The 2015 Legislative Report highlights the major civil liberties victories and losses of the 78th Legislative Session, which ran from February 2 to June 1, 2015. The Nevada Legislature meets every other year for 120 days. During the 2015 session, 1,013 bills were proposed, with Governor Brian Sandoval signing 549 bills and issuing 7 vetoes.
With the complete shift in control of the legislature after the 2014 election, all of our best laid plans went by the wayside. We made the difficult decision to let go of most of our pro-active priorities like eliminating solitary confinement for adult prisoners with mental illness, improving upon the driver authorization card legislation from last session, remedying the arcane methods through which those with criminal convictions reclaim their right to vote, obtaining statewide comprehensive sex education for our youth, and a slew of elections bills like modernizing interactions with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) for change-of-address updates. We were able to push forward a few proactive bills, namely ending the sentence of life without parole for juveniles and the indiscriminate shackling of youth in juvenile court.
We spent most of the session working to “kill” bad bills, or, when it looked like a bill with negative consequences for civil liberties was moving forward, working with the sponsors on amendments.
Overall, we maintained the status quo in every major issue area outlined in this report, with the exceptions of wins in juvenile justice and major losses in mass incarceration. With 46 bills creating new crimes and establishing enhanced penalties, many more Nevadans will find themselves entangled in the criminal justice system, without a guarantee of an adequate defense for people who cannot afford an attorney. Our separate Mass Incarceration report details these bills.
Thank you to all who responded to action alerts, engaged in social media through Facebook and Twitter, called your representatives, wrote letters to the editor, joined us on action days at the legislature, and testified on bills. Your voices were crucial this session and we have no doubt that things would have been much worse without you.
If you want to learn more about how laws are made in Nevada and what you can do to influence the process, check out our Citizen Lobbyist Guide. If you have a group or organization interested in learning the basics about lobbying, we are happy to conduct a workshop for you.