As you may remember from my last letter, things changed at the Legislature last week.The 79th Legislative Session has completed Round 1: April 14th was the bill deadline, and anything that didn’t get passed is now dead in the water. While some of our favorite bills died - like SB358, the ban on civil forfeiture, or AB237, the ban on capital punishment - our testimony and your support helped keep some other excellent pieces of legislation alive.
SB201 would ban the use of abusive so-called “reparative therapy” on minors in Nevada. We believe that sexual orientation is naturally diverse and that people should never have their minds or bodies violated simply because of who they love. The moral depravity of torturing children for not conforming to a heteronormative paradigm is odious beyond speech. Even if conversion therapy did work - though there is no evidence that it does - it would be a solution in search of a problem, as there’s nothing wrong with LGBT people being who they are at heart. I was extremely proud to support this bill when it was introduced in the Senate, and I was proud to support it again when it reached the Assembly on April 19th. Gender identity is not a crime.
AJR2 makes the provisions for marriage in the Nevada Constitution gender-neutral, consistent with the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. While this may be a simple cleanup of the Nevada Constitution’s language, we appreciate the moral and practical importance of changing the language to protect people who love each other. And with Pence and Sessions near the levers of power in D.C., protecting LGBT+ people in Nevada is more important than ever.
AB181 would restore civil rights for felons who have served their time. According to estimates from the Sentencing Project, approximately 4% of Nevadans are ineligible to vote as a result of felony disenfranchisement. At present, Nevada has some of the harshest felony disenfranchisement laws in the country. Given that implicit bias in the criminal justice system results in the disproportionate conviction of people of color, minority communities are particularly severely affected by harsh felony disenfranchisement laws. The result is a cycle of poverty, crime, and disengagement from society. We believe that Nevadans who have served their sentences or been discharged honorably from probation or parole deserve a second chance. AB181 gives them that chance.
SB176 would require all on-duty law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. Requiring law enforcement officers to record their encounters will protect Nevadans from police misconduct and law enforcement officers from false accusations, though we note that cameras are most effective when paired with training law enforcement officers in procedural justice and de-escalation whenever possible. While we, as libertarians, are not generally fond of any increase in public spending - especially spending towards law enforcement - we believe that body cameras can save priceless innocent lives.
AB303 reduces the use of private prisons in Nevada. While this bill has been amended to be looser than a strict ban, we still think it’s an improvement. The War on Drugs and the private prison industry create a web of perverse profit motives. For private prisons, the client is not the inmate; the state itself is - and they aren’t focused on the taxpayer’s bottom line, but their own. These well-connected corporatist entities choose to cut corners at the cost of inmates’ rights, liberties, and well-being.
AB414 would require police interrogations of suspects of homicide or sexual assault to be recorded. This would improve outcomes for suspects and law enforcement alike. Interrogations can be extremely long, and incredibly stressful, sometimes leading to false confessions and wrongful convictions. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and increasing transparency of interrogations would benefit every good cop and every person in police custody. I’d prefer if this bill went further and required all interrogations to be filmed, but in combination with SB176 (police body cameras), it’s a step in the right direction.
SB110 removes an onerous and expensive requirement for trans people to publish a name change in a newspaper for three weeks after the date of the change. The original intent of the law was to prevent individuals from escaping from their creditors via name changes, but with the internet, the requirement has become ineffective for that purpose. All that’s left is a handout to newspaper companies and an easy list of targets for the transphobic to hunt down. I testified in favor of SB110 on its first round through the Senate, and will again on April 20th when it goes to the Assembly. Eliminating the reporting requirement for everyone would be the eventual goal, but the passage of SB110 as it currently exists would still represent a victory for privacy, liberty, and people’s right to vote with their dollars.
AB428 makes Narcan, a drug used to treat opioid overdoses, available over-the-counter (with pharmacist consultation). This bill is a perfect example of how pharmaceutical deregulation can be a compassionate, life-saving measure.
Unfortunately, some of the bills we opposed are still alive and moving forward, like AB269, which would tax nicotine-containing vapor products, or AB160, which would have required a study of energy-efficient alternatives to window replacements in all state-owned buildings prior to taking action (fortunately, this bill was amended directly as a result of our opposition, and is now vastly limited in scope).
Some of the bills we opposed died, too, which is good news! AB90 would have increased the penalties for the murder of a police officer (why is a cop’s life worth more than yours?), AB212 would have prohibited student achievement data from being used in schools wholesale, and AB274 would have had Nevada join the National Popular Vote Compact (while we’re not opposed to the abolition of the Electoral College, the NPV is clunky and imperfect).
This is far from an exhaustive list of the bills we’ve fought for or against, and we’ll be keeping our eyes open for the next six and a half weeks as the legislators - and we - forge ahead. This week has been fairly quiet in committee as everything’s currently in floor sessions, but next week will be insane as bills begin moving through the second chamber in greater numbers. No rest for the wicked!
Until next time,