The 79th Session of the Nevada Legislature has finally ended! Armistice Day was Monday, June 5th, and I’ve been waiting to hear whether Governor Sandoval has chosen to sign or veto some of the most important bills we worked on. Overall, I’d say the 79th Session was a resounding victory for the Libertarian Party of Nevada. In Elliot Malin’s words, “we made out like bandits” - though not without some scattered defeats.
Though the Democrats controlled the Legislature, we were able to find common ground and make concrete progress on criminal justice reform, marijuana reform, and LGBT+ issues. While we did rake in a lot of legislative victories, the biggest win this session comes from our increased visibility as a party and the alliances we were able to build. I can’t count the number of legislators who told me, “the Libertarian Party has never had a presence like this at the Legislature that I can remember!” - or “I didn’t know libertarians believed that!” - or, my personal favorite, “Wow! A reasonable libertarian!” Yes, Senators, Assemblypeople, and my fellow lobbyists, it turns out libertarians are reasonable people, after all!
We were also able to make constructive alliances with specific legislators and organizations like the ACLU, Americans for Prosperity, PLAN (Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada), and TAG (Transgender Allies Group). These connections, paired with the reputation and experience we earned during this session, put us in an excellent position for the next one. We plan to spend the time until 2019 preparing. The next phase is building and cultivating these relationships, writing BDRs (bill draft requests), and increasing membership and fundraising to leverage the power of your voice in the Legislature.
I hereby bestow the Order of the Golden Porcupine upon the following legislators and lobbyists for their valiant work this session. Some particular notables may appear under more than one heading, if their work merited it:
Criminal Justice Reform
Senator Donald Gustavson
Assemblyman James Ohrenschall
Assemblyman William McCurdy II
Assemblyman Steve Yeager
John Piro, Clark County Public Defender’s Office
Sean Sullivan, Washoe County Public Defender’s Office
Stacey Shinn, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
Holly Welborn, ACLU Policy Director
Senator David Parks
Assemblyman Nelson Araujo
Brooke Maylath, Transgender Allies Group
Sherrie Scaffidi, Transgender Allies Group
Stacey Shinn, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
Holly Welborn, ACLU Policy Director
Senator David Parks
Senator Tick Segerblom
William Adler, Sierra Cannabis Coalition
Stacey Shinn, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
Holly Welborn, ACLU Policy Director
Senator Ben Kieckhefer
Senator James Settelmeyer
Elliot Malin, Americans for Prosperity
Marcos Lopez, Americans for Prosperity
I’d like to give my thanks to all these devoted, hard-working people - much of what we accomplished this session was done alongside them. And while many of them shared our goals on particular bills, a handful of them shared their time and experience. My most heartfelt thanks go to Elliot Malin, Holly Welborn, Stacey Shinn, Brooke Maylath, John Piro, and Sean Sullivan. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Below is a list of the highlights of our work this session - victories, defeats, and draws - in that order, sorted by bill number.
AB33 - SIGNED!
This bill abolishes several bureaucratic organizations within the Nevada Revised Statutes, including the Garlic and Onion Grower's Advisory Board, the Alfalfa Seed Advisory Board and the Advisory Council for Organic Agricultural Products. To my surprise and pleasure, all of these boards were themselves in favor of AB33; their members are tired of the NRS-imposed requirement of travel to board meetings, and they’re the ones wearing the yoke of bureaucracy. The Garlic & Onions Board has recognized what the LP has known for years - industry boards cartelize their industries, reducing competitiveness and increasing costs in the long run. And they’re inconvenient for the members on whom the requirements are imposed. AB33’s implementation has slashed at least one entire chapter (556) from the NRS. Amusingly, our very own Vice-Chair, David Colborne, promised to abolish the Onion & Garlic Growers’ Board during his 2016 Senate campaign. Campaign promise: Fulfilled - and he didn’t even have to get elected!
AB118 - SIGNED!
This bill allows CCW permits to be issued for active-duty and honorably discharged service members between ages 18-21. It’s a simple expansion of Second Amendment rights to individuals who have already demonstrated responsibility with weapons.
AB135 - SIGNED!
This bill bans the use of urinalysis and blood tests to detect marijuana metabolites for the purposes of charging drivers with DUIs. The final measure was softened from the original bill, which struck the use of any detectable marijuana metabolites in urine or blood as grounds for charging an individual with a DUI. The final version still strikes their use in urine, and now specifies intoxicating metabolites (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and 1-OH-tetrahydrocannabinol) which can be detected successfully through a blood test.
