Though my time at the Legislature was cut short last week due to a family bereavement, the Libertarian Party of Nevada still managed to testify or otherwise comment on many important bills.
Before I tell you what we were busy with this week, though, you should know what’s coming up! To share your opinion on any of these bills with the legislators and committees reviewing them, go here and type in the relevant bill number. It’ll send your message directly to the sponsors and co-sponsors. As some bills have more than ten sponsors, this is a great time-saver.
AB384 is a “ban the box” bill that would help the more than one in four Nevadans with criminal histories be able to find work. Essentially, it would remove 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; they shouldn’t stop people from finding gainful employment. Many offenders are even required to maintain gainful employment as a condition of their release, but the criminal history checkbox creates a Catch-22. They find themselves trapped. 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.
SB261 would legalize the prescription of life-ending drugs “if the patient: (1) is at least 18 years of age; (2) has been diagnosed with a terminal condition by at least two physicians; (3) is a resident of this State; (4) has made an informed and voluntary decision to end his or her own life; and (5) is competent.” We believe that individual autonomy extends to the right to end your own life, as well. If you own yourself, you can choose to end your life. Suicide should never be a crime. Moreover, this bill will protect physicians who only wish to help people suffering from terminal diseases. No one should be forced by law to linger indefinitely in a living hell. However, I’ll be unable to testify personally on this bill, so we really need your help getting it passed. Please go here and show your legislators that you support SB261.
AB461 would, if passed, make 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 would encourage 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.” We are happy to support this bill.
Under existing law, opioid antagonists can only be administered by a physician, physician’s assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse with a prescription. AB428 would allow pharmacists and school nurses to dispense opioid antagonists to those at risk of an overdose or those in a position to assist them without a prescription. The opioid epidemic is incredibly deadly: Drug overdoses killed more than 560,000 Americans between 1999 and 2015. But we can prevent some of these overdoses by reducing prescription drug controls around the antagonists that are used to treat them.
AB353, sponsored by Americans For Prosperity, would insert a provision to require the Sunset Subcommittee of the Legislative Commission to review the qualifications required to obtain an occupational license. Its goal would be to determine whether the personal qualifications are (1) the least restrictive regulation possible, and (2) demonstrably necessary and carefully tailored to fulfill legitimate public health, safety, or welfare objectives. Should the Sunset Subcommittee find the personal qualifications in the occupational regulations do not fulfill these objectives, it will recommend the repeal or amendment of those qualification requirements. Essentially, this bill would set up the long-term reduction of occupational licensing requirements in Nevada. Ideologically, this bill is excellent, enshrining some libertarian principles into Nevada law: “The Legislature declares that it is the policy of this State that: (a) The right of a natural person to pursue an occupation is a fundamental right; [and] (b) Occupational regulations shall be construed and applied to increase economic opportunities, promote competition, and encourage innovation.” While we don’t agree with AFP on everything, this is a bill where we’re happy to join hands with them.
AB418 ensures that “a voter may not be compelled to reveal under oath how he or she voted at any election.” It also extends the same confidentiality protections to “records printed on paper of ballots voted by using a mechanical recording device” that are currently extended to all other paper ballots - they are not subject to inspection by anyone, except in cases of a contested election, and then only by the judge, body or board before whom the election is being contested. We believe Sections 1 and 2 of this bill are excellent privacy measures. Additionally, under current law, any recount requires an initial recount of a representative 5% of ballots cast - after which a full recount is done if the initial recount shows a serious discrepancy. Section 3 of this bill removes the initial recount step and provides instead that all recounts must include a count and inspection of all ballots. While fully establishing the legitimacy of our elections is important, this provision has the potential to be expensive, though some counties already require all ballots to be recounted by hand. The individual requesting the recount is the one who bears the cost, unless the recount changes the result of the election - so eliminating the 5% step may dissuade individuals from requesting recounts in the first place. I’m split on this bill - the privacy protections in Sections 1 and 2 are excellent, but Section 3 may result in increased financial costs for the parties requesting recounts.
AB463 would revamp current marijuana taxes via alteration of the Nevada Constitution. It’s fairly complicated, but would, overall, result in substantially lower taxes on medical marijuana sales and slightly higher taxes on recreational marijuana sales. It would eliminate the excise taxes on wholesale sales by facilities producing edibles or marijuana-infused products and on retail sales by a medical marijuana dispensaries. However, it would impose an excise tax on marijuana cultivation facilities. Most notably, it would impose caps on business license fees for medical marijuana dispensaries at 5%. Las Vegas currently imposes a 7% business license fee, for example, so this cap is an excellent idea. It’s a bit of a trade-off, but the overall goal of this bill is to simplify the tax structure of medical and recreational marijuana sales, which currently diverges quite a bit. From the discussion during the hearing, I think it’s likely this bill will be heavily workshopped, or potentially folded into one of the other active marijuana measures this session.
SJR14 would alter the Nevada Constitution to reset depreciation on real estate for the purpose of property taxes at the point of sale, resulting in increased property taxes for buyers upon the purchase of the property. It does not raise property taxes on those who currently own homes. During the hearing, NAOC referred repeatedly to the “Constitutional impediment” to this measure. Good! I don’t like it either. They’re already excitedly planning “new ways to spend some of this extra property tax revenue.” Don’t they already thieve enough money from our pockets?
