LEAN Marks 2021 Session Successes

Supported Legislation Puts ELCA Social Statements Into Action

When the 2021 Nevada Legislature convened for its biennial, 120-day session in early February, the world was still in the throes of a deadly pandemic. Much of “normal” life was still months away. Most churches still worshipped online. Millions of Americans were out of work, in danger of losing their housing, and searching for the way forward. State legislators stared at huge fiscal holes, deep social fissures, and freshly exposed tears in the social safety net.

Thanks to a series of congressional stimulus packages, the fiscal alarms subsided as winter gave way to spring, which helped reorient Nevada’s assembly and senate toward addressing some of those rips in the fabric of society, many ignored for decades. And that gave the advocate and policy council for Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada (LEAN) plenty of opportunity to lend its support to legislation that would change Nevadans’ lives for the better.

Guided by the ELCA’s Social Statements and Social Messages, LEAN identified more than 30 active, sponsored bills to follow through the legislative process, with advocate Bill Ledford voicing support, strong support or opposition during virtual committee meetings – where the real “sausage” is made via amendment and debate – conducted via Zoom.

Following are eleven LEAN-supported bills that passed both legislative chambers and have either been signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak, or are awaiting his signature, plus one important senate resolution that LEAN heartily endorsed – and one bill that went down to defeat with LEAN’s stated opposition. They are organized under four specific categories tied directly to the Statements. These bills highlight the good work LEAN is doing on behalf of Nevada’s ELCA congregations, and provide the opportunity for parishioners to discuss them, pass them along or use as inspiration to get involved in current community social concerns, and  when the 2023 session approaches.

HUNGER, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Assembly Bill 62 (Passed) – Increases support for savings accounts for low-income citizens

AB 185 (Failed) – Rescinds minimum wage increases voted on last session (Opposed by LEAN)

Senate Bill 209 (Passed): Allows workers to use sick leave for any medical reason

SB420 (Passed): Establishes mechanism for creating a state public healthcare option

VOTER ACCESS

AB321 (Passed) – Establishes permanent law allowing for mail-in ballots in every election

AB422 (Passed) – Creates a modern centralized voter registration database, helping assure accurate information across all agencies and assuring both voter access and legal eligibility

JUSTICE REFORM 

AB158 (Passed) – Lessens penalties of minors offending via alcohol and cannabis, and moves policy from punishment to counseling

AB186 (Passed) – Prohibits Police quotas for citations and arrests, and personnel evaluations based on such

AB396 (Passed) – Restricts cases of police “justifiable homicide” to uniform standards

SB50 – (Passed) — Restricts the legal conditions allowing for no-knock warrants

RACIAL AND GENDER JUSTICE & EQUITY

AB157 (Passed) – Penalizes public use of calling police to infringe on others’ rights

SB327 (Passed) – Adds language to anti-discrimination laws to include racial hair styles

SCR5 (Passed) – Urges certain actions to address the public health crisis in Nevada (systemic racism)

To read either the full text of each piece of legislation, or its digest, click on the live link for each bill.

Video: Learn How To Engage With Nevada Legislature

On Jan. 28, LEAN advocate Bill Ledford led an informative Zoom session on how to use public online tools to follow legislation making its way through the 2021 Nevada legislative session, and the best ways to stay in touch with the lawmaking process and reach out to your assemblypersons and senators. Special guest, Bishop Deborah Hutterer of the Grand Canyon Synod, talks about the importance of keeping engaged with government on behalf of our fellow citizens, as Christians and Lutherans.

Watch the complete video of the presentation here:

Join LEAN For Nevada Legislature Primer

Zoom Event Shows How To Connect With Lawmakers, Follow Bills

Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada (LEAN), a statewide faith-based organization that advocates for just and fair legislation and public policy for all Nevadans, will host a special Zoom workshop as the 2021 Nevada Legislature prepares to open its bi-annual session on February 1. “Connecting with the Nevada Legislature 101:  Advocating for our Neighbor as Lutherans” takes place on Thursday, January 28 at 2 p.m.

LEAN speaks at the Legislature through its Advocate, Bill Ledford, on matters that affect the most vulnerable in our state and in relation to the ELCA statements about social justice as decided by its board members. LEAN also strives to educate parishioners on the issues and on ways to be engaged, effective citizens. 

Bishop Deborah Hutterer of the Grand Canyon Synod

In this workshop, participants will:

• Hear from our Bishop Deborah Hutterer of the Grand Canyon Synod, on calling Christians to speak publicly on behalf of “the least of these my brothers and sisters.”

• Learn how you can find your way around the Nevada Legislature website

• Learn where to find potential new laws being presented this session 

• How to effectively communication with legislators

• Grow in seeing how the ELCA Social Statements guide LEAN’s advocacy efforts

Click here to join this engaging event on Zoom.

