In Nevada we have what’s known as a part-time citizen Legislature. Our state’s elected officials only meet for 120 days in odd-numbered years and those that serve often have other jobs in Nevada. Only three other states have a similar schedule and it’s a deliberate choice. A citizen Legislature, by design, keeps our political process both small and local. It’s meant to push the biggest, most urgent issues to the top of the task list and ensure the Legislature prioritizes the needs of Nevadans. For this reason, a lot of the important tasks of governing happen in committee meetings.
Toward the beginning of this current Legislative Session, the Nevada Legislative Freedom Caucus called on Assembly leaders to allow them access to the committee rooms. The caucus was formed this year and is a coalition of six state legislatures who are, “committed to advancing the cause of limited government and constitutional principles.” The committee rooms have been closed this year in the almighty name of COVID-19 safety, regardless of the fact other COVID safety practices are in place, and effective, at the session.
Committee meetings are vital to both lawmakers and the Nevadans they serve. They allow the fine points of bills to be hashed out and the public to provide necessary input on what lawmakers are up to. Restricting communication in Legislative committee meetings is a dangerous first step to a hidden government process. This lack of access and potential for backroom deals is something that we’ve seen more and more of recently. Open governing is being sacrificed under the guise of safety.
According to the Freedom Caucus’ chairman, Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R), “There is absolutely no justifiable reason why we can’t open those committee rooms and observe the same occupancy limits and distancing rules that are currently in place across our state, yet Democrats continue to enforce restrictions on our ability to meet in person and work together.”
We’ve all been doing virtual meetings for about a year now. I think by now it’s fairly clear that in-person meetings are more effective, especially when considering important issues that may require debate or in-depth discussion. Meetings that are held in service of governing the state would certainly qualify as important enough to warrant in-person discussions. However, because the committee rooms are closed, the beginning of the 2021 Legislative Session has been less efficient, effective and open than ever. Right when we need transparency and great communication, we are limiting it without cause.
Call to Action: When the voting public has less access and say in what is being done in Carson City, we all lose. We can’t let a few politicians decide what is best for us, especially when they can’t even effectively communicate with each other. I agree with the Legislative Freedom Caucus’ call to open the committee rooms. It’s clear in-person meetings can be conducted safely and effectively. Continuing to add unnecessary restrictions is harmful to Nevadans. Let your representatives know that Nevada needs effective and transparent governing.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)“If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”