As We See It: ‘We can and we must accomplish a wide range of progressive initiatives during 2019’

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By Rob Schlegel

The Nevada State Legislature should be in Carson City by the time you read this. The Las Vegas Spectrum has promised to be a voice, both for the LGBTQ community and our progressive allies. This column is a call to action. We can and we must accomplish a wide range of progressive initiatives during 2019.

We shared page 3 with Will Pregman of Battle Born Progress. Other progressive organizations include the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), the Nevada Women’s Lobby, NARAL ProChoice of Nevada, Nevada Equality and others representing businesses, women, persons of color, labor and education.

One of my favorites is the ACLU. They defend our very right to exist as a minority in this great republic democracy. If not for the ACLU, the majority could have voted us “off the island” long ago.

In addition to what Pregman outlines on page 3, the Las Vegas Spectrum also hopes the Legislature accomplishes the following:

Criminal justice reforms

Criminal justice reforms must include keeping youths out of adult incarceration facilities.

Minor traffic tickets must not be treated as misdemeanors. Failure to appear or inability to pay must not subject a person to bench warrants and arrest. Traffic citations continually get targeted for added administrative fees, which in most cases, must be paid before a person can even dispute them. The burden on poor people is disproportionate to their income.

In addition, treating traffi c tickets as criminal instead of civil, adversely aff ects the immigrant community. A traffi c ticket could end an immigrant’s life in America if they go to jail or interact with ICE, often thanks to overzealous jail personnel.

The Nevada Legislature must forbid local police, sheriff s and incarceration facilities from cooperating with Homeland Security (ICE) on any cases other than convicted felonies. Our immigrant communities need to know and trust police authorities, which is not the case today.

End or reduce cash bail
Cash bail needs to be severely reduced or reformed. Most people in jail are there because they can’t make bail. Many people, when stuck in jail for even a few days will lose their jobs, vehicles, housing and can’t feed their families. Many plea bargains are accepted by innocent people simply to get out of jail. More people need to be released from jail on personal recognizance. Studies show the vast majority will return for trial. In addition, if the jailed person can be released to work, they will have a better chance obtaining proper council. The right to council should be better than a one-minute consult with a public defender, while shackled to another prisoner, in the defendant box with an impatient judge waiting. It is much easier for a “public defender” to negotiate a plea agreement for an innocent, incarcerated person, rather than actually provide a defense.

Gender on marriage licenses
Many people have read about my dispute with the County Clerk over marriage license records. Nevada Impact, the LGBTQ voter initiative, had requested public records from the Clerk with gender markers.

While the office knows the gender of those getting married, the gender marker isn’t included on records because prior to same gender marriage being legalized, nearly all marriages were between persons of opposite genders. Then, there was no need. Times have changed and this is valuable information. The legislature needs to order the clerks to record this data. The results for the LGBTQ community could be huge politically. This would give us a mailing list/data base for the fi rst time in history.

Insurance reforms
The insurance industry must be prevented from using credit scores to determine auto and home insurance rates. Imagine losing your job, having your income reduced due to an injury, illness or death of a partner.

When major financial setbacks occur, credit scores suff er. Just because a life event aff ects a person’s credit score is no reason for their home or auto rates to skyrocket.

This happened to thousands during the housing crisis of 2008 and continues today. High insurance rates disproportionately affects the poor. California prohibits insurance companies from using credit scores. We can do the same in Nevada. If the legislators can fight off the high-paid insurance company lobbyists, they can actually make insurance more equitable for lower income persons.

Repair NV Constitution
Now that we have marriage equality, most think it can’t possibly be taken away or infringed upon. Those are the same people who thought Donald Trump could never be elected as president. Now he has two appointments to the Supreme Court. It’s possible he’ll get a third.

The possibility of marriage equality being lost is very real. To protect Nevadans if the Supreme Court makes marriage a “states right” issue, we must remove the language in our constitution that discriminates against same-gender marriage, The state legislature needs to pass AJR 2 again this session. Following a second, successful passage of AJR2, Nevada voters will need to have the final word.

This could be Question 2 (from 2000 and 2002) all over again. Our community will need to be ready to step up, raise the funds necessary, for the battle of our lives. As a reminder, the right-wing, Campaign to Protect Marriage raised $1,613,613 while our Equal Rights Nevada group raised a paltry $35,007. We lost!

In closing, see the last paragraph of Will Pregman’s column on page 3 of this issue. You should join us for Citizen Lobby Days in Carson City

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