Over the last month I have been to the capitol twice for the 31st and 32nd special sessions of the Nevada Legislature, and I wanted to give you a brief summary of what happened.
Due to the economic downturn, about 25% of our state's budget for this fiscal year (July-June) was projected to be missing. The 31st Special Session was called to address this shortfall. The Legislature:
- Cancelled and rearranged as many of our non-critical construction and repair projects as we could
- Eliminated currently vacant positions
- Cut spending across every agency
- Required all state employees to take 6 unpaid furlough days, reducing their pay (but not their workload) by about 2.3 percent
Ultimately, most of our state's lean budget goes to K-12 and higher education, and health care services including Medicaid, and cuts were made in these areas as well. Through the diligent work of my colleagues, we found ways to restore some of the most heart-wrenching reductions that were initially proposed. We preserved per-pupil funding, ensuring no teacher would lose their job. We preserved investments in teacher training, financial literacy, and civic education programs that were on the chopping block. Funding for mental and behavioral health, pediatric care, aging and disability services, immunization, and family planning was also restored, as were vision, dental, and prosthetic programs.
I supported an effort to increase revenue from the state's mining industry to preserve more of these important services, but it ultimately fell one vote short when all Republican State Senators voted in opposition. I also introduced a resolution calling on Congress to provide aid to state, local, and tribal governments - CARES Act money can't be used to fill these budget holes. I hope these funds are included with additional relief for unemployed workers and struggling families.
When we returned for the 32nd Special Session, we addressed two urgent issues - protecting the 2020 election and addressing the issues with processing unemployment claims. All active voters will again get a ballot in the mail for the November election, and you'll have a range of options to make your voice heard:
- Complete and mail back your ballot
- Complete your mail ballot and drop it off at an early vote or election day site
- Complete your ballot and have a family member or other trusted individual drop it off
- Vote in-person early or on Election Day on a voting machine
In addition, we also addressed the call for immediate action on accountability and reform in policing by banning the use of chokeholds, improving the disciplinary process, and gathering data on officer interactions with the public. The Legislature also created a mediation process for tenants facing eviction after falling behind on payments, and enacted protections for hospitality workers as well as for businesses that follow pandemic health protocols.
There is more work to do on all of these issues, and so many others, during the next regular session of the Legislature in February. I remain available to answer questions, listen to your experiences and suggestions, and help when I can. You can also keep up with me on Facebook and Twitter and see more news on my blog.