Donald Trump set a feverish pace at the outset of his presidency by signing nine executive orders in his first 21 days in office.
Some, like those on immigration and health care, hit at the heart of Nevada’s political atmosphere, but the Trump administration said this month those orders could take months, or even years, to be fully implemented.
Democratic lawmakers in Nevada have expressed concern over the actions. They say roughly 400,000 Nevadans could be left without health insurance, undocumented immigrants will deported and marriage equality could be targeted if all of Trump’s policies go into effect.
With Democrats in control of the Legislature, several lawmakers are exploring the power of states’ rights to rebuff the president.
“There is sort of substantial, practical effect that it can have by not cooperating,” said Ian Bartrum, a constitutional law professor at UNLV.
The 10th Amendment is meant to be a form of checks and balances on the federal government, and it could “offer a substantial buffer to Nevada citizens,” Batrum said.
States can pass laws that say they will not cooperate with certain federal provisions. Sanctuary cities refuse to hold undocumented immigrants for federal immigration agents when those agents don’t have a warrant.
The federal government can threaten to withhold certain funding if a state refuses to comply with federal laws, but it cannot force states to take specific action, Bartrum said.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who would have the final say and can veto any laws passed by the Legislature, said through a spokeswoman that it is “unclear that the state could pass any laws that would diminish the power of the federal government.”
But state Sen. Yvanna Cancela and other Democrats are certainly going to try over the next four months of the Legislature.
Cancela has proposed several bills aimed at protecting immigrants who are in the country illegally. One would protect law enforcement agencies and municipalities from federal mandates such as withheld funding.
“I would not want to see our police distracted from doing their work to protect Nevadans because their overburdened by federal government mandates,” Cancela, D-Las Vegas, said.
Another proposal would block the federal government from obtaining data submitted by DREAMers, which Cancela said she fears could be used to track people for deportations. Another bill Cancela plans would preserve provisions of the Affordable Care Act, such as the preventative care benefits for women, by making them state law.
Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, D-Las Vegas, introduced a resolution on the first day of the Legislature aimed at preserving marriage equality.
Assembly Joint Resolution 2 would amend Nevada’s constitution to “recognize all marriages regardless of gender” and would need to pass the Legislature in this session and again in 2019. The effort is sponsored by Araujo and state Sen. David Parks and co-sponsored by 14 other Democratic legislators .
Araujo pointed to Vice President Mike Pence, who has opposed same-sex marriage, and Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, as reasons the change to the state constitution is necessary.
“By adding this amendment to Nevada’s constitution, we will be able to protect marriage equality from whatever actions may come from Trump’s hateful and divisive presidency,” said Araujo said, who is gay.