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Nevada requests more money for governor’s protection

CARSON CITY – The state Department of Public Safety is seeking a small additional outlay for keeping Gov. Steve Sisolak and his family safe, citing “high interest” in new state laws enacted last year that “requires a heightened security protocol.”

The request for $15,500 — modest by state budgeting standards — would cover increased travel expenses for members of the governor’s security detail. Neither the governor’s office or Department of Public Safety officials this week would provide more specifics, citing security concerns.

But the “new laws” driving the request, as cited in the department’s memo outlining the need, are believed to be gun control laws enacted last year that have drawn the ire of gun regulation opponents.

Officials this week would not comment on whether the extra security outlay came in response to actual threats, because of increased travel, or from an abundance of caution. The governor often travels and appears in public with his wife, somewhat more than his predecessor.

“Due to the public accessibility of the governor and first lady in many venues it has been determined by the Department of Public Safety to add additional staff for the protection during travel and public events,” a department officer wrote, summarizing the need. “The current focus and high interest in some of the new laws that are going into effect requires a heightened security protocol.”

The governor’s office referred questions on the matter to the Department of Public Safety. The department, in a statement, declined to provide further detail “in the interest of safety and security.”

The security detail assigned to the governor and his family conducts advance work and provides protection when the governor travels for meetings and conferences or attends public events. The additional funds sought for the current fiscal year are to offset higher per diem and travel costs, with $8,500 more going for out-of-state travel, on top of $15,000 now budgeted, and $7,000 more for in-state travel on top of the current $7,700. The Department’s overall Dignitary Protection budget totals more than $1 million annually.

Such agency funding requests sought outside the normal biannual budget cycle go first to the state Board of Examiners. If approved there, they go to the state Interim Finance Committee, composed of state legislators, to approve the release of contingency funds.

The governor serves on the Board of Examiners with the attorney general and secretary of state. That panel approved the request at its meeting Jan. 14, with the governor abstaining. The matter is before the IFC at its meeting on Thursday.

The Legislature last year approved two gun control bills that the governor quickly signed into law. Senate Bill 143, requiring background checks for private gun sales, passed in February last year and was the first policy bill signed into law by the governor.

Assembly Bill 291, approved near the end of session and signed by the governor in June, bans bump stock devices that increase the firing rate of semi-automatic weapons to near-fully automatic. Weapons with the devices were used in the Route 91 Harvest festival mass shooting in 2017 that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more in Las Vegas.

The measure also enacted “red flag” provisions to confiscate guns from those deemed a potential threat, safe storage requirements to keep guns away from children, and a lower permissible blood-alcohol level for possessing a firearm of 0.08 percent.

Opponents of the stricter gun control laws fought both measures as they moved through the statehouse last year, and since their passage, local lawmakers and sheriffs in several counties have disavowed them, some choosing to proclaim their jurisdictions “Second Amendment sanctuaries” and vowing not to enforce them.

In addition, a lawsuit has been filed to invalidate the “red flag” law.

Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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