CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — When Nevada lawmakers convene for a special session to address coronavirus-related budget shortfalls, the normally bustling legislative building will be closed to the public.
“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to prevent the potential spread of the virus, access to the legislative building during the upcoming special session of the Nevada Legislature will be limited to Legislators and essential staff,” Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Brenda Erdoes announced Friday.
The Legislature, Erdoes said, plans to broadcast all committee meetings and floor hearings live and allow Nevada residents to exercise their right to public comment via teleconference and through written comments.
“Limited media access” will be allowed, however in her statement, Erdoes did not specify any other exceptions that could, for example, allow the local officials, lobbyists or state workers who typically frequent the building to attend in-person.
Leaders of the Democrat-controlled Legislature announced last week that they had come to an agreement with Gov. Steve Sisolak to delay convening a special session to “early July” in order to prepare safety precautions amid an uptick in cases, during which the state’s totals have climbed to 15,240 reported cases and 498 deaths. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
The Legislature has yet to unveil a safety proposal, but plans to rope off chairs, limit cafeteria seating and reprogram the building’s ventilation system, the Nevada Independent reported earlier this week.
The vast majority of Nevada’s population is in Clark County, which encompasses the Las Vegas valley and, almost three-fourths of the state lawmakers needing to travel to Carson City for the special session reside in the Las Vegas area, where 12,204 individuals have tested positive and 408 have died from coronavirus.
Other states that have called special sessions to confront coronavirus-related challenges have enacted policies to limit public access and require widespread testing of legislative staff. In New Mexico, lawmakers opposed to limiting public access petitioned the Supreme Court to prevent closing the Legislature’s doors during a special session. The court ultimately rejected the petition and allowed the session to proceed with limits on public access.