Last week, we worked on the following bills:
AB402 is very similar to SB415, but includes diapers in the category of items to be rendered tax-exempt. We reject sales taxes generally, and we will support most legislation rendering products tax-exempt. Feminine hygiene products are a necessity, and taxing them is fundamentally gender-biased. And while every infant needs diapers, the act of purchasing them still falls disproportionately on women - which means the taxes do, too. When the Sales and Use Tax Act of 1955 was approved by referendum, the world was a very different place. Women's rights have come a long way since then, and we believe that this tax is a relic of a bygone era.
SB368 is Senator Aaron Ford’s answer to Utah v. Strieff, a Supreme Court case from last year which allows police officers to use any evidence they find during an illegal arrest or search if they find that there’s an unrelated warrant out for your arrest. Even something as innocuous as an unpaid parking ticket could allow the police to use illegally-obtained evidence. Before Utah v. Strieff, this evidence would have been considered “fruit of the poisonous tree” - but now, if there’s a warrant out for your arrest for any reason, they can. Utah v. Strieff fundamentally altered police officers’ incentives - they now have no reason not to search anyone in dehumanizing - and frequently racially motivated - fishing expeditions. The State has no right to strip its citizens of dignity and bodily autonomy without probable cause, and implicit bias and racial profiling do not qualify. What SB368 does is reverse Utah v. Strieff in the State of Nevada - making this bill a vital defense of Nevadans’ Fourth Amendment rights. I was proud to support it.
SB402 would ban the use of solitary confinement in Nevada’s prisons. All research indicates that solitary confinement is inhumane and psychologically damaging to the individuals who are subjected to it. The Libertarian Party of Nevada believes that the state has no right to lock you in a tiny room, alone, losing yourself in the darkness. Not only is the practice used in Nevada, inmates are sometimes exposed to extreme isolation for years. This is cruel and unusual punishment. We strongly agree with Senator Spearman and the ACLU: The state has no right to punitively isolate inmates.
AB326 and AB291 - which I sent statements in for the week before last - was rescheduled for a hearing last week instead, and I made sure to be there. These bills would require the Division of Parole and Probation and the Division of Public Safety to substantiate and provide sources for information related to the defendant's offense in presentence reports, which are used by judges to decide the weight of a defendant's sentence after conviction. Given the weight that these reports carry in determining the course of a defendant’s life, justice requires that they be unimpeachably accurate. Hearsay or unsourced allegations would not be sufficient in a court of law and should not be sufficient in a report which determines a person’s fate.
AB365 creates a pathway for officiants who are neither ministers nor notaries to become registered to perform marriages in Nevada. It also creates a new class of certificate that the State can sell for $25, a “Vow Renewal.” As Nevada is one of the United States’ largest destinations for marriage tourism, selling legally-meaningless “Vow Renewals” is an excellent way for the state to accumulate voluntary revenue - and is likely to be excellent for Nevada’s economy.
SB329 and SB378 are enormous marijuana omnibus bills. While I think it’s unlikely either of these monster bills will make it through unmodified, they contain multiple excellent provisions that were worth supporting. Section 16 of SB329 allows medical marijuana to be prescribed for PTSD and other chronic conditions. This bill also expands how and where Nevadans can grow and use their own marijuana with its Patients’ Bill of Rights concerning home-grow provisions regarding live plants and seeds. SB329 is also beneficial for Nevada’s economy, legalizing medical marijuana research and broadening industrial hemp-growing - both fields where Nevada has a strong opportunity to become a national innovator. Hemp grows very well in this state and requires substantially less water than cotton, making it a good fit for Nevadan agriculture. After all, George Washington cultivated hemp at Mount Vernon for industrial uses throughout his lifetime. There is nothing more quintessentially American than growing industrial hemp.
We also appreciate the compassionate, common-sense liberalizations of medical marijuana regulations provided by SB378. We particularly appreciate Sections 12 and 13 of this bill, which would allow those on the medical marijuana registry to have CCW permits, as important defenses of the Second Amendment. Veterans and many others find relief from the use of medical marijuana. Preventing them from possessing CCW permits on the grounds of using a “controlled substance” - when the only reason they need to is the service they gave our country - is coldhearted. We also believe that Section 22 of this bill, which stipulates that the odor of marijuana is insufficient probable cause for a search, is an essential defense of the Fourth Amendment.
AB356 and AB376 both require the State to disclose any exculpatory evidence they may hold against a defendant. Due process requires full transparency; a jury cannot make a fair decision without a complete picture of the evidence before them, and any failure to disclose exculpatory evidence undermines the quality of their work and our justice system. The battle between defense and prosecution isn’t a game in which to score points - these are people’s lives, and truth matters.
That’s all for now! Meetings this week are constantly being scheduled, re-scheduled, un-scheduled, and scheduled again. If anything else comes up, don’t worry - you’ll find out next week! After the bill deadline on April 14th, things should slow down a little. Bills will start repeating, and I’ll be telling you about what measures move forward or die.
Until next time,
Libertarian Party of Nevada