Racist threats against their sons fueled two mothers’ push for an anti-racism policy in Clark County schools

Before the emcee finished his plea for civil and respectful discourse, a line had formed along a wall inside a Clark County library meeting room. 

It was early afternoon on a Saturday — two weeks into the new academic year — and several dozen people had gathered to discuss an anti-racism policy, now in the drafting stage, that will be under consideration by Clark County school officials. Now, it was their turn to speak.

A Clark County School District graduate shared how she spent years straightening her hair after a classmate criticized her cornrows, saying she looked “too Black.”

A former teacher and school administrator explained how she was retaliated against for refusing to practice exclusionary discipline policies that too often affected students of color.

A Las Vegas High School student, who also serves as student body president, expressed dismay that her academic success has invited what she sees as disproportionate praise because of her skin color and the fact that her father is an immigrant.

Personal stories like these are giving Jshauntae Marshall and Akiko Cooks the resolve to keep showing up to school board meetings, writing letters, making phone calls and organizing town halls like this one. As the mothers of current and former students — two of whom were the victims of a racist threat that made headlines two years ago — they have made it their mission to make sure racism isn’t tolerated in Clark County schools. 

The name of the organization they founded underscores their mission: No Racism In Schools #1865, or 1865 for short, a nod to the year the 13th Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery.

“I was very proud of those who did speak out,” Cooks said about the town hall. “That makes 1865 say, ‘How do we support you more in this? Where do you need us to show up?’”

For more than two years, these mothers have been pushing for a policy that would take a proactive stance against racism and spell out how race-based incidents should be handled when they do arise. Supporters say it’s no longer enough to not be racist; individuals, institutions and society need to identify and challenge the values and systems that perpetuate racism, hence the action-oriented term “anti-racism.”

But the process for creating an anti-racism policy has not been swift, nor has it been without the vitriol — and misguided mentions of critical race theory — permeating similar discussions nationwide. A June school board meeting devolved into chaos after an argument among attendees broke out during a public comment period. Even the town hall was briefly interrupted by a pair of detractors. 

It’s all evidence, Cooks and Marshall say, of why the school district desperately needs such a policy. In March, No Racism in Schools #1865 sent a follow-up letter to Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara demanding the creation and implementation of an anti-racism policy districtwide. It built on what they had requested shortly after their sons were the victims of a racist threat in March 2019. The letter included 17 “non-negotiables,” ranging from community representation and input during the policy’s creation to establishing disciplinary standards for students and staff who violate the forthcoming policy. It came a week after the Clark County School Board of Trustees agreed to start developing a policy.

The policy initiative speaks to the current moment in the nation’s racial reckoning. Police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and others unleashed a wave of protests and calls for systemic change amid a pandemic that has disproportionately harmed people of color. Some of the focus has naturally shifted toward public schools, the bedrock of most communities, where the nation’s youngest generations come to learn. 

In Nevada, the foundation for school anti-racism policies has already been set in state law. Assembly Bill 371, which passed through the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak this year, requires racial incidents to be handled in a manner consistent with an existing anti-bullying law.

An anti-racism policy won’t undo the pain Marshall and Cooks’ families endured when an ugly Instagram post surfaced two years ago. But the mothers say it could deter similar racially motivated incidents or, at the very least, provide schools a roadmap for addressing them.

On the evening of March 18, 2019, Cooks received a chilling text message. A cousin had stumbled upon racist Instagram posts targeting nine Black students at Arbor View High School. Her son, Corey Landrum, was one of them.

Photos of the nine students, snapped without their knowledge, accompanied text rife with racial slurs and threats of a “Columbine pt 2” shooting. Cooks immediately called school district police, only to be told it was out of their jurisdiction because it happened online. So she shared the post on her own Facebook and Instagram channels as a warning to other parents. 

Overnight, the post and related warnings had circulated social media. Marshall came across the post at 6 a.m. the next day and saw her son, Zamier Marshall, in a photo. Before even fully processing what she had seen, Marshall grabbed her phone and began calling and texting other parents. She frantically relayed a singular message: 

“Don’t send your kids to school today.”

Cooks and Marshall say a lack of information from the school district heightened an already-frightening, emotional situation. An investigation ultimately led to the arrest of two students, who later accepted a plea deal. But the mothers, bonded by a painful experience, knew their work wasn’t done. 

“For me, my life will never be the same from that,” Cooks said. “It’s changed everything.”

The mothers knew racism existed within the walls of Clark County schools, just as it does essentially everywhere across the country, from retail stores and restaurants to doctor’s offices and hospital waiting rooms. A recent Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans — 64 percent — believe racism against Black people is widespread in the United States, and that perception is even higher among Black (84 percent) and Hispanic (72 percent) respondents.

Racial disparities in student discipline, police violence and health care, among other examples, underscore the nation’s long-standing problem.

Cooks and Marshall had seen Confederate flag imagery adorning student vehicles in the Arbor View High School parking lot. They tried not to dwell on it. 

Marshall said she taught her son to keep his distance. It’s a conversation that many Black parents across the United States have with their children, especially as their sons grow into young men and enter a society that judges them based on the color of their skin. 

“I don’t teach my children to be angry at people for their personal perspectives,” she said. “If they hate Black people, then let them hate us. Just don’t put your hands on us.”

The racist Instagram posts, however, brought their daily worries to a head. These were their sons, their babies, targeted in a threatened shooting. A lethargic response by both the school district and local police, they say, proved something more needed to be done. 

That’s how No Racism In Schools #1865 came to be. The organization’s website describes itself as a “campaign focused on closing the gaps in policies, laws, and protocols that govern race related matters in schools.”

The vehicle for doing so, they believe, is an anti-racism policy. Cooks and Marshall envision the policy holding the district accountable for appropriately handling race-based incidents, tracking their occurences and weaving the concept of anti-racism into the curriculum — similar to how policies adopted by other school systems look and work. They’ve shared some with district officials.

