On Monday, February 1st, Nevada’s 81st Legislative session began. With only legislators, staff, and a small group of press allowed in the building, session looks and feels very different this year. Committee hearings are being held via Zoom, and each legislator logs in from their individual offices. One welcome addition to this virtual session is that all hearings are being broadcast via the Legislative Website as well as YouTube. This week mostly consisted of agency presentations, with a few bills being heard toward the end oof the week. We want to give you some highlights from the first week of session:
AG Ford’s Presentation
Attorney General Aaron Ford and his staff presented to the Assembly Committee on Judiciary an overview of his office and the responsibilities of the office. The committee was primarily interested in any updates there may have been on a previously mentioned backlog in sexual assault cases.
Presentation from the Division of Human Resource Management
The Assembly Government Affairs Committee heard from the Department of Administration, which has been successful in creating a system of mediation that creates a “win-win” situation for employees and agencies. They offer a workplace climate study to agencies that currently has a waitlist. The Division of Purchasing successfully returned $760k to state agencies through the sale of excess state property in FY20. They are working to restore the inverse preference through AB28 to help more NV vendors win contracts with the state. The Public Works Division is excited to start work on the Marlette Lake Dam Resilience Infrastructure project after being awarded a grant through FEMA.
Presentation on the State Climate Strategy
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Division of Environmental Protection and the Governor’s Office of Energy presented the State Climate Strategy to the Assembly Committee on Growth and Infrastructure. Questions and concerns from the committee primarily focused around wanting to continuously encourage the need for Nevada citizens making adjustments in their day-to-day lives in order to avoid needing to make drastic environmental decisions in the future.
Presentations on Education
The Assembly Committee on Education heard presentations from iNVest as well as the CCSD, Washoe, Pershing County, and Charter School COVID Response. The superintendents of different districts have come together in a common voice to approach the legislature with concerns they would like addressed. There is a need to streamline legislation and requirements that are either unfunded or out of focus with educator goals. The need for connectivity across the state cannot be understated, especially in a pandemic. Over the next 5 biennia, there should be a goal to increase student funding and additional ways to create revenue for education.
CCSD is moving forward with their hybrid reopen model starting with pre-k -3 on March 1st. The opening will be strategic and staggered to prevent having to revert opening plans, with the goal to have high schools open by August. Washoe County currently has no community spread and feels confident in their ability to reopen with a hybrid model. Washoe is currently looking at using CARES funding for this school year for a 2 -year plan to address the lapse in academic and mental health goals. Pershing County shares the same sentiments. Aging facilities in the rurals prevent total reopening of some schools due to social distance guidelines; the social distance guidelines impact transportation in rurals as well. The Charter School Authority has seen great success in letting their schools create tailored reopening plans based on feedback from staff, teachers and families.
Presentation from the Office of Secretary of State
Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and her staff presented an overview of the responsibilities of the office of the Secretary of State, and emphasized their work done to look into allegations of election fraud and the implementation of AB4 from the 32nd Special Session. Questions from the joint committee were mainly focused on clean and fair elections. During public comment, callers wanted to offer their support to Senator Buck and opposition to SOS Cegavske on the investigation into fair elections.
Special thanks goes out to Emily Espinosa and Morgan Sollano, two of the Griffin Company’s outstanding interns for this session, who put together this week’s highlights.