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.


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


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


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


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:

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.

Negotiating Nevada’s 2020 General Election

Though Nevada’s recent primary election was all by mail and went well, all-mail elections are not the new normal in Nevada, and if voters want to continue mailing their ballots, they have to request an absentee ballot, and they can make that request permanent. Well, as we all know, these are not normal times, so election procedures have changed again.

The second Special Session of the Nevada Legislature passed AB 4, and there’s a lot of confusion about it. Here’s what you need to know:

1. If you requested an absentee ballot, you don’t need to do anything. You will receive a paper ballot that you can mark and return, either by mail or by delivering it to the County Registrar. Also, there’s another option, explained below.

2. If you have not requested an absentee ballot, you’ll get a mail-in ballot anyway. Again, these are not normal times, and AB 4 authorizes all-mail elections in times when the Governor has declared a state of emergency. Such a state is in place as preparations are made for the election, so the emergency rule of mail for everyone applies. However, if America ever gets back to “normal” times, Nevada goes back to the regular rules, and voting by mail will be via absentee ballot only.

3. Only active, registered voters will receive a ballot in the mail. This is different from the primary and designed to save the cost of sending ballots that are undeliverable or will not be used. A registered voter is one whose information is on file with the County Registrar, whose identity was verified at registration, etc. An active voter is one whose address is valid. So, it is possible to be a registered voter but not be active because the Registrar does not have a good address for you. There is a place on the Secretary of State website to check your address and correct anything that’s wrong. Go to www.nvsos.gov/elections/voters. “Active” is not related to when you last voted, so if you did not vote in the primary, or haven’t voted for years, you’ll still get a ballot in the mail so long as you’re registered and your address is good.

4. Although it’s very much discouraged, you can ask someone to hand deliver or mail your ballot for you. Anyone can do this—you don’t have to be disabled and it doesn’t have to be a family member who does it for you. However, if the helper fails to deliver the ballot, or does it after November 3, you’re out of luck—your vote doesn’t count.

5. There will still be in-person voting sites, just like there were for the primary. AB 4 addresses the long lines at the polls in June by setting a minimum number of locations for both early voting and election day. Clark County will have at least 35 early voting in person locations, and at least 100 vote centers on election day. (According to the Secretary of State, Clark is planning 159 centers.) Washoe County is required to have at least 15 early voting locations and 25 vote centers on election day. The smaller counties must have at least one early voting site and at least one vote center on election day. An important note: If you wish to vote in person, you still need to bring in and surrender your mail-in ballot. Then you’ll vote as usual.

6. There has been a lot of concern about voter fraud. The Secretary of State has set up elaborate procedures that are uniform across the state to combat this. Every voter’s signature is on file with the Secretary of State. Every voter must sign the transmittal envelope when they return their ballot. The two are compared before the ballot is counted, and if they don’t match, a letter goes out. If you get such a letter, it’s important to respond, and you can do so online and several other ways. Failure to “cure” a question about whether it was you who filled out the ballot will result in the ballot being disqualified. People have wondered whether a person could vote by mail and then go to a polling site and vote again. Procedures to prevent multiple votes have been in place for a long time. When you check in at a polling site, they call up your name on a statewide database, and if you already mailed a ballot or already voted across town, it will show up.

7. It is not true that there is a grace period to mail a ballot after November 3. Ballots must be postmarked (or delivered) not later than November 3. The Registrar will continue to accept mailed ballots for three days after election day, but only those bearing a November 3 postmark. The grace period is to allow the post office to do its part.

There is a lot of misinformation circulating. LEAN encourages everyone to be engaged with the candidates and the issues, but avoid spreading confusion about the process. Anyone who has concerns should call or visit their County Registrar or look at the Secretary of State website. That’s the place for authoritative, up-to-date information.

The main thing is do vote, and do so no later than November 3.