The policy would align with AB371, which builds off the anti-bullying law and applies to all 17 public school districts and charter schools. During the town hall, the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Brittney Miller, who’s a teacher, said she often fields this question: Isn’t racism considered bullying?

The answer, she said, lies in the definition of bullying.  Whereas bullying involves targeted, recurring incidents, a single racist incident would enact the protocols of AB371. Miller gave this example to explain the importance of the distinction: If a student writes “you’re a jerk” on a bathroom wall, the message may elicit a few glances and giggles. But if the writing on the wall includes a racial slur, it affects everyone who reads it.

“So it doesn’t have to be targeted; it doesn’t have to be repetitive,” Miller said. “The reason why this is key in the definition is because that’s why many students — their reports of racism were going unaddressed because it didn’t comply with that same (bullying) standard.”

Cooks said the addition of the anti-racism policy at the district level would add a “second layer of protection” by defining terms and going beyond the data-tracking components of AB371. For instance, she said, the policy should “decolonize the curriculum” by ensuring that students learn about the societal contributions made by people of color, not just the history of slavery. The organization’s vision dovetails with another new state law, AB261, that makes sure more diverse perspectives are included in K-12 academic content.

The policy push, however, has come under fire from critics who say it’s masquerading as an attempt to teach critical race theory, an academic framework that examines how racial inequality is woven into the U.S. legal system and other institutions. Critical race theory has emerged as a commonly misused catch-all term by people who oppose any policies that address systemic racism. It has also been adopted as a campaign talking point by conservative candidates in recent months.

Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara and several trustees have declared that critical race theory, which became a flashpoint during fiery school board meetings across the nation this summer, will not be part of district discussions regarding the anti-racism policy.

As far as Cooks and Marshall are concerned, the anti-racism policy must come first. 

“I think it’s a necessity, but until there is an anti-racism policy that is actually enforced, I don’t know that our educators, generally speaking, are skilled enough to go there,” Marshall said, referring to critical race theory. “They barely can have a conversation about body shaming.”

While the anti-racism policy won’t delve into critical race theory, Cooks and Marshall say candid conversations about racism and implicit biases — beliefs about or attitudes toward others that people hold without consciously realizing it — need to occur. They also say it’s not an “anti-white policy,” as some opponents have called it; it’s simply anti-racist, which is a mindset they would like to see everyone adopt.

“You can’t do an anti-racism policy without a lens on race,” Cooks said. “There has to be a discussion.”

The Clark County School District wouldn’t be forging new ground by creating an anti-racism policy. School districts in Cincinnati, Ohio; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Niskayuna, New York, are among those that have already adopted similar policies.

The Board of Education for Cincinnati Public Schools took that step last December. The southwest Ohio district predominantly serves communities of color, with 62 percent of students identifying as Black and 8 percent identifying as Hispanic. The racial unrest during the summer of 2020 fueled a request from Board Member Mike Moroski and, later, students for a policy that would go beyond the district’s existing one regarding equity.

The Cincinnati district’s anti-racism policy defines pertinent terms such as racism, anti-racism, individual racism, systemic racism and racist or race-based misconduct. The policy, for instance, says systemic racism “encompasses the history and current reality of institutional racism across all institutions and society. It refers to the history, culture, ideology, and interactions of institutions and policies that perpetuate a system of inequity that is detrimental to communities of color.”

The policy also includes a 363-word section describing its purpose, with the first line stating that it is “to create processes that identify any form of racism, work to counter its effects and work to eliminate racist practices and policies from the District in conjunction with related Board policies.”

The policy goes on to list a variety of directives related to communication, leadership and administration, curriculum and instruction, professional development, hiring and discipline.

“Unless you’re calling it out, you’re not going to change it,” Moroski said.

In Cincinnati, an anti-racism working group — made up of students, staff, parents and community organizations — developed the policy based on public feedback. The African American Chamber of Commerce, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, The Urban League and YMCA were among the organizations involved.

The school district’s assistant general counsel, Stephanie Scott, said the working group came together last August and, by mid-December, the policy had been approved by the board.

“We didn’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction,” she said. “... We knew it was going to be a longstanding policy that we really wanted to give some thought and be really intentional so, in doing that, we wanted to make sure that we included ... all of our key stakeholders.”

The Clark County School District has taken a similar approach, creating both an internal and external task force. Additionally, it has brought aboard four people deemed professional experts — Donna Mendoza Mitchell, Maree Sneed, Micah Ali and Shawn Joseph — who have backgrounds in civil rights law,  education policy and school leadership. They will be listening to task force discussions and helping draft the written policy, said Mike Barton, the district’s chief college, career, equity and school choice officer.

Cooks and Marshall are among the 38 members of the external task force, though they’re not pleased with the selection process. They have raised concerns about the lack of representation from the city’s Historic Westside, which is a historically Black neighborhood; the unwieldy size of the group; and the inclusion of a few members whom they don’t consider allies.

“Why do we have to be put in a space with someone we know doesn’t really support this?” Cooks said.

No Racism In Schools #1865 has recommended that task force members participate in implicit bias training sessions. Barton, meanwhile, said the district is “definitely having conversations with the community” about the concerns regarding representation from the city’s historically Black neighborhood.

Still, the process has irked School Board President Linda Cavazos, who described it as “moving at a snail’s pace.” Trustee Katie Williams, on the other hand, has advocated against expedited timelines, pointing to the district’s gender-diverse policy, which took 18 months to craft and adopt. 

“I want to get it done properly and accurately,” Williams said during the Aug. 26 board meeting.

(The founders of No Racism In Schools #1865 have not invited Williams — known for her incendiary tweets, one of which recently included a Qanon hashtag — to any of their events.)

