Nevada lobbyists have until April 1 to register with the Legislative Counsel Bureau to continue their work at the Nevada Legislature, something they haven’t had to do this session. The change is the result of Gov. Steve Sisolak signing into law Assembly Bill 110 on March 18.
The measure was designed to bring the rules and requirements surrounding lobbying into line with the current realities of how it’s mostly being done during pandemic restrictions—online and on the phone.
Lobbyists have not been allowed inside the legislative building at all during this session, which began Feb. 1, nor were they allowed inside during the state’s two special legislative sessions over the summer.
Unlike some other states, Nevada’s Lobbying Disclosure and Regulation Act previously only required lobbyists to register if they were conducting business in-person.
“In this virtual world where that’s not — at least for the time being — part of the operation of the Legislature, for the sake of transparency, we still need to have lobbying activities being reported to the public,” Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said during a committee hearing on the bill.
The changes resulting from the passage of AB 110 strike from the legal definition of a lobbyist wording surrounding those who show up in-person to the legislative building or anywhere else legislative committees hold meetings.
Lobbyists can now register online. They can also expect to be doing their work remotely for at least a while to come—though Nevada legislators and legislative staff have discussed hopes to reopen the building to the public at some point before the legislature adjourns.
In addition to registering, lobbyists will also need to file reports concerning the lobbying they’ve done since the start of this session. Lobbyists must submit final reports at the end of a session but also monthly reports detailing their lobbying activities and their expenditures on things like social functions and meals. Lobbyists must also pay several hundred dollars in fees each session.
AB 110 passed in the Assembly in late February andwas approved by the Senate on March 16. Three Assembly members, all Republican, voted against it. Six Republican Senators voted against the measure, too.
Senator James Settelmeyer said he was “very troubled by the idea that we’re telling lobbyists that we’re going to continue … to charge them, yet they’re not in the building. I have no problem charging people that are coming in this building, but the fact that they’re just being relegated to calling in on a phone—most of them—and we’re going to charge them.”
Senator Ira Hansen said he was voting against the bill “simply because the absence of a sunset” on the timeframe for remote versus in-person lobbying and because he believes lobbyists “actually should be allowed into the building.”
Others who voted no cited similar reasons.
In late February, four conservative Nevada lobbyists filed a lawsuit against Gov. Sisolak, Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Brenda Erdoes, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro for keeping lobbyists out of the building as a part of their COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
Janine Hansen and Lynn Chapman are both leaders of the far-right Independent American Party and of Nevada Families for Freedom, respectively.Melissa Clement heads up the anti-abortion group Nevada Right to Life, and Shawn Meehan is a conservative lobbyist from Douglas County. Their suit alleges Sisolak and the other defendants “have continued to utilize the Emergency Directives to preclude lobbyists and the public from the State Capital to further their political agendas behind closed doors.”
Legislators and legislative staff are being vaccinated for COVID-19. Until such a time as this is completed, the quiet, empty halls of the legislative building will continue to stand in stark contrast to bustle and business dealings that fill them during a normal session.
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.