Monday featured not one, but multiple citizen lobby days in the Nevada Legislature. Firefighters, Latinx activists, and campaign finance reform activists all made their voices heard inside and outside the Legislative Building. I followed along with groups from Democracy Day and Latinx Lobby Day. Here’s what happened.
The day began at Carson Nugget, where PLAN teamed up with American Promise and Public Citizen to hold Democracy Day at #NVLeg. Why? They’re concerned about the future of American democracy post Citizens United (the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed for unlimited “Super PAC” campaign spending).
American Promise’s Jeff Clements starkly described what he thinks could happen if big money continues to dominate our politics.
“If we don’t get a handle on money in our system, democracy is over. […] The voters get it.” – Jeff Clements
He also expressed hope that passage of SJR 4 will encourage other states to pass similar resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to end Citizens United. He noted Nevada’s recent passage of SJR 2 to ratify the ERA in describing how change can happen. “It’s the system that’s the problem, not the people. […] U.S. Supreme Court: Smart guys, but they mess up sometimes. It’s up to us to fix it.”
I later had to dash to the front of the Legislative Building for a Latinx Lobby Day press conference. Organizers wanted to discuss civil rights progress being made in Nevada this session despite challenges at the local and national levels. Assembly Member and Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus Vice-chair Nelson Araujo (D-Las Vegas) quoted civil rights leader Cesar Chavez in encouraging activists to keep up their good work.
“When social change begins, it can not be reversed.” – Assembly Member Nelson Araujo
Several legislators then highlighted the bills they’re carrying this session. Senator Yvanna Cancela (D-Las Vegas) made clear she’s still fighting the good fight in describing SB 325 to expand Medicaid/Nevada Check-up access to immigrant children. Assembly Majority Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D-Reno) described AB 122 as a “human rights issue” to protect immigrant crime victims when they report crimes. Senator Mo Denis (D-North Las Vegas) explained SB 186 to set up a Nevada Office of New Americans to aid immigrants who are in the process of being U.S. citizens.
Public education activist Sylvia Lazos explained recent successes in bringing more equity into public education, then closed the press conference with a call to action.
“The Nevada Legislature belongs to the people.” – Sylvia Lazos
Activists attending both citizen lobby days put that into action in the afternoon, when they lobbied legislators and attended hearings. That turned out to be perfect timing, as SB 325 and SJR 4 both had their initial committee hearings Monday afternoon. As #NVLeg reaches its halfway point, now is a critical time for activists to get legislators’ attention.