AB162 - SIGNED!
This bill renders permanent resident cards equivalent to driver’s licenses for ID purposes, improving quality of life for immigrants in Nevada. If the card contains the same information as a driver’s license and is also issued by the state, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be accepted the same way.
AB175 - DEAD!
This measure was Assemblyman McCurdy II’s $15 minimum wage bill - and the very first measure I testified on this session (opposed, of course). It was amended and dramatically reduced in scope, instead requiring employers to offer certain health insurance benefits to minimum-wage employees. Even in its amended form, however, it would have been harmful to small businesses. We’re pleased to see Sandoval veto this bill.
AB181 - SIGNED!
This is the session’s major bill restoring civil rights for felons; the other was SB125. However, SB125 was dramatically altered via amendment into merely a record-sealing bill. Initially, we worried that this bill would die during the legislative process, but after SB125 was amended, Speaker Frierson (AB181’s sponsor) pushed hard to restore this one to life - and it got through. Thanks to AB181, individuals convicted of category B felonies can vote after they have served their time or been discharged - and can serve on juries after two years. Given that 4% of Nevadans have been convicted of a felony (in part due to the War on Drugs, in part because the average American commits three felonies a day), we believe that giving people a second chance at civic life after they’ve served their time is both just and a guard against recidivism.
AB205 - SIGNED!
This bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, legalizes alkaline hydrolysis cremation in Nevada. This method of end-of-life disposal effectively dissolves in lye, rather than burning, remains. What’s left is a white powder similar to that produced by traditional cremation, but without the concomitant air pollution. This simple measure legalizes a safe, environmentally-friendly procedure which is already legal in thirteen states and three Canadian provinces.
AB212 - DEAD!
This bill would have prevented achievement data from being used in public schools for teacher evaluation. While we recognize that achievement data is an imperfect measure, banning its use in teacher evaluation altogether is counterproductive and illogical. Why throw out a hammer just because it’s not good at being a wrench? We were pleased to see this bill defeated.
AB229 - SIGNED!
This bill, also sponsored by Assemblyman Araujo, renders all marriage- and adoption-related provisions in the Nevada Revised Statutes gender-neutral (“two persons, regardless of gender”). While this may seem redundant given the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, NRS would have needed to be fixed eventually, and the repair also acts as an important safeguard in the event of a more conservative Supreme Court overturning Obergefell v. Hodges.
AB269 - DEAD!
This bill would have taxed nicotine-containing vapor products equivalently with traditional cigarettes. More than 443,000 Americans die early from traditional smoking-related causes every year. If even half of traditional smokers switched to e-cigarettes, many of these lives could be saved. This tax would have removed an incentive for people to choose a harm-reduction technology - vapor products - over much more harmful traditional combustible tobacco products. We’re very pleased to see AB269 defeated.
AB274 - DEAD!
Would have had Nevada join the National Popular Vote Compact. While we don’t mind getting rid of the Electoral College, the NPV Compact is clunky and imperfect. Adopting it would also decrease Nevada’s relative importance under the current system.
AB291 - SIGNED!
While this bill sponsored by William McCurdy II was defanged via amendment, I believe it’s still an improvement over the status quo. It requires that information in presentence reports (PSIs) used by judges to determine the severity of a sentence must be sourced and shall only include criminal convictions, not any and all criminal records.
AB301 - SIGNED!
One of my favorite bills from this session, AB301 would provide confidentiality in peer counseling for first responders, including police officers - and it would protect them from charges of insubordination from their superior officers. Our support of this bill may seem counterintuitive, but we believe that incidents of excessive force can be minimized or eliminated by fighting the “warrior mentality” before it takes root. A happy, healthy police officer is much less likely to snap than one suffering from untreated mental or emotional strain. This bill makes it easier for police, firefighters, and paramedics to open up when they need to, and therefore easier for them to receive the treatment they need to be effective.
AB365 - SIGNED!
This bill creates a pathway for anyone to become a non-religious marriage officiant in Nevada. It also allows the state of Nevada to sell legally-meaningless but good-for-tourism vow renewal certificates. The first measure is good for individual freedom and the second is an effective way for the state to raise voluntary contributions; it’s also likely to boost marriage tourism in Nevada, which is excellent for the economy.
