Saturday was a relatively slow day inside the state Legislature. Outside, it was a different story, as tensions flared between dozens of Black Lives Matter protesters and a smaller group of Trump supporters lining Carson Street.
Already tense exchanges between the two groups erupted into an all-out screaming match after BLM-affiliated demonstrators blocked a truck full of Trump backers entering a crosswalk near West Fourth Street.
The subsequent back-and-forth featured plenty of profanity and heavily armed protesters on both sides. It was only defused after a handful of Black demonstrators pleaded with their white counterparts to let the truck pass.
The protest — originally organized in opposition to a Democrat-backed 2019 law that expanded protections for police officers accused of misconduct — had largely fizzled by 1 p.m., though several megaphone-toting BLM activists continued to march around the building ahead of lengthy afternoon hearings in the Assembly.
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Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, opened that meeting by rattling off a list of nearly a dozen Assembly colleagues who plan to participate remotely after someone inside the Legislature tested positive for the coronavirus.
Officials on Friday said the still-unidentified person is asymptomatic and feeling well, but would not be returning to the state’s 31st special session. It remains unclear if the person is a lawmaker, staffer, media member or one very few others allowed to enter the Legislature this week.
Majority Floor Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno, and Assemblywoman Jill Tolles, R-Reno, are among those who have opted out of in-person participation.
Frierson and state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, have repeatedly stressed their commitment to “allowing members to continue their legislative duties remotely if they are uncomfortable.”
Digital interaction with those lawmakers went smoothly for most of Saturday’s hearings on state worker furloughs recommended by Gov. Steve Sisolak. Legislators in the lower chamber also dug into 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, goes on to provide 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.
Across the hall, state Senators considered a measure that would temporarily fast-track the collection of taxes owed by mining companies. The measure also aims to temporarily double the state’s share of taxes imposed on vehicle registrations.
Legislators heard several hours of passionate public comment, but had not taken action on the proposals as of 4 p.m. on Saturday.
They’re scheduled to reconvene on Sunday morning.
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.