(Robert Davis) — Nevada’s state lawmakers adopted a slate of new rules this week allowing them to remotely participate in committee hearings, party meetings, and voting.
According to Assembly Resolution 1, which adopted the standing rules for the 81st Assembly that began Monday, the new rules are intended to “authorize necessary protective and safety measures intended to keep the legislative process as safe and free as reasonably possible from the extraordinary danger, risk, harm, injury and peril posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Known as the Remote Technology Rules, the resolution says it is to be construed liberally and any uncertainty regarding the rules “must be resolved in favor of carrying out the intended public purposes of the Remote Technology Rules.”
Either the Assembly speaker or the chair of a committee on which a member sits must approve a member’s “remote technology system” before they can partake in official business remotely.
The resolution cites United States v. Ballin, a case from 1892 in which the U.S. Supreme Court was asked to determine the proper method of ascertaining the presence of a quorum. The court held that a rule requiring non-voting members to be counted as part of a quorum was constitutional, even if the members refused to be announced by the clerk.
For Nevada’s legislators, the Assembly argues, the procedure establishes a “reasonable method for determining whether a member of the Assembly is present at legislative proceedings amid the ongoing and widespread public-health crisis,” according to the rules.
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson clarified his reading of the intent of the rules during the first day of the 120-day session.
“The rules allow for the Speaker to provide permission to participate and vote remotely. It is the Speaker’s intention to only consider permitting such participation so long as members are in the Legislative Building, either on the floor or otherwise in this legislative building,” he said.
The Senate also adopted remote participation rules largely consistent with the rules of the Assembly. Lawmakers are allowed to attend committee meetings and vote remotely with the approval of a committee chair. Any remote participation must both be logged in the Senate journal and entered into the records of the committees.