Meeting ID: 850 3440 4792
Passcode: 629332
If calling in by phone, click here to find your local number.  

Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada is a partnership effort of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), through the Division for Church in Society (the Division) and the Grand Canyon and Sierra Pacific Synods.

Election Zoom Gatherings Slated


Note: The following was featured in the October 14, 2020 edition of the Sierra Pacific Synod newsletter.

In November, the people of the United States will elect a president and others to public office. This election occurs at a time of change in our national and church life, a time when the Holy Spirit is at work in mysterious ways, and a time when many of our relationships are being changed and challenged.

This election occurs in a time of global pandemic, racial injustice, economic hardship, sickness, suffering, loss and death. For many, this election also occurs in a time of great divisions between family, friends and neighbors.

These divisions can seem deep, wide and potentially injurious to our democracy and our sense of community.

As people of faith, claimed by Jesus, we believe that the role of the church is to support and pray for the well-being of the world, for wise leaders to be raised up, and no matter what the outcome that we will be given the gift of “peace that passes all understanding that guards our hearts and minds through Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Region 2 bishops and leaders – the Sierra Pacific, Pacifica, Southwest California, Rocky Mountain and Grand Canyon Synods of the ELCA – invite all who wish to gather for a time of prayer and reflection to join us as we pray for our nation, for those seeking office, for God’s beloved community, and for rostered ministers as they seek to lead in their specific contexts during these conflicted times.

These livestream gatherings will be:

Sunday, November 1 – 6:00 pm PST

Thursday, November 5 – 6:00 pm PST

Note: Pastors and deacons are invited to open conversation via ZOOM immediately following the Thursday prayer service. You may register HERE.

LEAN Says ‘Yes’ On Question 4

Add Voters’ Bill Of Rights To Nevada Constitution

A number of years ago, when LEAN was LAMN (Lutheran Advocacy and Ministry in Nevada), the organization published a “voter guide” that considered each election’s nonpartisan ballot questions in light of the ELCA Social Statements. That habit has fallen into disuse due to reorganizations and personnel changes, though it may be revived in the future.

However, this election year, voting is such a hot topic that the LEAN advisory board decided to highlight one Nevada ballot question.

Ballot Question 4 proposes enshrining in the Nevada Constitution a “Voters’ Bill of Rights,” to ensure that Nevadans will always be able to raise their voices and votes.

All Nevadans are struggling with how to vote safely in this unusual election year. Though special procedures are in place to ensure everyone can vote—including historically marginalized people—the pandemic, a special legislative session, and a few lawsuits, the rules have spurred several changes, so it’s hard to know what to do.

In the midst of all the chaos, which is similar to what is happening all across the country, the ELCA Church Council issued a Social Message titled, “Government and Civic Engagement in the United States: Discipleship in a Democracy.”  (Social Messages are second in rank behind Social Statements in terms of official church teaching.) The Message notes that fewer than 20 percent of people trust government to do the right thing, but also says that it’s part of the Lutheran vocation to get involved, to not just stand back and be cynical.  The Message encourages many types of involvement, but recognizes that for many people, voting may be the only act of engagement, and that it is very powerful: “This church strongly affirms voting, guided by faith-based values, as an exercise in citizenship.”  It also notes that “We have the responsibility to raise our voices and votes against misuse of government.”

This Voters’ Bill of Rights already exists in Nevada law—it’s been there since 2002. In 2017 the Nevada Legislature proposed the rights be enshrined in the Constitution.  The proposal was confirmed unanimously in 2019. 

The Bill of Rights is a list of eleven items which are not controversial:

  • Receive and cast a ballot that is written in a format that allows the clear identification of candidates and accurately records the voter’s selection of candidates.
  • Have questions concerning voting procedures answered and have an explanation of the procedures for voting posted conspicuously at the polling place.
  • Vote without being intimidated, threatened, or coerced.
  • Vote during any period of early voting or on Election Day if the voter has not yet voted and, at the time that the polls close, the voter is waiting in line to vote at a polling place at which, by law, the voter is entitled to vote.
  • Return a spoiled ballot and receive a replacement ballot.
  • Request assistance with voting, if needed.
  • Receive a sample ballot that is accurate, informative, and delivered in a timely manner as provided by law.
  • Receive instruction on the use of voting equipment during any period of early voting or on Election Day.
  • Have equal access to the elections system without discrimination.
  • Have a uniform, statewide standard for counting and recounting all votes accurately as provided by law.
  • Have complaints about elections and election contests resolved fairly, accurately, and efficiently as provided by law.

Because they’ve been the law for nearly twenty years, placing these provisions into the Constitution will add no expense to the state budget.

In light of ELCA teachings, the LEAN advisory board and officers recommend a “yes” vote on Question 4.