SB254 Smackdown: Black, Neal Square Off over Felons vs. Property Rights

by Annie Black
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(Annie Black) – The never-ending debate over “rights” boils down to a simple, established concept:

“Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.”

And that was the essence of what became a rather heated clash between me and Nevada State Sen. Dina Neal during a hearing on Senate Bill 254 (SB254) this week.

(Grab a beverage: This is a bit of a long one…)

The bill, among other things, would prohibit landlords from even checking an applicant’s criminal record, let alone choosing not to rent to someone based on their criminal record.

Section 33 of the bill declares it “an unlawful discriminatory practice” for a property owner to “inquire into or conduct a background check to determine the arrest record, conviction record or record of criminal history of an applicant or tenant” or to “refuse to rent or lease…a dwelling to an applicant because of any arrest record, conviction record or record of criminal history.”

Sen. Neal, the bill’s sponsor, testified before the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs on Thursday.  In Round 1 of the questioning, I asked…

“What gives us the right to say to private property owners, ‘You have to rent to this person because the state has invested a lot of money to keep them out of prison’?”

 

And because Sen. Neal had tried to make a distinction between someone renting a room in their home and a commercial development, I continued…

“A property owner who owns an apartment complex has the same exact property rights as a home owner… Property rights are property rights.  And what gives us the right to tell them who they can rent to? 

“That’s not discriminating against someone; that’s a risk assessment.  These people have a business and they have to make an assessment on who’s a good risk and who’s a bad risk.  What gives us the right to tell them they can’t do that?”

In her long-winded, self-righteous response, Sen. Neal claimed the Legislature had the power to do this for public policy purposes.  She went on to claim ex-cons “should be treated equally” and “they have a right to housing.”

To come up this constitutional “ghost” authority, Sen. Neal then tried to compare prohibiting a landlord from considering someone’s criminal record to the “takings” power of government in “eminent domain” cases.

That’s ridiculous.  If the government “takes” your private property for, say, the purpose of building a new highway, the government is also required to pay the private property owner a fair market price for the property.

Well, that’s not what we’re talking about here at all.  So in a follow-up question during Round 2, I countered…

“I think there’s a clear difference between guaranteeing equal rights to housing for somebody on the basis of their ethnicity, their religion, their gender – whatever those things that are out of your control are – versus somebody who chooses to go to prison because they choose to break the law. … These people made a choice to break the law and I believe that we don’t have the place to tell a private property owner who they can and can’t rent to.”

Well, that got the good senator a little hot under the collar.  She then tried to compare infringing on private property rights to government programs designed to help ex-cons transition back into society once they’ve served their time.

She then – in another long-winded response dripping with moral superiority – indignantly alleged that a landlord choosing not to rent an apartment to an ex-con who chose to break the law was akin to establishing a “caste system.”

No, it isn’t.

A caste system is where the government divides people by their race, ethnicity or religion.  That’s totally different from a private property owner choosing to not rent an apartment to somebody who chose to break the law, got caught and spent time in jail for it.

In Round 3 of the Q&A, I acknowledged a public policy objective to help ex-cons re-enter society; however, “I don’t want it to be at the expense of people’s property rights.”

I went on to note those same property rights for landlords have been infringed upon by the government due to the “eviction moratorium” imposed by Gov. Sisolak and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) during the COVID pandemic…

“Another one of my concerns is…imposing a bunch of new rules on people that have not been able to collect rent for almost a year and a half.”

The increasingly agitated senator then launched another long-winded excuse for this infringement on private property rights by explaining that some apartment owners received “government assistance” and “billions of dollars of subsidies.”

She went on to assert that ex-cons should “be equally viewed as the same as any of us.”

But they’re NOT the same as any of us.  They chose to break the law, got caught and did time in prison.

Worse, according to a 2014 report by the Nevada Department of Corrections, “31.90% to 52.04% of offenders with prior felony charges in Nevada became re-incarcerated.”

