The Nevada Senate Judiciary Committee Friday considered Senate Bill 142, also called the “Homeless Persons’ Bill of Rights.” Mirroring the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the Senate bill outlines a set of rights for unhoused people in Nevada.
The bill “requires that a person experiencing homelessness be entitled to the same rights, privileges and benefits afforded to a resident of this State who is not experiencing homelessness.” The legislation also creates certain specific rights applicable only to a person experiencing homelessness, such as freedom from discrimination in employment over the inability to list a permanent residence.
A person experiencing homelessness may bring a civil action for an infringement of any right listed in the bill. Among other things, a court may provide “any other legal or equitable relief that the court deems appropriate.”
State Senators Dallas Harris, Melanie Scheible, Edgar Flores, Fabian Doñate and James Ohrenschall sponsored the legislation. Senators Skip Daly and Roberta Lange co-sponsored the bill. State Senator Dallas Harris characterized the legislation as “a response to some of the moves of localities that I’ve seen that I would characterize as attempting to solve homelessness by making it a crime.” Though she did not specify, Harris is likely referring to Las Vegas. In 2019, the Las Vegas City Council passed a measure to fine any person found sleeping on a public right-of-way, such as a sidewalk.
If the bill receives and survives a floor vote in the senate, it then goes to the Nevada Assembly, where it will face another vote. The bill’s chance of passing in both houses of the legislature is high, as all seven sponsors of the legislation come from the Democratic Party. Democrats currently hold a five and 14 seat majority in the state senate and assembly, respectively. However, to become law, Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo must also sign on. Lombardo, a Republican, criticized Nevada’s homeless population during his 2022 gubernatorial campaign. Lombardo told members at a GOP forum “A very small percentage are homeless due to circumstances out of their control . . . [y]ou have to hold them accountable.”