A development timeline shared with trustees in August sets January as the target for the final adoption of an anti-racism policy, with a first draft coming together in October.  

As the policy formation process plays out, those involved in the local education community are keeping a close eye on it. 

Former Clark County School Board Trustee Linda Young was the only Black member when her term ended last year. Now, the school board has no Black trustees. Young routinely advocated for dismantling racial inequities during her tenure on the school board, and said she supports the creation of an anti-racism policy. She said it could encourage more candid dialogue about race — a topic sometimes considered taboo, especially in classroom settings.

Too often, she said, people are afraid of confronting issues they don’t feel equipped to discuss.

“When you’re talking about things you don’t know, you tend to avoid because, number one, you’re uncomfortable and, number two, you don’t know and you don’t want to let people know you don’t know,” said Young, who suggested that judgment be replaced with this mindset: “It’s OK that you don’t know. It is OK that sometimes I don’t know.”

Andrew O’Reilly, interim vice principal at Chaparral High School, attended the town hall organized by No Racism In Schools #1865 and Mi Familia Vota. He wanted to listen.

“I wanted to hear what their experience was,” he said, referring to community members who spoke during the town hall. “My job as an educator is for me to be a learner also.”

O’Reilly said he supports the creation of an anti-racism policy and believes it’s necessary. Students want to talk about these issues, he said, and they want to be part of a solution.

And, from an educator standpoint, he wants to see more training about how classroom and school leaders can improve the culture and climate.

“We sometimes have a tendency to think if we don’t see a problem overtly, that the problem doesn’t exist,” he said. “It comes back on us to really know what areas need to be addressed to keep everybody safe and included in society.”

Students may not be watching every twist and turn of the policy development process, but the topic itself isn’t far from mind. Alexa Hernandez-Valenzuela is a junior at Global Community High School, which serves students who are newcomers to the United States. Speaking in her native Spanish, Hernandez-Valenzuela said she would welcome a policy that aims to prevent racism.

It was one of her bigger fears when she moved to Las Vegas from Mexico roughly three months ago. Her parents had lost their jobs during the pandemic and sent her here to live with an aunt so she could finish her education. Hernandez-Valenzuela worried the language barrier might make her a target of racism, in school or elsewhere. She hasn’t experienced that at Global High School but said a policy could help prevent it moving forward.

People who give up their whole lives to move here, she said, deserve an opportunity free from racism.

After the racist Instagram threats at Arbor View High School, Jshauntae Marshall’s son, Zamier, transferred to Liberty High School in the southern Las Vegas Valley. He graduated in June. Now, he’s attending Concordia University Wisconsin, where he received a football and academic scholarship.

A few weeks after graduation, he reflected on how the incident had changed his outlook, especially after watching the pandemic and racial unrest unfold over the past year and half.

“Honesty, it just showed me that (there’s) a lot of hate in the world for no reason,” he said, adding that it really opened his eyes. “I’m 18 now. I’m grown and I look older than my age and (there have) been many experiences I’ve had, like, hand-to-hand with racial profiling.”

It’s a constant fear for his mother. That’s why she forbade him from wearing dreadlocks or being out at night when racial tensions were particularly high last summer following the police killing of George Floyd. She also steered him away from attending college in the South, worried he might encounter even more potent forms of racism there.

Marshall said her rules have created some friction between the two, but she hasn’t budged.

“I’ve not ever taught my children racism. I’ve taught them about it — and have drilled into his head that, as a Black man, he just can’t do what other people do,” she said. “He just can’t. And I don’t care how free they say he is, he will never have the freedom of other men his age.”

Cooks’ son, meanwhile, chose to remain at Arbor View High School. Her daughter, Chasity Landrum, is now a junior there, too. They’re both members of the school’s Black Student Union.

Corey Landrum, who’s finishing up final credits to graduate, tries not to fixate on the past. “What’s done is done,” he said. 

Her brother’s experience didn’t dissuade Chasity from attending Arbor View High School. She sensed change could happen. 

“I feel like there could be a difference,” she said. “So I guess I really do stay because I’m like, ‘It doesn’t have to be like this. You’re not going to run me away from my school.’ This is my area code. This is where I live.”

The reality is, the racist threats could have occurred at any school. Since launching No Racism In Schools #1865, Cooks and Marshall say they have received regular reports of racially motivated incidents at schools across the valley. The Arbor View incident, though, catalyzed efforts to rebuild the northwest valley school’s climate. The principal, Kevin McPartlin, calls it a cultural turnaround.

Cooks and Marshall have been heavily involved, he said, in helping with training sessions for staff that address how to discuss and handle race-related issues when they arise. The other part is extending that to students in an effective manner, McPartlin said, noting that it’s not a “quick fix” but instead needs to be thoughtful and ongoing.

“We’re a large high school — 3,200 kids — and you can’t just have an assembly about this and think it’s going to fix it,” he said. “We need to get down in smaller groups, and it needs to be conversation.”

The broader push for an anti-racism policy districtwide has at least started dialogue. But the founders of No Racism In Schools #1865 don’t want to see it end there. Cooks envisions youth empowerment as the next phase of the work.

The more students, parents and educators talk about it, she said, the more likely it is that the policy won’t just become papers stored on a shelf.

“It’s more than just creating a policy,” Cooks said. “It’s creating the right policy, implementing the policy, training on the policy, educating the community about the policy and enforcing the policy — and then accountability follow-up. We’re years away from that full process.”

Cooks and Marshall say they’re in it for the long haul. Progress will be measured by the experiences of the younger students aging through the school system. 

Marshall’s second-grade son, Aiden, is among them.

Extended bonding authority could breathe new life into old schools

Goodbye, portable classrooms. Goodbye, aging plumbing, air conditioning and roofing systems. 

