CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — After Wednesday night hearings continued into Thursday morning, Nevada’s part-time Legislature concluded an emergency special session called to address problems that have arisen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the national reckoning over police abuses of Black people.
Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Legislature carried eight bills and 14 resolutions past the finish line in the marathon five-day session, successfully avoiding delays that plagued July’s 12-day session convened to plug Nevada’s projected $1.2 billion budget shortfall.
“Figuring out how to deal with a $1.2 billion shortfall is no walk in the park. There’s no fun choices there. At least in this special session, we were able to make some real policy decisions that we can feel good about. A lot of it doesn’t go as far as some people want it, but of course, some people think it went too far,” Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said.
Bills passed won praise from labor unions and the hospitality industry and mixed reception from progressives who had hoped for more decisive action on police reform.
Republicans complained about being shut out of bill drafting and took issue with legislation that expanded who can collect absentee ballots. They also criticized legislation that denies certain industries supplemental protections from virus-related legal liability.
Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer alleged the decision to exempt hospitals and schools from coronavirus liability protections was the product of behind-the-scenes negotiations and referenced “The Room Where It Happens,” a song from the musical “Hamilton” to describe the process.
“You have to be in the room where it happens and, unfortunately, during testimony, we learned we weren’t in the backroom where it happened,” the Minden Republican said.
Here’s a look at some of the bills passed:
They also partially repealed a 2019 law that added protections to the Nevada’s Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights, removing previous restrictions on the use of officer testimony in civil cases and limiting officers’ ability to review evidence against them before testifying in departmental misconduct investigations.
Police departments and unions representing rank-and-file officers opposed some of the measures, while reform advocates said they didn’t go far enough to guarantee transparency and accountability. Legislative leaders vowed
The bill also defines COVID-19 as “good cause” to turn down some work opportunities and, by doing so, will allow immunocompromised individuals or parents without day care to continue receiving unemployment benefits without returning to work they consider dangerous.
The bill didn’t address what’s believed to be thousands of fraudulent claims jamming the unemployment insurance system. Lawmakers acknowledged Nevada would likely have to take on debt to keep its unemployment trust fund afloat.
Sisolak is expected to sign the final bills in the upcoming days.
Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America
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