Nevada lawmakers are convening for a special session to address a long list of policy topics ahead of their regularly scheduled session early next year.
To help readers understand where bills stand in the sometimes chaotic world of the Legislature, The Nevada Independent is maintaining this viewer’s guide with brief overviews and status updates on the measures.
Here’s a look at what bills are on deck.
SB4: Liability protections for businesses
Status: Heard by the Senate Committee of the Whole on 8/3/20. Passed Senate 16-5 on 8/5/20.
What it does: The bill covers three topics: creating an outline of enhanced cleaning policies for large casinos and hotels in Las Vegas and Reno, enhanced protections for workers at those casinos and hotels, and broad immunity from COVID-19 related litigation for businesses, government agencies including schools, and nonprofits, but not hospitals or health care facilities.
SCR1: Urging action to address systemic racism's effects on public health
Status: Approved by Senate on 8/5/20.
What it does: Declares that systemic racism and structures of racial discrimination constitute a public health crisis and that COVID-19 disproportionately harms communities of color.
Declares support for initiatives to understand, address and dismantle systemic racism and its impact on the delivery of services. Requesting federal funding be distributed equitably in proportion to the disadvantages in each racial group.
PASSED BOTH HOUSES
SB2: Revisiting 2019 police misconduct bill
Status: Passed Senate 13-8 on 8/3/20. Passed Assembly 25-17 on 8/4/20.
What it does: This bill would overhaul or remove several provisions of SB242 of the 2019 Legislature, which implemented several protections and procedures for police officers accused of misconduct.
Changes made by the bill include eliminating prohibitions on using a police officer’s compelled statement in a civil case without their consent, change the statute of limitations on when a law enforcement agency can bring an investigation against an officer, eliminate prohibitions on reassigning an officer under investigation and no longer prohibit law enforcement agencies from reopening investigations without “new material evidence.”
SB3: Expanding flexibility for DETR, extending unemployment benefits
Status: Passed Senate 21-0 on 8/4/20. Passed Assembly 41-1 on 8/4/20.
What it does: The bill would allow people to work more hours before they are deemed to make too much to be eligible for benefits, which would allow more people to take advantage of any federal bonus payment that Congress might enact after the recent expiration of the $600-per-week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation add-on. It also makes changes allowing Nevada to tap into an additional seven weeks of federally funded payments once claimants exhaust earlier benefits.
The bill will allow the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) to disregard vacation cash-outs or other income that is counted toward a person’s eligibility, but often delays payments for weeks because it sends their claim to an adjudication process.
AB3: Policing reform: Chokeholds, duty to intervene and recording law enforcement
Status: Passed Assembly 38-4 on 8/1/20. Passed Senate 19-2 on 8/3/20.
What it does: Explicitly allows recording of law enforcement activity if it is not obstructing the activity and bars police from seizing recording instruments or destroying recorded images.
Provides that police can use “only the amount of reasonable force necessary” to carry out the arrest of someone who is fleeing or resisting. The law currently allows police to use “all necessary means” to make the arrest.
Bans officers from choking people and says officers “shall take any actions necessary to place such a person in a recovery position if he or she appears to be in distress or indicates that he or she cannot breathe.”
Creates a “duty to intervene” that requires an officer to prevent or stop another officer from using unjustified force against a person, regardless of the chain of command. The officer must report in writing within 10 days the details of the incident.
Requires testing officers for alcohol and drugs — including prescription drugs and cannabis — if they are in an officer-involved shooting.
SB1: Alternative dispute resolutions for evictions
Status: Passed Senate 18-3 on 8/2/20. Passed Assembly 38-4 on 8/3/20.
This bill would require a halt on eviction proceedings for any tenant in a dwelling unit, apartment, mobile home, recreational vehicle, or low-rent housing program operated by a public housing authority if a court in the state establishes an “expedited program of alternative dispute resolution.”
Alternative dispute resolution typically refers to a wide array of legal processes to bring two disputing parties to an agreement short of formal litigation or lawsuits filed in a court. Gov. Steve Sisolak announced the lifting of the state’s moratorium on evictions in late June, though it will be a phased-in process and prohibit evictions of residential tenants until September.
The bill would halt evictions for up to 30 days if the parties agree to enter the program for alternative dispute resolution. It would become effective as soon as it’s passed.
AJR2: Another mining tax change
Status: Passed Assembly 29-13 on 8/2/20. Passed Senate 14-7 on 8/2/20.
Introduced Saturday, this resolution would amend the Nevada Constitution by raising the upper limit of the net proceeds of minerals tax from 5 percent to 12 percent.
The resolution — the third mining-related constitutional change proposed in the two days of the special session — would also establish a minimum rate of the net proceeds tax tied to the property tax rate in the taxing district (whether county or municipality) where the mining operation is located.
Status: SJR1 passed Senate 13-8 on 8/1/20, passed Assembly 25-17 on 8/2/20. AJR1 passed Assembly 29-13 on 8/2/20, passed Senate 13-8 on 8/2/20.
Lawmakers have introduced two resolutions that would substantially overhaul how the state taxes its mining industry.
Introduced in the Senate, SJR1 would amend the state Constitution by removing the 5 percent maximum net proceeds of minerals tax, and replacing it with a tax on the gross proceeds at a rate of 7.75 percent. That change would require approval in this special session, the 2021 session and at the 2022 ballot.
