Lawmakers nearing end of agenda for special session

From left, State Senator James Settelmeyer, Nevada Senate GOP Executive Director Greg Bailor and Senator Keith Pickard return to the the Legislature during a recess on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020 on the third day of the 32nd Special Session in Carson City. (David Calvert/Nevada Independent)

From left, State Senator James Settelmeyer, Nevada Senate GOP Executive Director Greg Bailor and Senator Keith Pickard return to the the Legislature during a recess on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020 on the third day of the 32nd Special Session in Carson City. (David Calvert/Nevada Independent)

Sisolak signs bill to allow mail-in ballots in November

Lawmakers are on track to complete the 32nd special session on Wednesday.

After marathon sessions by the Assembly on Sunday and Senate on Monday, lawmakers had completed the majority of the things listed in Gov. Steve Sisolak’s proclamation, including Assembly Bill 4 making November primarily a mail-in election.

The vote was party line in both houses with Republicans opposed, arguing, without evidence, that mail-in elections allow massive voter fraud.

AB4 allows voters to vote in-person at numerous polling places, but also mails ballots to all active registered voters in the state and allows volunteers to collect and turn in ballots from other voters who can’t get to a polling place.

The GOP, following President Trump’s lead, is saying there will be massive fraud in that election. They make that argument despite Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, and Nevada’s county clerks holding the June primary

by mail-in ballot. They reported after the election, that it went off without major problems.

Republican opponents also objected to allowing people other than immediate family members to collect and turn in ballots.

The Senate Bill setting up a mediation program to prevent thousands of evictions expected because the moratorium on evictions ends September 1 has received final approval. In addition, both houses have approved AB1 correcting errors found in several bills from the 2019 session, AB2 allowing lawmakers to meet and vote remotely during the pandemic and AB3 requiring law enforcement to use minimum necessary force in making an arrest and mandating that other officers stop and report a fellow officer using excessive force.

The second bill dealing with law enforcement also passed both houses. It pulls back the absolute prohibition on using an officer’s statement to his superiors in a civil action against him. Sponsor Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, said it simply pulls that rule back to what it was historically under the Peace Officers Bill of Rights allowing the evidence in very specific circumstances.

In addition, both houses have passed three versions of the proposed constitutional amendment changing how the state’s mines are taxed. All three are designed to get a lot more money from the mines.

Two of them, SJR1 and AJR1, would impose the mining proceeds tax on the gross instead of the net proceeds in addition to raising the maximum tax from 5 to 7.75 percent. In 2019, that would have generated over $600 million in revenue. AJR2 doesn’t change the tax from net to gross, but it raises the maximum levy from 5 percent to 12 percent of net proceeds.

Sending all three versions to the next legislative session gives Democrats some flexibility in deciding which way to go. Their problem is that, if any such resolution is amended, it’s progress through two legislative sessions must start all over before it can be put before the voters.

Republicans almost unanimously opposed pushing for a major tax policy amendment during a special session. They say hitting mines that hard would put many of them out of business.

The bill giving DETR much more flexibility in processing unemployment benefit claims and allowing the extension of benefits for additional weeks passed out of the Senate Monday and the Assembly Tuesday.

SB3 also extends the number of weeks people can receive benefits from 13 to 20 using federal funding. Francisco Morales of the governor’s office said a number of statutory changes in the bill are designed to remove barriers to claimants getting through the system and receiving their money. The measure also increases the amount of wages a claimant can make to 1.5 times their weekly benefit and still claim some benefits.

Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, told the body one of the most important parts of the bill ensures that people who go back to work part-time aren’t hurt more by the loss of unemployment benefits than if they weren’t working.

Many of the changes to statute, he said, are just statutes that were passed 40 or more years ago.

As of press time, lawmakers still had not dealt with SB4 which, among other things, provides some immunity to businesses and entities if an employee or patron were to come down with the coronavirus.

In order to qualify for that immunity, the business, governmental entity, or nonprofit organization would have to be in compliance with federal, state and local regulations and requirements designed to limit exposure to the virus including rules promulgated by the Gaming Control Board.

Those regulations would apply during any period where a public health emergency has been declared.

The businesses listed are public accommodation providers — primarily hotels and motels.

The plan puts a significant amount of the responsibility for managing the rules on health districts in the counties — including enforcement of the rules. Violators could have their business licenses revoked or suspended until the violation is cured.


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