CARSON CITY — Comrades rejoice. You no longer can be legally fired in Nevada simply because you are a member of the Communist Party.
Gov. Brian Sandoval on Wednesday signed Senate Bill 506, which removes archaic language from a 1950s law passed during the Cold War era of constant tension between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The law allowed Nevada employees to fire anyone they expected might be a communist.
Since Nevada is a right-to-work state that allows at-will hiring and firing, the loss of this law won’t make any difference. Employers still can fire anyone for no reason at all unless the employee is protected by a labor contract.
Between each session, legislative lawyers scour through the Nevada Revised Statutes to look for obsolete laws that can be repealed. The communist law stuck out. Legislators laughed when they heard about the statute — which has not been enforced in at least 40 years — and approved it with just Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, voting no.
The law was passed after Congress approved a bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Patrick McCarran, D-Nev., that created the federal Subversive Activity Control Board in 1950.
The board had the power to call suspected communists as witnesses and order the registration of communist front organizations. Communists could be required to register with the U.S. attorney general under the law.
Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson appointed members to the board before it was abolished.
But the federal registration requirements were repealed by Congress in 1968, and the board was abolished in 1972 after U.S. Supreme Court decisions found parts of the law unconstitutional.
The state law allowed employers to fire or refuse to hire possible communists if the Subversive Activity Control Board had determined they were members of communist front or action groups.
Former U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., was famed in the 1950s for alleging that hundreds of people working for the federal government were communists.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.