(Steve Sebelius | Las Vegas Review-Journal) – Assemblywoman Annie Black, R-Mesquite, staged a bit of political performance art on the Assembly floor Tuesday.
Rising during a portion of the agenda reserved for “remarks from the floor,” Black recounted how the Legislature needed to allow people into its building on Carson Street despite ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, especially given that restaurants, casinos, bars and even T-Mobile Arena were open.
“Mr. Speaker, it is hypocritical for us to have this building closed but allow businesses in Nevada to be open,” Black said. “Either it is safe or it is unsafe to allow people into buildings. The Legislature should either close all buildings or open our doors.”
Black then quickly tried to switch to another part of the agenda, one reserved for motions, resolutions and notices, to say this: “I move we open the Legislative Building under the same safety precautions as required of Walmart, bars, casinos, grocery stores and other businesses.”
Although Black believes wholeheartedly in her cause, you could tell she was acting because she accidentally blurted out the next line of her script — appealing the ruling of the speaker — before the speaker had actually made a ruling. The Assembly instead went into a short recess, after which Speaker Pro Tem Steve Yeager refused to recognize Black’s motion.
Black definitely has a point. Nevadans have the fundamental right to petition the government for the redress of their grievances, under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 10, of the Nevada Constitution. And fundamental rights may be limited only by laws that are narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest.
Black is also not alone in wanting the building opened to the public, as it usually is during the Legislature’s 120-day session. Whether the public actually has a burning desire to go to Carson City is an open question. …
(A)s Black well knows, the Legislature is working toward opening the building as early as next month. Her push to do so now is more about getting a reaction from her real audience – constituents – than actually opening the building. When that finally happens, she can point to her stage debut and, in the meantime, look like she’s agitating for change.
They say freshmen in the Legislature should be seen and not heard, but that’s not Black’s style. Ever since she defeated former Assemblyman Chris Edwards in a GOP primary, she’s signaled that she would be an outlier. As a freshman member of the minority party (she even eschewed joining the Assembly’s GOP caucus, lest her values be compromised), Political Orphan Annie is a minority of one, and she has literally nothing to lose. The big, bad Democratic majority was going to ignore her no matter what.