The Senate proposal would undo the normal two-thirds majority required for any tax increase, allowing a simple majority of legislators to increase taxations on mines or minerals but requiring a two-thirds vote to reduce the rate or provide exemptions from the taxes.
It would also require 50 percent of the proceeds go to a separate budget fund in the state Treasury and fund a program making regular payments to “eligible persons domiciled in this State.”
AJR1, on the Assembly side, would also impose a 7.75 percent tax rate on mining gross proceeds, but the distribution method differs. Under the Assembly proposal, 25 percent of the proceeds would be segregated and used exclusively for education purposes, health care for state residents or economic assistance to state residents. The bill requires a majority of each house to pass.
Democratic lawmakers told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that they planned to pass out both measures and pick which one to go with during the next regular legislative session.
SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
AB4: Major election changes, including ballot collection
Status: Passed Assembly 29-12 on 7/31/20. Passed Senate 13-8 on 8/2/20. Signed by governor 8/3/20.
What it does: Creates a new set of rules for elections conducted under state of emergencies or declaration of disaster, that would likely be in effect and retroactive for the 2020 general election.
Notably, the bill will allow for a voter to authorize another person to return their absentee or mail-in ballot to an election clerk — a practice called ballot collecting or “ballot harvesting.” Current Nevada law only allows voters to authorize a member of their family or a limited pool of individuals to return their mail-in ballot.
It also requires election officials provide a mail-in ballot to all registered, active voters in the state. The mail ballots must be mailed 20 days before the election to registered, active voters who reside in the state and 40 days before the election to registered, active voters who live outside the state. It also allocates $2 million in state funds for the general election, with instructions on further disbursements of potential future funds.
But like with other new election-related changes in the bill, those provisions are only in effect during state of emergencies or decorations of disaster declared by the state governor. The bill is retroactive, meaning the 2020 general election would be covered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill would require Clark County to provide at least 35 polling places for early voting, with at least 17 in Washoe County and at least one permanent location in every other county. On Election Day, Clark County must have at least 100 polling places, Washoe County must have 30, and every other county must have at least one polling place open.
It also lays out requirements for tribal governments to request early voting locations on reservations.
For affected elections, each active registered voter would receive sample ballots and mail ballots. Voters, in turn, would need to fill out the mail ballot, deposit the ballot in the mail envelope and attach a signature to the space provided on the return envelope. The mail ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by the clerk no later than 5 p.m. on the seventh day following the election. They can also be hand delivered to the county or city clerk or to any established ballot drop boxes.
Voters’ signatures will be checked with other voters records available to the clerk. If two employees in the office of the clerk believe there is “reasonable question” the signatures don’t match, the voter will be contacted to confirm whether the signature indeed belongs to the voter.
If there are issues remaining with the signature, a voter has until 5 p.m. on the 9th day after the election to submit a corrected signature.
For affected elections, the bill also instructs the county or city clerk to establish a mail ballot central counting board, which would begin counting the received mail ballots 15 days before Election Day. The board must count all ballots on or before the ninth day following an election.
AB1: Corrects technical errors on law for ex-felon voting rights, evictions
Status: Passed Assembly 31-10 on 7/31/20. Passed Senate 18-3 on 8/1/20. Signed by governor 8/2/20.
What it does: Clarifies the law to indicate that people who are placed on probation, granted parole or granted a pardon immediately regain their right to vote. Existing law leaves a gray area on people under supervision because it says the right to vote is restored to someone who “has served his or her sentence and has been released from prison.”
It also takes out provisions of law that prevented voter rights restoration for people who were released from prison but had been convicted of a serious category A felony, a category B felony involving the use of force, or two or more felonies arising from separate incidents.
The bill also amends language passed in 2019 about when a person is evictable. It specifies that a tenant is guilty of an “unlawful detainer” if they remain in a commercial property for five days after not paying rent and being notified in writing of the default.
The term is seven judicial days for noncommercial properties and 10 days for a mobile home lot.
AB2: Remote voting, legal staff and constitutional changes
Status: Passed Assembly 40-1 on 7/31/20. Passed Senate 15-6 on 8/2/20. Signed by governor 8/2/20.
This bill largely codifies practices and actions taken by interim legislative bodies over the past few months, including allowing legislators to participate in committee meetings or floor sessions using remote technology.
Legislators in the previous special session adopted floor rules allowing for remote voting technology, a precaution given concerns over COVID-19. The bill essentially adopts those rules into law, and makes it a crime to unlawfully disrupt any videoconferenced proceedings or meetings.
It also codifies a staffing change in the Legislative Counsel Bureau approved by the interim Legislative Commission last month that created a new office of “general counsel,” a new position heading any litigation or lawsuits involving the Legislature.
The Legislative Commission appointed longtime legislative attorney Kevin Powers to the position of general counsel and fellow staff attorney Bryan Fernley to the position of Legislative Counsel. The proposed bill sets out minimum qualifications for each position, and allows them to carry out responsibilities of the other position if and when it’s necessary.
Finally, the bill includes technical processing instructions for what to do if the Legislature begins the process of amending the Constitution during a special session. Usually, a constitutional change originating in the Legislature needs to pass two subsequent sessions and be approved by voters to take effect, but constitutional deadlines allow the Legislature to shorten that process if they pass a resolution during a special session.
It’s expected that lawmakers will introduce some constitutional change removing the limit on mining taxes currently in the state constitution. A version of one such change was posted and quickly removed from the legislative website late Thursday night.