-out assault on Nevada’s law enforcement, healthcare industry, mining industry, and worst of all our children’s ability to receive a quality education.”— Assembly Republican Leader Robin Titus
Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed the elections bill is expected to sign the other measures into law. He issued a statement saying that the session “addressed significant policy issues that could not wait until the regularly scheduled legislative session” and that the measures are “much needed legislation protecting Nevadans.”
Here’s a summary of the major bills and legislative actions:
- Senate Bill 4: The bill grants immunity from civil suits to businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies that have “substantially complied” with corona virus-containment measures. School districts and hospitals, which were covered in the original measure, were carved out of the bill. School districts were against the exclusion, but teachers unions lobbied for the exemption.
- Assembly Bill 4: Nevadans have the option of voting by mail in the November general election and any future election held while the Silver State is under a disaster or emergency declaration. The bill also allows elderly and physically-disabled voters to request that someone else fill out and return their ballot. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign filed suit over the bill on Aug. 4.
- Assembly Bill 3: The measure bans police choke holds from being used by law enforcement agencies in the Silver State and requires officers to use only “reasonable force” to carry out arrests. Reno and other Nevada jurisdictions recently announced similar polices in the wake of Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The bill also mandates drug and alcohol testing of police officers involved in shootings and requires police to intervene when they see a colleague misusing force on a suspect. The bill also enshrines in law a citizens’ right to record law enforcement activity as long as the person recording isn’t interfering with officers. The bill passed both houses with bipartisan support.
- Senate Bill 1: The measures allows Nevada judges more options toresolve eviction actions that result from the economic collapse that followed the pandemic. A six-month eviction moratorium is about to expire and a flood of eviction notices is expected to move through the courts and on to renters’ doors. The measure allows judges to delay eviction hearings for a 30 days month as a mediation system evolves to handle rent disputes outside the courtrooms.
- Senate Bill 3: The bill will allow state unemployment officials more leeway in approving or rejecting unemployment claims that usually are subject to a lengthy arbitration process, a system that creates a bottleneck for claims.
The Legislature didn’t touch the current system of deductions used to calculate mining industry taxes. Instead, lawmakers passed three tax proposals to boost the tax rate on minerals extraction. Two of those constitutional amendments would put the industry’s tax rate at 7.5 percent of the industry’s gross income. The third would boost the tax rate on net proceeds to 12 percent. Democrats are expected to select a final proposal in February that would be introduced in the regular session of the 2021 Legislature. If passed, the amendment would be in front of voters in November 2022.