Nevada Legislature looks different due to pandemic

Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 6:04 PM PST
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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) - Outside the Capitol building in Carson City on Monday, protestors walked the sidewalks throughout most of the day. Inside, there was less fanfare as COVID-19 has clamped down on just about everything in the legislature.

Opening day typically has family friends, lobbyists, staff, lawmakers, touching base and saying hi. Yet, the swearing in ceremony in the assembly was much more subdued this time around as freshman lawmakers were not able to share their say with loved ones.

”We felt saddened for them. It means a lot to have your family with you on opening day,” said Teresa Benitez-Thompson, Majority Leader with the Nevada Assembly.

COVID has changed the landscape, if only temporarily. Plexiglass protects lawmakers from each other. Social distancing is observed. Committee meetings will be attended by lawmakers, but public testimony will be taken through Zoom.

”Not being able to have meaningful input on these committees with the bills, is going to be the challenge,” says Minority Leader with the Nevada Assembly Robin Titus.

Speaker Jason Frierson says the state budget is the elephant in the room. He says there isn’t one way to balance it, and he says he has been and will be meeting with Republicans to see where common ground actually is.

”We are here to talk about what we need to do,” says Nevada’s Speaker of the House. “And there are going to be tough decisions, and everyone is aware of that. But how, it is together there is no other answer,” says Frierson.

On the Senate side, the story is much the same. Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty swore in the freshman class. Other members followed, but there was no loud applause like there would be in a normal setting.

There’s no telling how long the precautions will stay in place. Consider just one safety measure and understand why an essential lockdown is perhaps the only option. One of the biggest changes you’ll see this session is the COVID testing that goes on. Members of the press, lawmakers and their staff will have to be tested once a week before they will be allowed entry into the legislative building.

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