Myrtle Tate Elementary School will celebrate its 50th birthday this year by welcoming students to a new building. The northeast Las Vegas school — home of the Tigers — has traded its drab, largely windowless building for a sleek, modern upgrade that features plenty of natural light, colorful murals, improved technology and more wiggle room.

The $32 million project left some teachers in tears when they toured the new building last month. After a disrupted year and a half of learning, during which time COVID-19 tore through the school’s surrounding lower-income community, the new building offers a fresh start despite the pandemic still lingering in the background.

“When you look around town, you see the new schools being built in the new subdivisions … and charter schools being built in some of the more affluent areas,” said Sarah Popek, principal of Myrtle Tate Elementary School. “And our students deserve the same opportunities.”

Myrtle Tate is one of five replacement schools opening for the 2021-2022 academic year, all financed as part of the Clark County School District’s 2015 Capital Improvement Program. Two new schools — Hannah Marie Brown Elementary School and Barry and June Gunderson Middle School — are opening this year in southwest Las Vegas and Henderson as well.

The Las Vegas Valley is no stranger to school openings. Decades of growth have meant a steady drumbeat of bonding campaigns, architectural renderings, construction sites, school-naming committees and ribbon-cutting ceremonies before the yellow buses arrive and backpack-toting students pour into the hallways. 

The cycle is poised to continue: At the end of the recent legislative session, state lawmakers approved SB450, which grants school districts the authority to issue general obligation bonds without voter approval for a second 10-year period. The period will begin in 2025 after the district’s current bonding authority ends.

District leaders hailed the bill’s passage and approval by the governor as a victory that will enable the school system to continue chipping away at the $10.8 billion worth of needs identified in the 2015 Capital Improvement Program. But the bond rollover also signals a pivot in the district’s overall capital improvement strategy. 

After years of keeping up with the region’s suburban sprawl, the district is eyeing more projects like that of Myrtle Tate Elementary School. Modernizing and replacing aging schools in older neighborhoods represents a different type of academic equity.

In 1974, Clark County voters gave the green light to a $39.4 million construction program that resulted in eight new schools and improvements or additions at multiple other buildings. Every few years after that, voters granted approval for another round of construction projects.

Legislation approved in 1997 substantially changed the game for financing school construction projects by providing more revenue sources. The next year, in 1998, Clark County voters approved a mammoth capital improvement program funded by real estate transfer taxes, hotel room taxes and property taxes. The 10-year program generated $4.9 billion in bond proceeds, paving the way for 120 new schools. Almost 60 percent of that money went toward building new schools as opposed to replacement schools or modernization projects.

As those funds began to expire, the Legislature granted an extension that, without needing voter approval, created the 2015 Capital Improvement Program. It’s expected to funnel another $4.1 billion toward construction projects over the decade. Some of those projects are already complete. Others are underway.

The problem, however, is a lengthy to-do list. The Clark County School District estimates it needs $10.8 billion to accomplish modernization projects, build new schools, replace old ones, construct additions, update equipment and pay for bus satellites. 

That’s how district officials found themselves lobbying for the passage of SB450 this year. 

“We were at the execution phase of all these projects. We weren’t planning new projects,” said Jeff Wagner, the district’s chief of facilities, while referring to the 2015 Capital Improvement Program. “We’re all aware we have a huge need, so [the bond rollover] is going to give us, really for the first time, the opportunity to do some strong strategic, long-term planning for the district and hopefully put the district in a much better place for facilities.”

On average, Clark County schools are at 99.8 percent capacity and more than half — 59 percent — of schools are at least 20 years old, according to a presentation the district gave at the Legislature. Sixteen percent of schools are more than 50 years old.

Facilities staff plan to bring forward a 2025 Capital Improvement Plan, which will include options for prioritization, this fall, Wagner said. But a spreadsheet shared with lawmakers outlines the projects that SB450 could help bring to fruition.

Among them: 13 new schools, 32 replacement schools, two phased replacement schools and four building additions. The estimated cost for those projects is $3.39 billion.

Wagner said the bond rollover is expected to generate $2.9 billion, which he called a conservative estimate. Prior bond initiatives, he said, have ended up generating more money than originally calculated.

“The 2015 program was very successful at addressing capacity needs, especially at the elementary level,” he said. “This is the appropriate time in our I guess collective history to begin aggressively renewing that capital resource, so schools that were built in the 50s, 60s, even the early 70s have lived their useful life.”

The front entrance of Las Vegas Academy of the Arts in downtown Las Vegas as seen on July 8, 2021. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

The stately red-brick building commands attention in downtown Las Vegas. With Art Deco-style touches and palm trees flanking its entrance, Las Vegas Academy of the Arts conveys a Hollywood-esque representation of schools. 

But age-related problems come with its beauty. Built in 1930, it was the original site of Las Vegas High School. Principal Scott Walker, who is entering his 11th year leading the now-magnet school, rattles off the issues: The air-conditioning system either freezes students and staff or provides no heat respite at all. There’s only an on-off switch. Plumbing failures have created flooding in the outdoor courtyard and sewage smells inside. Hallways are dark and ceilings are low. There are no ramps or elevators. And the occasional passerby wanders onto the campus, which includes the main building, gymnasium, theaters and other smaller, detached buildings. 

Las Vegas Academy students don’t complain much, he said. They’ve accepted the quirks of the old school. 

“Our kids deal,” he said. “They know that there might be a day that’s too hot or too cold in here.”

The bond rollover, however, could grant the school what Walker sees as long-overdue updates. Las Vegas Academy of the Arts is listed as one of the buildings slated for a phased replacement. But the replacement won’t involve any bulldozing.

The main academic building and gymnasium are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A handful of years ago, students, alumni, parents, staff and community members came together to talk about how to upgrade the campus without sacrificing any historic integrity, Walker said. Several architecture firms proposed plans, which the group mulled. Ultimately, one firm created a model rendering, which sits in the school’s library to this day.