AB384 - SIGNED!
This bill, better known as “Ban the Box,” will help the more than one in four Nevadans with criminal histories be able to find work. Essentially, it removes the initial “Have you ever been arrested?” or “Do you have a criminal history?” checkbox from job applications for state and county agencies. The goal is simply to give people with criminal or arrest records a chance to get in the door for an interview. As overbroad and abusive as the War on Drugs has been, nonviolent offenses are extremely common, and even unpaid parking tickets can result in arrests; neither should stop people from finding gainful employment. Many convicted offenders are even required to maintain gainful employment as a condition of their release, but find job access difficult or impossible due to that pesky checkbox. They find themselves trapped in a Catch-22 with no easy way out. States that have banned the box have seen recidivism rates decrease markedly. As it turns out, one of the best ways to stay out of prison is to build a job and a life outside of it. Nevada now proudly joins those states.
AB428 - SIGNED!
This bill 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.
AB461 - SIGNED!
This bill designates the week following Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday “Peace Week” in Nevada. The Libertarian Party has long been the party of peace, and we believe that practical and symbolic gestures encouraging a culture of peace and tolerance are more important now than ever. This bill is technically toothless, but encourages the people of Nevada to build bridges between polarized groups, engage in quiet reflection, and live compassionately in the spirit of peace. As Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
SB110 - SIGNED!
This bill 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. This bill’s passage is a victory for privacy, liberty, and people’s right to vote with their dollars.
SB125 - SIGNED!
This bill, sponsored by Senator Aaron Ford, allows ex-convicts who have served their time to petition to have their records sealed (with certain exceptions). This opportunity gives them a second chance at a normal life. While SB125 was originally a more expansive restoration of civil rights for felons, it was amended; AB181 filled that role instead, and was, happily, also passed.
SB176 - SIGNED!
This bill requires all on-duty law enforcement officers to wear and operate 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. I’m still delighted to see this bill signed - it will keep officers (and citizens) on their best behavior.
SB199 - SIGNED!
This bill creates a new class of craft distilleries in Nevada (“estate” distilleries, specializing in high-end liquor created from local ingredients). Sponsored by Senator Settelmeyer, we believe the distilleries allowed by this bill will spur both economic development and good spirits in Nevada.
SB201 - SIGNED!
This is another of my proudest moments from this session. SB201 bans the use of so-called “conversion” or “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. No one should be coerced into believing that their gender or sexual identities are wrong - least of all children.
SB396 - SIGNED!
This bill legalizes the growth of (and research into) industrial hemp in Nevada. Expanding the industrial hemp industry would be a massive victory for economic growth and personal freedom in Nevada. Hemp grows well in this state and requires substantially less water than cotton, making it a good fit for Nevadan agriculture. It’s always better to legalize and regulate than to ban outright, especially with a harmless industrial product with a long history of American production like this one.
SB398 - SIGNED!
This bill sets boundaries to protect the blockchain from government interference in Nevada. Ensuring free and open access to blockchain technology will stimulate economic growth and cement northern Nevada’s role as a burgeoning center for high-tech innovation. Government can never keep pace with technological change, and when it tries, inevitably slows the rate of innovation. We’re therefore very pleased to see this promising new technology protected from the state’s ham-fisted interventionism.
SB399 - SIGNED!
As with AB162, this bill renders another government-issued ID - this time, Tribal ID cards - equivalency with Nevada driver’s licenses for purposes of identification. If the card contains the same information as a driver’s license and is also issued by the state, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be accepted the same way.
SB402 - SIGNED!
This bill reduces the use of solitary confinement in Nevada’s prisons. Holly Welborn of the ACLU worked ceaselessly to get it passed, and though it was made less full-throated in the final version, it’s still a marked improvement over the status quo. Solitary confinement is cruel and unusual, and we believe the state has no right to punitively isolate inmates - sometimes for years. We’re therefore very pleased to see Governor Sandoval sign SB402 into law.
SB415 - SIGNED!
This bill renders female hygiene products tax-exempt. Feminine hygiene products are a necessity, and taxing them is fundamentally gender-biased, as women are the disproportionate purchasers. These taxes are a relic of a patriarchal system that punishes women for their biology. The increased cost makes them especially difficult to access for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society, meaning that this is an economic justice issue as well as a social justice issue. Taxation of these products is theft from every person who buys them - so I’m more than happy to see that tax removed.
