The 80th Nevada State legislative session is finally over. This was truly a whirlwind 120 days with some hard-fought wins for our state. We were successful in improving conditions for many Nevadans, which is a step in the right direction toward creating a more fair and just Nevada. From mass incarceration to environmental justice to immigrant rights, despite some intense challenges, we have a lot to acknowledge and accept our victories as an opportunity to push for a bolder agenda in 2021.
For many years PLAN has been advocating for an Office of New Americans (SB538) and we are so grateful that Governor Sisolak included this as a top priority for his first year in office. PLAN and The Nevada Immigrant Coalition came out in full force against the opposition to ensure this important legislation passed to give immigrants and refugees a safe place to gain access to education, health, and business resources including occupational licenses (AB275). Additionally, the Promise scholarship is now open to students regardless of their ability to apply for FAFSA; this helps students with or without DACA. And the Silver State Opportunity Grant is expanded to students taking less credit hours.
Last year, PLAN and the Mass Liberation coalition organized inside the criminal justice system to restore voting rights to returning citizens, and we are so glad to see that AB431 is now law and automatically restores the right to vote to 77,000 citizens. Additionally, we saw movement on criminal justice reform with a plan for justice reinvestment (AB236), access to occupational licenses for people with prior convictions (AB319), and a process for record sealing decriminalized offenses like marijuana use. Unfortunately, the influence from the district attorney’s hampered some progress and the legislature did not take action on two measures which would have had a major impact in the community to decriminalize traffic tickets (AB411) and reform our cash bail system (AB125/AB325). However, SCR11 continues the conversation on bail reform in the interim and we now have compensation for wrongfully convicted people with AB267.
In 2018, we continued our organizing against predatory payday lenders. Thanks to Senator Yvanna Cancela and Assemblywoman Heidi Swank’s leadership in introducing SB201 and AB118, the legislature had no choice but to listen to community members that will no longer tolerate predatory lenders hurting Nevadans. Unfortunately, AB118, which would have lowered the lending rate to 36% (Military Lending Act rate) from 652% – the fifth highest in the country died early. However, SB201 is a victory for all by creating a payday loan data tracking system and is a good first step in helping people end the debt cycle.
At the offset we had a bill to hold mining corporations accountable, but unfortunately, no legislator was willing to carry it because of lobbyist influence. That said, AB30 would have allowed the Southern Nevada Water Authority to build the pipeline, and with heavy pressure from community members it was killed. It’s important to uplift the Indigenous community that spoke out against this dangerous bill too.
Furthermore, Nevada is making serious waves and national headlines with our legislative movement on gender justice in the face of repressive laws limiting women’s autonomy in other states. We took action to protect womens’ right to choose by passing SB179, the Trust Nevada Women Act, and removing outdated language that criminalized abortion in statute. Also, we took steps to enshrine marriage equality and pass SJR8, the Equal Rights Amendment, in the state constitution.
Together, we have improved conditions for many Nevadans and worked hard to make progress in economic, environmental, criminal, and gender justice, while making great strides in democracy.