Blue figurines in the model represent new or modernized buildings, excluding the main academic building and gymnasium, which would be untouched given their historic status. A new six-story building, which would house a student union, anchors the proposed changes.

For a while, Walker never thought he would see the model — or something like it — come to life. But the bond rollover has given him more optimism.

“I still think it’s ideal,” he said, referring to the architectural model. “However, I’ll take what we can get. I’m so thrilled that this passed because I’m hoping that I could at least see it before I retire.”

His enthusiasm for an upgraded campus isn’t solely about aesthetics or creature comforts. Walker said it could allow him to increase enrollment to 2,200 — up from roughly 1,700 — allowing more students the chance to attend the arts magnet school. He also envisions more laboratories for engineering and technology-related courses, giving his students a boost if they want to enter production-oriented jobs. 

The possibilities, he said, seem endless.

“I can imagine,” he said, his voice trailing off.

It’s a situation that educators are experiencing five miles away at Myrtle Tate Elementary School. Last week, they were busy unpacking boxes and injecting their rooms with colorful decorations, wondering what the new year in a new building would bring.

Popek, the school’s principal, said she plans to closely monitor student data to see whether the upgraded environment leads to improved academics.

Ginger Stevens, the music teacher, has observed a different potential ripple-effect: landscaping and home improvements in the nearby neighborhood. Her own four kids attended the original Myrtle Tate Elementary School. They took photos outside before it was razed to make way for the new building.

But Stevens — surrounded by a sea of bass bars and xylophones  — said she is already feeling at home in the new building.

“My storage is ginormous,” she said. “And I’m filling it up really quickly.”

Sisolak celebrates bills that expand voting access during ceremonial signing

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday held a ceremonial signing of a handful of bills designed to make casting ballots easier in Nevada, marking a deviation from other states where lawmakers have passed more restrictive voting laws.

The bill-signing ceremony at the East Las Vegas Community Center kicked off the last day for the governor to pen his name on bills passed during the 81st Legislature. The five bills, a couple of which he had already signed, are all election-related:

  • AB121 allows people with disabilities to vote using an electronic system created for uniformed military members and other voters living overseas.
  • AB321 permanently expands mail-in voting while letting voters opt out of receiving a mail ballot, and it also gives Indian reservations or colonies more time to request the establishment of a polling place within its boundaries.
  • AB422 implements a top-down voter registration system, moving away from the existing setup that involves 17 county clerks maintaining their own systems and transmitting voter registration information to the secretary of state’s office.
  • AB432 expands automatic voter registration to other state or tribal agencies, such as those designated by the Department of Health and Human Services that receive Medicaid applications and the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange. 
  • AB126 moves the state to a presidential primary system, ending the use of the caucus.

Sisolak noted that lawmakers in other states have introduced 389 bills that would restrict voting rights, and 20 have been signed into law. He called it an “assault on one of the key tenets of our democracy — the right to vote.”

“But today, in the great state of Nevada, we are so proud that we are sending a strong message that the Silver State is not only bucking the national trend of infringing on voter rights — rather, we’re doing everything we can to expand access to the poll while ensuring our elections are secure and fair,” Sisolak added.

The bill-signings come roughly seven months after a contentious election season, during which Nevada’s Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, received an avalanche of threats and harassment after unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud following former President Donald Trump’s loss. Because of the pandemic, Nevada lawmakers expanded mail-in voting for the 2020 presidential election.

Gov. Steve Sisolak and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson celebrate the signing of election-related bills at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Mikayla Whitmore/The Nevada Independent)

Sisolak lauded AB321 for permanently enshrining mail-in voting in the Silver State, which he said gives voters more options. He also commended Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) for being a “tenacious fighter” when it comes to preserving and expanding voting rights.

Frierson emphasized that AB321 doesn’t eliminate any voting options — people can vote by mail, deposit their ballots in drop-off boxes or vote in person.

“These are all options and individual liberties that Nevadans have come to enjoy,” he said.

The governor and state lawmakers also celebrated the state’s conversion to a presidential primary, which could place Nevada ahead of New Hampshire and Iowa to become the first nominating state in the nation. But that’s subject to approval from the Democratic National Committee. AB126, which moves Nevada away from a caucus, establishes that presidential primary elections would occur on the first Tuesday in February of presidential election years.

Sisolak touted Nevada’s diverse population as a reason for why it should lead the primary process, saying it “undoubtedly” represents the composition of the country.

The governor has spent the week in Las Vegas, attending a variety of bill-signing ceremonies to usher new measures into law. The legislative session ended at midnight on Memorial Day.

PHOTOS: Countdown to sine die in Carson City

They came, they legislated and soon they will be gone.

The 120-day session of the 81st Legislature is winding down on this Memorial Day in Carson City. Lawmakers are constitutionally obligated to finish their work by the stroke of midnight, meaning a mad dash to the finish line with fewer than six hours to go.

Lawmakers, legislative staff, lobbyists and the press corps have basically camped out in the Legislature over the past three days. While legislative sessions may seem to crawl by in the initial month or two, the pace always hastens as the deadline looms — with a characteristic sprint toward the end. In the past 48 hours alone, lawmakers have passed a bill that would tax the mining industry to benefit education and all but passed a bill creating a state-managed public health insurance option. At the same time, other pieces of legislations have met their untimely death.