SB426 - DEAD!
This bill would have mandated that moped riders wear helmets at all times. Though helmet laws do empirically reduce deaths (and I would encourage all riders of two-wheeled vehicles to wear helmets), I believe the choice is ultimately the individual’s. I was the only person in either hearing who testified in opposition - and, after the second hearing in the Assembly, stuck around to talk with Assemblywoman Bilbray-Axelrod and Assemblyman Fumo about my concerns. I believe they listened, as the bill never made it to that committee’s work session.
AJR2 - SENT TO SECRETARY OF STATE!
This resolution, sponsored by Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, parallels AB229, which renders the marriage provisions in NRS unisex (“two people, regardless of gender”). AJR2, however, alters the Nevada Constitution. We were happy to support it for the same reasons we supported AB229.
AJR10 - SENT TO SECRETARY OF STATE!
This resolution expresses opposition to the development of a repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain in the State of Nevada. While our preferred solution would be the legalization of nuclear waste reprocessing (avoiding the necessity for sites like Yucca Mountain entirely), we believe that the people of Nevada have the right not to be forced by the federal government to store hazardous nuclear waste here. We’re happy to see AJR10 passed on to the Secretary of State.
AB132 - SIGNED!
This bill enhances penalties for committing assault or battery against certain civilian employees and volunteers of law enforcement agencies. While we respect and appreciate the work these employees and volunteers do, we see no reason why striking these individuals is worse than striking a regular person on the street. Is it the role of the government to decide that some lives are more valuable than others? We don't believe so.
AB226 - DEAD!
This bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Ira Hansen, would have skipped the primary elections if both candidates were from the same major party and sent them directly to the general election. As Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner got elected in the primary and had no challenger in the general election, Nevadans in her district didn’t get the choice that others did. We were sad to see this bill die.
AB237 - DEAD!
This is one of my greatest regrets from this session. Sponsored by Assemblyman Ohrenschall, AB237 would have abolished the death penalty in Nevada. Banning the death penalty is an economical choice - capital cases are uniformly more expensive than life imprisonment. However, our strongest objection to capital punishment is not the monetary cost, but the human one. The death penalty is irreversible, and wrongful convictions do occur. Since 1973, one hundred and fifty-seven people in the United States have been executed for crimes for which they were later exonerated. Decades of research have indicated a pattern of racial bias in capital cases, as well, making the abolition of the death penalty an urgent issue of racial and social justice. No state should have the power to violate its people’s most fundamental right - the right to exist.
AB303 - DEAD!
This bill would have banned future state contracts with private prisons in Nevada. While the Libertarian Party generally prefers free-market solutions, we see an exception for private prisons due to the web of perverse incentives created by a public-private partnership. The incentive for a private prison is not to serve the inmate, but to decrease per-inmate costs and increase per-inmate revenue as much as possible. They’re also incentivized to maximize the number of inmates, decreasing the focus on rehabilitation or potential early release. 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. We’re disappointed but unsurprised that Governor Sandoval chose to veto this bill.
AB383 - DEAD!
This bill, also sponsored by Assemblyman Ohrenschall, would have required police officers to be trained in the constitutional and lawful use of force. No one should be above the law, especially not the agents responsible for enforcing it. Nevadans should be assured that law enforcement officers are guardians of their safety - but when concerns about excessive force become common, fear is rational. One of the best possible ways to address this fear is to train police officers to limit their use of force and de-escalate situations whenever possible. The people of Nevada should be able to trust agents of the state to operate within the bounds the state itself has set, and it’s a shame that this bill will not help ensure that goal
SB358 - DEAD!
This bill, sponsored by Senator Donald Gustavson, would have effectively banned civil forfeiture in Nevada, but lobbyists from various police departments worked strenuously against it. Unfortunately, it died without even receiving a work session in its first house. The practice of civil forfeiture will continue in Nevada for the time being.
SB261 - DEAD!
