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Former Lawmakers Weigh In On Special Sessions


Associated Press

Lawmakers are meeting today in Carson City for a second special session.

While they’re in session, they’ll address a number of reforms – including rules around policing, COVID-19 liability protections, vote by mail ballots and unemployment insurance.

But progress was slow during the last special session. Will this one be any different?

Former State Senator Patricia Farley told KNPR's State of Nevada that things move fast during a special session and there isn't always a lot of time to prepare. 

She said the key to getting things done in a special session is keeping a narrow focus.

"I don't always think that the best things come out of special session," she said, "I think emergency bills and I think keeping the scope really small to address the problem is probably the best approach."

Despite that advice, there are several things on the agenda. 

Former Clark County Commission Chris Giunchigliani believes things will be easier this session because the governor and lawmakers already have an idea of where everyone stands on issues because of the special session that wrapped up a few weeks ago.

Support comes from

"Now, leadership will have a better idea of where maybe they can negotiate," she said, "Where there might be places to move. I think they actually have a better opportunity this time around."

With that being said, Giunchigliani doesn't believe the state should be handling the budget every two years, but instead, should finally move to an annual legislative session.

While that may not happen during this second special session, one of the agenda items is police reform. 

A bill passed in 2019 that expanded protection for police officers has become a target for those asking for police and criminal justice reforms. The bill was pushed by Democratic State Senator and chief deputy district attorney in Clark County Nicole Cannizzaro.

Farley said Cannizzaro is one of the best people to give input on police reforms because she works with victims and police.

"I think we need fair and balanced approaches and I think there is probably nobody better in the state Legislature at this point than Nicole to give input around what policing should look like," she said.

For Giunchigliani, one of the most important reforms that lawmakers need to address is the lack of data on a variety of police and justice system issues.

"We have never been able to get the documentation for anything," she said, "Everything ties back to data. If you don't have data, then it's hard to argue for or against something. So, that should be a key piece that they come out of this session with."

Giunchigliani said lawmakers will make some inroads on some systemic problems but the bigger changes will need to be made during a regular session.

She believes the bigger fight will be over coronavirus liability. Many business owners are pushing for blanket immunity from liability if an employee or customer gets sick but Giunchigliani thinks it is common sense for businesses to put safety first, to begin with.

"If you want your employees to come back safely and feel comfortable, then you make sure they have the PPE," she said, "You make sure that they test their temperatures. You make sure that you don't have people hanging out in the pools while the cocktail waitresses are having to deal with a bunch of mobs, which violates the governor's orders."

Farley owns a construction company and she compared it to OSHA regulations. Her company follows every rule from OSHA because it is too expensive not to.

She agreed that blanket immunity goes too far but she is also concerned about trial lawyers taking advantage of the situation.

"There will be lawsuits all over the place and small businesses and medium-sized businesses, we just can't afford it," she said, "I think that there needs to be a really good balance."

While business liability might be a big fight, a slamdunk during the session could be mail-in ballot rules. Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske says her department doesn't have the money for statewide mail-in ballots. 

Farley thinks the Legislature can find the money but she also wants the balloting system to be improved. 

"I think the system needs to be more robust to make sure they're counting the ballots correctly," she said, "It's a new process. People aren't used to it."

Farley believes it is a safe and legitimate way to vote but she would like to see some of the counting procedures improved.

For Giunchigliani, she wants lawmakers to focus on making sure people aren't disenfranchised. For instance, many ballots were tossed out because signatures didn't match.

She said this November election may be a good chance for those signatures to be updated. For example, the signature that was on file for her was 42 years old.

"I think that is the key piece in one of the protections against fraud is to make sure that the signatures match as best as they can," she said.

She would also like the state to make sure there are polling places for in-person voting, especially on Native American reservations. 


Chris Giunchigliani, former Assemblywoman and Clark County Commissioner; Patricia Farley, former State Senator

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