By SAM METZ AP/Report for America
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A special session of the state Legislature has been tentatively scheduled for July 8, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Wednesday.
State lawmakers will return to address budget issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent business closures. The state funds a large amount of services through tax revenue from Las Vegas’ gambling and hospitality industries, which have been hit especially hard by the economic downturn.
After facing a more than $800 million shortfall in the budget year that ended in June, Sisolak’s office now forecasts tax revenue will come in $1.3 billion below initial projections in the 2021 fiscal year.
“I look forward to joining Nevada’s lawmakers to undertake this difficult budget process and finalize necessary reductions while prioritizing the resources necessary to protect the health and safety of Nevada’s residents,” Sisolak said in a press release.
Nevada is one of four states that convenes its state Legislature every other year. The state constitution allows the governor and Legislature to convene special sessions during “extraordinary occasions” and they’ve done so five times in the last ten years.
The date is not yet official and Sisolak said he would “remain flexible” as the state navigates an uptick in new confirmed cases of coronavirus. He said his office and leadership in the Democrat-controlled Legislature were still finalizing the special session’s agenda and planned to outline exactly what topics the session will address in a forthcoming proclamation.
In his announcement, Sisolak said he and legislative leadership were still determining whether criminal justice would be included in the agenda. Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said he was advocating to include law enforcement policy on the agenda after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody in late May.
To prevent the spread of coronavirus, the legislative building will be closed to members of the public, except for “limited media access.” Hearings will be broadcast live and individuals will be allowed to address lawmakers virtually using teleconference software or through written public comment.
Republican Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, who served as minority leader during the 2019 session, said he planned to advocate against passing a state budget that relies on yet-to-be passed federal relief dollars.
We have to balance our budget in absence of a federal bailout,” he said. “If we get a federal bailout, well, wonderful, then we can go and add some things back in.”
If police reform ends up on the agenda, Wheeler said he wanted to make sure lawmakers attached funding to new laws, for example about training, rather than creating unfunded mandates for departments throughout the state.
Nevada implemented a statewide face-covering mandate last week to contain further spread of coronavirus after an uptick in the number of confirmed cases being reported daily. Wheeler said he wasn’t sure whether he’d wear a mask because medical conditions make doing so difficult for him.
“I’m not saying no, I’m not saying yes,” he said.
Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.