This bill, better known as “Death with Dignity” or “Physician Aid in Dying,” would have legalized the prescription of life-ending drugs to terminal patients in Nevada. It was modeled after Oregon’s existing program. While any form of assisted suicide will be controversial, this bill was carefully written to prevent coercion or abuse. It would simply have given terminal patients the choice to die on their own terms - an increase in freedom for everyone, and a logical consequence of individual bodily autonomy. As Senator Parks, the bill’s sponsor, asked specifically for our support on this issue, we’re very sad to see his measure fail.
SB236 - DEAD!
Under current law, recreational use of marijuana in Nevada is legal, but only in an individual’s private residence. Tourists have no legal place to smoke or vape, and locals are restricted to their homes. This bill would have created a class of special use permits to businesses and festivals for public marijuana usage. Ignoring the problem doesn’t fix it - now that recreational use is legal in Nevada, both residents and tourists will use it outside their private homes. This bill would also have created remarkable business opportunities for marijuana cafes, lounges, nightclubs, and more. Allowing businesses and festivals to create special designated areas would have helped resolve the issue, and we’re sorry to see the problem (and opportunity) go unaddressed this session.
SB159 - SIGNED!
This bill bans the sale of dextromethorphan to minors. As with most drug restrictions, this one is counterproductive. It will end up disproportionately hurting honest consumers and creating a more dangerous black market for those who do insist on using it recreationally. As libertarians know, prohibition doesn’t work, and people get hurt in the process.
SJR4 - SENT TO SECRETARY OF STATE!
This resolution would urge the federal government to adopt a Constitutional amendment regulating “political contributions and expenditures by corporations, unions and individuals.” Unfortunately, it passed, though Elliot Malin and I lobbied extensively against it, meeting with Assemblyperson after Assemblyperson. We did convince Assemblyman Ohrenschall and Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod to go on the record voicing concerns about its potential unintended consequences, but the measure went through regardless.
ESAs may be dead, but Opportunity Scholarships got $20 million they didn’t have before - according to Elliot Malin of Americans for Prosperity, who worked tirelessly on ESAs this session, even this outcome is a victory. It’s a net increase for school choice funding, and if he’s happy with it, I’ll trust his judgment.
AB160 - SIGNED!
This was the second bill I testified on this session. Sponsored by Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, the original version of this bill would have required a study of cost-effective alternatives and special permission to replace any broken window in a state building. However, due to our careful reading and testimony (we were the only group to oppose the bill), it was amended to (1) apply only to historical buildings, and (2) allow replacement of broken windows without delay. It’s not an outright victory, but I believe its harm was mitigated by our work.
AB346 - SIGNED!
The original version of this bill would have mandated that providers of small-scale child care (not more than four children) register with the Division of Public and Behavioral Health of the Department of Health and Human Services, submit certain information to the Division, and make their places of business (often their homes) available for constant inspection to DHHS employees. The amended version simply allows providers of small-scale child care to undergo a background check and register with DHHS - nothing is mandated, but small-scale providers who want to undergo an additional certification can choose to. I opposed this when it was first introduced, spoke extensively with the lobbyist behind it, and believe that it was at least *partially* due to our work that it was so dramatically reduced in scope.
SB368 - SIGNED!
Originally, this bill was a measure designed to protect the 4th Amendment in Nevada from the Supreme Court’s decision in Utah v. Strieff. That decision allows police to use any evidence they may discover during an illegal search if they find afterwards that the suspect has a warrant out for their arrest. We strongly supported SB368 when it was a bill designed to keep “fruit of the poisonous tree” out of the hands of Nevada’s police, but it was radically amended at the last minute. The entire bill text was erased and replaced with a cost-of-living pay raise for state employees. While I take no position on pay raises for state employees, SB368’s journey is a perfect illustration of how strangely shadowy, and bureaucratic the halls of the Legislature can sometimes be.
So that’s Nevada’s 2017 Legislative Session! Working on your behalf has been a dream come true for me, and I hope to return to the post in 2019. Showing the world what libertarianism looks like in practice can’t happen overnight - it’s slow, granular, and requires visibility and good-faith contact with non-libertarians. But though the Legislative Session is wrapping up, I still have the time and passion to keep working for the cause of liberty in Nevada. I’m honored and excited to serve as your new At-Large Representative. My priority is growing the Party by reaching out in understanding and good faith to new, untapped portions of the electorate, then working with them wherever I can (as I have at the Legislature) to achieve stepwise victories for human freedom.
My inbox is always open. If you ever have questions, concerns, or ideas, please don’t hesitate to reach out.