Sen. Neal then went into full “virtue signaling” mode – and, of course, invoked “the children” – in defending the indefensible rent moratoriums (which, by the way, a federal judge struck down this week)…

“And here’s the reason why.  Because it was far more dangerous to place those families on the street.  And so we had to make a decision about whether or not we wanted to place an additional burden temporarily on private owners in order to save a greater good.

“The greater good was a single mother and families who potentially were going to be on the street who then, what, they what, they, you don’t longer have milk for their kids; they don’t have a bed to sleep in. …

“So, yes, the government makes a decision to burden apartment owners in order to save families from a greater loss and expense… Sometimes we make social justice decisions.  We do.”

Which, of course, totally misses the point.

If the government wants to provide government services for some “social justice” reason, that’s one thing.  But the government has no authority to provide such assistance at the expense of the rights of a private property owner.

And a 15 month-plus “burden” is not “temporary.”

Sen. Neal then wrapped up her testimony in an increasingly agitated state and returned to her bill…

“They (felons) have served their time.  Punishment is not forever.  And we are not living in a caste system.  And when it’s decided someone is free, they are free.  And they need a right to a house.  And all I’m saying is that, ‘Can I get an application and be approved?’ 

“That’s it!  It’s not deep.  But for some reason because of our ideological fences, we have already decided that certain individuals cannot make it through. But that was the case in the sixties.  Blacks weren’t allowed to live in houses. 

“There’s a whole set of case laws where we were literally denied because of the color of our skin.  And we couldn’t change that.  And now you’re telling me, as we move into 2021, that ex-felons…have no rights in this society. 

“And if that is the case, keep them in prison!  Cause I don’t understand why we’re letting them out if we really feel that they have no value and they are not worthy of a roof over their head!  That is the crazy thing to me!” 

Nice deflection.  But I don’t buy it and that’s NOT what we’re talking about.

No one is saying ex-felons “have no rights in this society,” “have no value” and are “not worthy of a roof over their head.”  THAT’S crazy.

An ex-felon’s questionable “right to a house” ends when it infringes on the private property rights of a landlord, just as “your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.” 

I will always defend the rights of private property owners against unconstitutional government infringement and will be voting “no” on SB254.

NOW ON ANNIE-TV

* My floor statement on what legislators should do with the half-billion dollar “windfall” in revenue predicted by the Economic Forum.  Click here to watch “Kids in the Candy Store.”

* Why I walked out and boycotted the 2021 “class photo” of the State Assembly.  Click here to watch “Mask Madness!”

FROM ANNIE-GRAM MAILBAG

“Once again, you hit it out of the park!  All of this ‘junk racism’ is really wearing thin.  I feel that the supposed racism has reversed itself and is now very heavily racist against white people.” – Name withheld by request

“Thank you, Annie. I’m so impressed with your style in articulating the truth, informing us of what’s really happening in our legislature as well as calling out the Bad Actors‼️  You certainly have a very unique style and it’s VERY REFRESHING‼️” – Ann DeBaufre

“The RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) are more dangerous than the lockstep Democrats. Having RINO ‘friends’ that betray you is the same as having no friends at all; maybe worse.” – B.J. Adams

“Annie, I love your fire! It’s good to know my Assemblywoman Melissa Hardy is voting with Dems. I’m emailing her to let her know I voted for her and that I won’t again if she keeps voting with Dems like she did on AB109 (anti-charter school bill). My kids are out of school, but every bill affects taxpayers.” – Nancy Hullum-Turner

“I am a proud member of Annie’s Army! We are ready to back you all the way!” – Barbara Fish

QUOTES OF THE DAY

“No one wants to see an innocent person put to death.  But in clear-cut cases where there is no doubt about the perpetrator, the death penalty should be applied as soon as possible.” – Tim Hicks, Las Vegas Review-Journal

“It’s time for Republicans to play offense against the left. The constant retreat of elected Republicans is one of the reasons we are in the mess we are in.” – Charlie Kirk, TPUSA

Annie Black is the Nevada State Assemblywoman representing District 19.  You can get more information and subscribe to her AnnieGram newsletter by visiting www.AnnieBlack.net

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