The Nevada Independent's photographer, David Calvert, captured scenes Monday from the bustling Legislature, where there are no barbecues in sight but plenty of suit jackets and last-minute dealmaking. Take a peek:

Assemblywoman Melissa Hardy walks her dog, Beanie, on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Assemblyman Tom Roberts, right, speaks with Tyre Gray, president of the Nevada Mining Association, on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
From left, Assemblywomen Cecelia González, Heidi Kasama and Melissa Hardy on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Assemblywoman Jill Tolles on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Assemblyman Steve Yeager on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Sen. James Ohrenschall on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
The legislative press corps on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Assemblywoman Danielle Monroe-Moreno on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Sen. Chris Brooks on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro after speaking with the media on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and Chief Clerk Susan Furlong on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Samantha Glover, cofounder and executive director of Red Equity, inside the Legislature on the final day of the 81st session, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Assemblymen Steve Yeager, left, and Glen Leavitt outside the Assembly Chamber on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Sen.Scott Hammond on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
The Senate chambers during an afternoon floor session on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Sen. Joe Hardy on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Secretary of the Senate Claire Clift on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
The Senate chambers during an afternoon floor session on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Billy, left, and Nick Vassiliadis on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Assemblyman Gregory Hafen on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Lobbyists work in a hallway on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Senators leave their chamber during a recess on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Lobbyists watch senators vote on AB321, an election bill, on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and Nevada Mining Association President Tyre Gray on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Former Sen. Michael Roberson chats with others inside the Legislature on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Sen. Pat Spearman on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Sen. Pete Goicoechea on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Members of a joint conference committee discuss SB369, a bill dealing with bail reform on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Members of a conference committee get set to discuss SB369, a bill dealing with bail reform on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Extra copies of the daily journal wait to be recycled on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
The Legislature on the final day of the 81st session, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Assembly members Robin Titus, Danielle Monroe Moreno and Steve Yeager return to the Assembly chamber after letting the Senate know they have adjourned sine die on the final day of the 81st session, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
From left, Senators Ben Kieckhefer, Fabian Doñate and Mo Denis are greeted by cheers after letting the Assembly know the Senate has adjourned sine die at the Legislature on the final day of the 81st session, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
The final day of the 81st session of the Nevada Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021 in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Nevada secures $45 million settlement in opioid litigation, accusing consulting firm of deceptive marketing practices that led to overdose deaths

Pills spilling from bottle

Nevada will receive $45 million from the settlement of a lawsuit against consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which provided services for opioid manufacturers, Attorney General Aaron Ford announced on Monday. 

Ford in 2019 filed a 241-page complaint against nationally prominent opioid manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies and individuals, including Purdue Pharma, Walgreens, Walmart and CVS Pharmacy. At the time, Ford said the defendants “created an unprecedented public health crisis for their own profits” by duping doctors into prescribing the highly addictive drug used primarily for pain management. 

During a press conference, Ford said McKinsey & Company's role in the opioid crisis included advising manufacturers on how to maximize their profits from the medication. He said that directly affects Nevada, which he described as hard-hit by the crisis.

Nevada will receive the settlement money in two installments, with $23 million arriving in 45 days and $22 million arriving in 120 days. 

“The devastation caused by the opioid epidemic is felt by every mother and father who has lost a child,” Ford said during the press conference. “It's felt by siblings who've lost a sister or a brother… And obviously it's felt by those still suffering from an opioid addiction.” 

McKinsey & Company holds that their work in consulting opioid manufacturers was not against the law.

"McKinsey believes its past work was lawful and has denied allegations to the contrary. The settlement agreement with Nevada, like those reached in February, contains no admission of wrongdoing or liability," said a company spokesperson in a statement.

Monday’s announcement came after Ford withdrew Nevada from a multi-state lawsuit that included 55 states and territories against opioid manufacturers. The attorney general said the multi-state settlement would have yielded $7 million for Nevada, but he pursued individual litigation because he said that “Nevadans were entitled to more.” 

Three months ago, the National Drug Helpline marked Nevada on “red alert” as opioid-related deaths rose amid the pandemic. Officials reported a 50 percent increase in opioid- and fentanyl-related overdose deaths in the first six months of 2020, which saw a greater increase in the months following the beginning of the pandemic. 

For now, the attorney general said his office will be working with the Legislature and Gov. Steve Sisolak to “figure out the best way to appropriate the funds." Ford said that will include using the funds to address the opioid crisis and recover the costs of pursuing the case, but didn't name specific expenditures related to that.

“This settlement comes at a time when Nevada needs an influx of funds to continue its work in this area, which is particularly important in light of the pandemic that has seen a resurgence in opioid-related deaths,” Ford said. 

Updated on 3/22/2021 at 1:48 p.m. to correct a prior statement saying there were 40 defendants listed on the attorney general's complaint, add a statement from McKinsey & Company and include information from Ford's office regarding the use of the funds from the settlement.

Updated on 3/22/2021 at 4:03 p.m. to update the headline of the article.

Bill limiting police chokeholds, requiring duty to intervene passes Assembly in bipartisan vote

Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Steve Yeager presents Assembly Bill 3

A bill that restricts police use of chokeholds, allows recording of law enforcement and calls for drug testing of officers involved in shootings passed the Assembly with bipartisan support, in spite of criticism that lawmakers could have gone further to address police brutality.

Assembly members voted 38-4 on Saturday to pass AB3, with Republicans John Ellison, Robin Titus, Jim Wheeler and Chris Edwards opposed.

A few hours later, the Senate Committee of the Whole passed AB3 as well, meaning it next heads to a full Senate vote. Republican Sen. Ira Hansen opposed, saying the process felt rushed and is not related to COVID-19 or the budget so it shouldn’t be up for consideration.

“It simply does not belong in a special session,” he said.

Democratic Assemblyman Steve Yeager, who presented the bill, prefaced the legislation by describing four lapel pins on his suit jacket — one honoring police officers killed in the line of duty, one for his completion of a citizens police academy, one that says “Black Lives Matter” and a fourth that bears a silhouette of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

“These four lapel pins and the values that they reflect — they’re not mutually exclusive,” he said, before turning to the proposed bill. “... Assembly Bill 3 in front of you is the embodiment of what we can do better in the state of Nevada because if we aren’t moving forward, we’re standing still, which means we are falling behind.”

