Day four: 12 lawmakers to participate remotely after COVID scare at Legislature

1:00 p.m. update:

A dozen members of the Nevada Assembly will participate in the state’s 31st special legislative session remotely after an unnamed person inside the Legislature tested positive for the coronavirus.

Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Brenda Erdoes on Friday said the still-unidentified person is asymptomatic and feeling well, but would not be returning to the lawmaking session focused on fixing COVID-caused damage to the state’s budget.

It remains unclear if the person is a lawmaker, staffer, media member or one of the very few other individuals who have been allowed to enter the Legislature during the emergency session.

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, opened a Saturday hearing on state worker furloughs by identifying at least 12 colleagues who have since decided not to participate in-person, including Majority Floor Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno, and Assemblywoman Jill Tolles, R-Reno.

The announcement came after Frierson and state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, issued a joint statement reiterating their commitment to “allowing members to continue their legislative duties remotely if they are uncomfortable.”

Nevada Assemblywoman, Teresa Benitez-Thompson on the first day of the 31st Special Session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Original story:

Day four of Nevada’s 31st special legislative session will see lawmakers take up once-a-month state worker furloughs recommended by Gov. Steve Sisolak, as well as a bill that would let the Clark County School District donate funds to fill a $1.2 billion state budget hole caused by the coronavirus. 

The furlough measure, filed as Assembly Bill 1, also provides for a one-month suspension of state-paid employee health care subsidies, while temporarily upping limits on annual leave workers are allowed to roll forward each year.  

Assembly Bill 2, the education funding measure, is expected to generate millions of dollars in much-needed new revenue by allowing the state to sweep up reserves held by the nation’s fifth-largest school district.

More:Day three: Lawmakers mull changes to Millennium Scholarship, bond financing requirements

Related:Follow live: Lawmakers weigh crippling cuts to popular school programs, construction projects

Legislators on Friday heard a bill that would allow the Nevada State Board of Regents to waive Millennium Scholarship requirements for students “negatively impacted during the pandemic.” They later mulled a measure that would permit the state to use bonds to pay for general fund expenses.

Lawmakers are also considering sweeping cuts to state-funded construction projects and a whole host of popular education initiatives supported by state grants.

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Monday released a 40-page budget-repair blueprint centered around “deep cuts in services and proposals.” The plan leaves it up to the Legislature to decide whether to pursue “augmentation of existing revenue sources” via tax increases. 

If and when legislators succeed in cleaning up the COVID-caused budget mess, the governor has said he will “issue a subsequent proclamation for the Legislature to consider policy items that rise to the extraordinary occasion of a special session.”  

Those items are widely expected to include reforms to the state’s criminal justice system, along with major changes to the state’s embattled unemployment office.

Legislators have not yet scheduled a vote on some $532 million in across-the-board budget cuts called for by Sisolak.

A couch inside the Nevada Legislature with rope restricting the number of people that can sit on it on first day of the 31st Special Session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

James DeHaven is the politics reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. He covers campaigns, the Nevada Legislature and everything in between. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here