Without the normal pomp and circumstance, the 81st Legislature gaveled in on Monday for a session defined by and largely focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Legislators wrapped up the largely procedural work of the session’s first day — swearing in lawmakers, adopting rules and agreeing to fund the cost of the state’s biennial Legislature — but without the normal celebratory trappings of the first day.
Signs of the COVID-19 pandemic remained unmistakably present throughout the building — plexiglass panels aplenty, hand sanitizer dispensers located throughout the building and everyone, from staff to elected officials, wearing a mask or another kind of face covering.
But unlike last summer’s special sessions, where the building remained essentially empty save for year-around staff, lawmakers and a handful of reporters, Monday brought more activity and bustle inside the actual building because of the several hundred temporary staff hired for the 120-day session.
And outside of a color guard presentation, none of the normal pomp and circumstance around the first day of session was present — no families of legislators, no live music performance of the state song and an invocation delivered via Zoom.
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) called for a moment of silence for the victims of COVID-19 during his first speech to the Legislature, saying that the pandemic “has clearly shown us a widening gap of haves and have-nots that cannot be ignored.”
“For anyone who was struggling prior to the start of the pandemic, they are in desperate circumstances,” he said. “COVID-19 has exposed the deep cracks we have continued to put bandaids on and we simply must do better.”
No committee meetings were scheduled for the first day, which is typical. Those are set to start on Tuesday, but virtually, with lawmakers appearing via videoconference instead of convening in