The bill comes weeks after protests erupted nationwide following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Flody’s death sparked a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in big cities and small towns across the country — and, with it, calls for police reform. 

Gov. Steve Sisolak and other legislative leaders had pledged to address issues with systemic racism and policing during a press conference in early June, shortly after Floyd was killed and protests erupted around the state. The issue was not brought up in the initial, budget-focused special session this month, but was included in the proclamation for the current special session.

During the Saturday afternoon hearing, Ellison lamented what he described as “rumors” swirling about how the bill would defund police departments. 

“I think it took away from what the bill really intended to do,” he said.

Yeager agreed about the spread of misinformation.

“I think the best PR that we can do is to encourage folks to read the bill,” Yeager said. “Fortunately, this one is not too long.”

While it may not be long, the 10-page bill would enact a variety of reforms. For instance, the measure explicitly allows recording of law enforcement activity if it is not obstructing the activity and bars police from seizing recording instruments or destroying recorded images.

It provides that police can use “only the amount of reasonable force necessary” to carry out the arrest of someone who is fleeing or resisting. The law currently allows police to use “all necessary means” to make the arrest.

Asked about how “reasonable” is defined, Las Vegas police lobbyist Chuck Callaway said case law dating to the 1980s guides that definition. He noted that no officer he’s talked with believes that police actions taken against George Floyd were reasonable.

“There’s always the hindsight 20-20 factor and someone can always question after the fact whether or not the officer’s actions were reasonable,” he said. “If there’s an allegation brought forward to us at Metro that an officer’s actions were unreasonable, we’re going to conduct a thorough investigation on that to determine if that was the case.”

In 2019, Callaway said, there were 1.5 million calls for service where officers made contact with people, and there were 900 reported uses of force, including lower-level complaints such as people saying handcuffs were put on too roughly. He said that was a small fraction of 1 percent of incidents.

The bill also bans officers from choking people and says officers “shall take any actions necessary to place such a person in a recovery position if he or she appears to be in distress or indicates that he or she cannot breathe.” But Yeager noted that chokeholds could still happen if they were in self-defense against deadly force.

Callaway and legislative legal counsel said it would not preclude a physical struggle to get someone under arrest, but the chokehold prohibition applies once someone is in custody. “Lateral vascular neck restraints” were used 21 times in 2019, Callaway said, but the agency this summer changed its use of force policy to limit the technique only to when an officer’s life is being threatened. 

He said the agency supports the bill. The Nevada Police Union, which represents state-employed police officers, also supported it.

Additionally, the measure creates a “duty to intervene” that requires an officer to prevent or stop another officer from using unjustified force against a person, regardless of the chain of command. The officer must report in writing within 10 days the details of the incident.

The bill also requires testing officers for alcohol and drugs — including prescription drugs and cannabis — if they are involved in a shooting or a situation that led to substantial bodily harm or death of another person.

Callaway said under current practice, supervisors are subject to drug and alcohol testing if they are involved in a deadly force situation, but the bill would extend the testing to rank-and-file officers. He said he expected the results would be initially confidential but might later be made public if there was a criminal investigation, through civil litigation or — after the investigation is finished — through a public records request.

Legislators heard an hour of public testimony in support of the bill, although many callers indicated it’s only a starting point. 

“This is really the bare minimum of change that needs to occur in order to foster accountability when people needlessly die at the hands of law enforcement,” said Holly Welborn, policy director at the ACLU of Nevada. 

Assemblyman Tom Roberts, a Republican and former assistant sheriff with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, stood in support of the bill despite calling it a personal struggle. 

“With this bill, it’s not perfect,” he said. “It doesn’t hit every bell and whistle … I think it will actually improve community trust and make our organizations adopt some best practices that are utilized in our state already.”

Police officers who testified against the bill said the measure would handcuff them and is part of an effort to paint officers with a broad brush because of what happened to Floyd.

Scott Nicolas, vice president of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, testified in opposition, saying there was “no compelling need to make drastic policy changes” at this time. 

“What we should be focused on is educating the public on dangers of resisting arrest and why compliance during a lawful detention or arrest is so important,” he said.

Senate hears bill that aims to prevent court backup of eviction cases

State Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro on Friday, July 31, 2020, during the first day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City.

State senators heard testimony Friday on a bill aimed at preventing a court logjam by creating a mediation-focused program for evictions.

SB1 was the first piece of legislation introduced in that house during the special session, which started Friday. The bill comes exactly a month ahead of the planned Sept. 1 lifting of an eviction moratorium.

"Our question is what happens then?” Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty said while presenting the bill on behalf of the Access to Justice Commission, which he co-chairs. “And, in particular, will the court system be able to meet a projected significant increase in eviction cases?”

Separate estimates from the treasurer’s office and Guinn Center for Policy Priorities indicate that anywhere from 135,000 to 142,000 households statewide could be affected by evictions in the coming months. If those estimates prove accurate, the courts could see three times as many eviction-related cases as they normally do in an entire year, Hardesty said. 

SB1 would attempt to alleviate some of that burden by halting eviction proceedings for no more than 30 days and allowing mediation to occur through an alternative dispute resolution program. Hardesty said the courts hope to create a process that allows tenants, landlords and the mediator to convene by phone or video conference call, thus keeping people out of the courthouse amid the pandemic. If the dispute cannot be resolved during mediation, a court hearing would be set.

Republican Sen. Keith Pickard asked why the courts want to enact this program through legislation.

Hardesty said the judicial system fears people would challenge the court’s authority to stay an eviction proceeding, potentially leading to lawsuits. Additionally, the Supreme Court justice said creating the program through legislation gives the public more transparency.

“We don't need any more lawsuits,” he said. “We're trying to reduce them.”

The bill drew broad support from organizations such as the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Mi Familia Vota, the Children’s Advocacy Alliance and the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence and the ACLU of Nevada.

