The 79th session of the Nevada Legislature kicked off on Monday with Democrats having regained control of both chambers. Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, hinted in his opening remarks that his party might repeal a handful of initiatives that Republicans passed in 2015 when they had a legislative majority for the first time in more than 40 years.
“We’ll take another look,” he said, “at last session’s extreme and unnecessary legislation that targeted the pocketbooks of working men and women by slashing wages for construction workers, limiting project labor agreements and attacking collective bargaining rights.”
Translation: Sen. Ford prefers to appease the union bosses who direct campaign contributions to Democratic coffers rather than offer relief to state taxpayers by controlling the costs of government construction projects.
At any rate, with Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval in the statehouse, the majority will have a tough time reversing GOP reforms signed by a popular chief executive. Rather than fostering division, Sen. Ford and his counterpart in the Assembly, Speaker Jason Frierson, might be better served by advancing a few proposals that can attract bipartisan support.
Civil forfeiture revisions and occupational licensing reform would be good places to start.
A growing number of states have revamped their civil forfeiture laws in recent years in response to concerns raised by a diverse coalition of political interests. Such statutes allow law enforcement to seize property, cash and other valuables from people merely suspected of criminal activity. Prosecutors may initiate forfeiture proceedings regardless of whether a property owner was ever convicted of wrongdoing.
Law enforcement lobbyists succeeded in gutting a 2015 bill intended to remedy potential injustices and beef up due process protections for innocent owners entangled in these complex laws. Since then, however, states such as New Mexico, Ohio and California have passed with bipartisan support measures designed to strengthen safeguards for property owners and to require a criminal conviction before the state may move forward with a forfeiture case.
Sen. Ford and Speaker Frierson will find support on both sides of the aisle for a bill crafting similar protections in Nevada law.
On the job front, the Institute for Justice reports that Nevada remains one of the most burdensome states in the nation when it comes to imposing licensing requirements on residents simply trying to earn an honest living. While some occupational mandates — those dealing with professionals such as doctors or lawyers — make sense in the name of public safety or consumer protection, others simply protect entrenched interests from competition.
Many of these requirements — on those hoping to work as landscapers or hair stylists, for instance — make it difficult for those on the lower end of the economic spectrum to break into the employment market, a fact that frustrates Democrats. Republicans, meanwhile, are likely to support efforts to roll back the administrative state and cut red tape.
In his remarks on Monday, Sen. Ford noted that one of his top priorities is to “enact legislation to help hard-working Nevadans succeed,” adding that, “A corollary to this is also true — we must remove barriers that hinder this ability.” Republicans will surely agree — and there’s no shortage of opportunities to do precisely that when it comes to Nevada’s occupational licensing maze.