Sisolak announces no immediate second session after lawmakers wrap up budget-cutting process

Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Sunday that he will not ask lawmakers to immediately launch into a second special session after Democrats and Republicans spent the last 12 days butting heads, which created significant delays as they tried to address a looming $1.2 billion shortfall.

Sisolak, in a statement, cited the recent uptick in coronavirus cases statewide in making his decision to delay the start of a second special session, saying his administration needed to focus all of its attention on the state’s pandemic response. There were nearly 36,000 total COVID-19 cases statewide as of Sunday, more than double the number of cases there were three weeks ago.

“While it was my previous intention to call an immediate subsequent special session to discuss extraordinary policy issues that I believe cannot and should not wait until the regularly scheduled 2021 legislative session, I have serious reservations about having our lawmakers convene again for a similar – or longer – period of time in the midst of this spike in our State,” Sisolak said. “To be clear: our State is in a dangerous situation, and it is necessary for my administration to dedicate all of our time and energy toward mitigating the spread and addressing the increases we are currently facing.”

He added that he will not summon lawmakers back to Carson City until they have established and reviewed a full list of the policy items and are “ready to conduct a thorough, organized and efficient second special session.” General topics the governor will ask lawmakers to address include criminal justice reform, unemployment, protections for workers and businesses during the pandemic and election reform.

“This is the responsible decision to make in order to protect the time needed to address the ongoing COVID-19 crisis,” Sisolak said.  

The current session, which was longer than any in the last decade, was slowed in part by negotiations on what budget cuts could be restored, a COVID-19 diagnosis and also an unsuccessful push to remove deductions that mining companies can take as a way to raise more than $100 million in revenue.

Legislative leadership, speaking at a press conference Sunday afternoon before the governor’s announcement, declined to specify what topics they expect to see on the governor’s proclamation announcing the agenda for the second special session. They also weren’t sure about a timeline for a second special session, saying the decision is up to Sisolak.

“We’ve had the conversation for months,” Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said. “We’re going to continue to talk about what would be appropriate for now versus next session and whether or not health conditions allow for us to continue to talk about some of those policies.”

Frierson also indicated that the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases statewide would play a role in the governor’s decision about when to call a second special session. More than a dozen lawmakers took advantage of rules allowing remote participation as a health and safety measure.

“We have to let him make sure that he’s keeping us safe and creating an environment where folks are being responsible and staying home as much as possible, wearing masks, and we’re going to support that,” Frierson said. “But that also extends to this building, making sure that we are doing the same thing. I’m sure that the governor wants to make sure that we as legislators, you all as reporters, our staff, are all safe.”

Groups have been lobbying for inclusion of several issues on a second session agenda. The ACLU of Nevada said the community would view it as a failure if lawmakers didn’t take the opportunity to address police brutality in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests.

Republican Sen. Ira Hansen has said businesses and school superintendents are begging for protections from lawsuits stemming from COVID-19, while a coalition of unions and progressive groups are actively opposed to the idea.

Election rights groups also want to see changes to ensure better voter access, especially after long lines at in-person voting sites during a mostly mail primary in June.