“Right now, we are facing a real potential for a surge in homelessness that we cannot afford,” said Emily Paulsen, executive director of the Nevada Homeless Alliance. “Every opportunity that we can take to connect a family to available resources like rental assistance is an opportunity that we should take.”

But Edward Kania, president of Southern Nevada Eviction Services, testified against the bill, saying it stands to further harm landlords whose court access already has been delayed for months.

“This proposal will delay that access further,” he said. “Landlords have been economically suffering during the past six months, despite the fact that they have been providing essential services during that whole time. They simply cannot continue to provide free housing.”

The bill passed out of the Senate Committee of the Whole on Friday afternoon after a voice vote. It next heads to the full Senate.

Clark County judge says supermajority provision doesn't apply to law that froze Opportunity Scholarship growth

Nevada Legislature building

A Clark County judge has ruled that a supermajority provision in the state Constitution does not apply to a law that froze the growth of the Opportunity Scholarship program

The program, created in 2015 under Republican leadership, allows businesses to donate money toward approved scholarship organizations, which, in turn, provide students up to $8,000 to attend private schools. Businesses then receive a tax credit.

The Democrat-controlled Legislature in 2019 passed Assembly Bill 458 along party lines. The new law modified the program by freezing the annual credit cap at $6.655 million and eliminating the annual 10 percent increase. Before the bill’s passage, lawmakers asked the Legislative Counsel Bureau whether the Constitution’s supermajority provision for revenue increases applied to the situation.

The LCB delivered its opinion in a letter dated May 8, 2019, saying the provision did not apply.

But parents of scholarship-recipient students, business donors and scholarship organizations filed a lawsuit in August against the state, Superintendent Jhone Ebert, the Nevada Department of Taxation and tax commissioners. The complaint argues the two-thirds rule applies.

Ultimately, the court disagreed, saying the intent of the supermajority provision is to limit the Legislature’s ability to raise new taxes or increase the tax rate of existing taxes. The plaintiffs had based their argument around the phrase “any public revenue in any form” within the provision.

“Likewise, AB458 does not raise new taxes, or increase existing taxes; rather, it removes or freezes the subsection 4 scholarship credit available from already levied (Modified Business Tax),” according to the court’s minute order. “If the word ‘any’ is given the broad interpretation as suggested by the Plaintiffs, it would mean that revenue increases resulting from Nevada’s population and business growth would also require invoking the Nevada Supermajority Provision.”

The plaintiffs plan to appeal the decision to the Nevada Supreme Court, said Tim Keller, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm based in Arlington, Virginia that is assisting with the suit.

The story was updated on 5/5/2020 at 10:14 a.m. to include the plaintiffs' plan to appeal.

A year in review through a photographer's lens

A black and white photo of a yarmulke with the name Trump on it

There has been no shortage of stories to tell in 2019.

The year kicked off with the inauguration of a new governor. Then the Legislature convened in Carson City for another packed 120-day session. Meanwhile, presidential candidates crisscrossed the state hoping to capture that coveted caucus vote. The usual tug-of-wars over education funding, water and marijuana regulation played out in the background, too.

But words can never fully convey the emotion behind these events, policy decisions or debates happening in Nevada. That’s why we are especially thankful for The Nevada Independent’s photographers who help bring all these stories to life through their images. 

Here’s a sampling of their best work from 2019. While these photos offer a snapshot of this year, they also foreshadow many of the big stories we’ll be covering in 2020. Cheers to a new year — and a new decade. 

Governor-elect Steve 
 Sisolak and his wife, Kathy, tour the Governor's Mansion in Carson City
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak and his wife, Kathy, tour the Governor's Mansion in Carson City at the conclusion of their trip through Nevada on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
Kenya Obote wearing a light jacket, gold necklaces and a black scarf on her head
Kenya Obote, 35, talks about her experience being homeless in Las Vegas while standing in the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)
Immigration rally in downtown Las Vegas
People hold candles and cell phone lights up during the Lights for Liberty vigil in front of the Lloyd D. George Courthouse in downtown Las Vegas on Friday, July 12, 2019. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
Desert bighorn sheep crossing road
Desert bighorn sheep cross State Route 375 north of Rachel, Nev. on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)
Sen. Bernie Sanders at campaign event
Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a town hall at the Victory Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday, July 6, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)
Former Congressman Beto O'Rourke at campaign event
A supporter reaches out to shake hands with former Congressman Beto O'Rourke during a presidential campaign stop outside a Las Vegas coffee shop on Sunday, March 24, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)
Desert tortoise
Scott Cambrin, senior biologist for the Clark County Conservation Program, prepares desert tortoises for release inside the Boulder City Conservation Easement on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren at campaign event
Sen. Elizabeth Warren runs out to greet supporters during a campaign event at Legacy High School in North Las Vegas on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
Former Vice President Joe Biden at campaign event
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event inside Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant in Las Vegas on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)
Therapy dog at Legislature
A therapy dog rests inside the Nevada Legislature in Carson City on Thursday, May 30, 2019. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Drag Queen Story Hour
Children attend the Drag Queen Story Hour at the Sparks Library in Sparks on Saturday, July 20, 2019. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Hillside in Yerington
Yerington as seen from the Anaconda Copper Mine during a visit from Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Publisher of the Storey Teller
Sam Toll, the publisher of the Storey Teller, at his Gold Hill cabin on Friday, March 1, 2019. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Nevada Day Parade float
A man waits on a float during the Nevada Day Parade in Carson City on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Mayor Pete Buttigieg and his husband
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who is mayor of South Bend, Indiana, waves while walking off the stage with his husband Chasten Glezman after speaking at the 14th annual Human Rights Campaign dinner in Las Vegas. The event was held at Caesars Palace on Saturday, May 11, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/ The Nevada Independent)