I have served in the 2011, 2013, 2017, and 2019 legislative sessions, and the July 2020 special session. Here’s a summary of those sessions.
August 2020 Special Session
The Legislature met again in Special Session in August to address various other impacts of the pandemic. There is good, fair news coverage here. Here is what I particularly wanted to let you know about how we improved and expanded voting:
July 2020 Special Session Highlights
The Nevada Independent covered what happened during the special session very well – if you want to know the details of cuts and everything else, see this article.
2019 Legislative Highlights
I’m proud of the work that got done during this last legislative session. Legislating is a team sport; there are 63 legislators: 42 in the Assembly and 21 in the Senate. For any piece of legislation to pass it needs at least a majority in each house, plus the signature of the governor. Here are some of the things we accomplished – please reach out if you’d like more details on these issues, other bills, or have ideas for what we can accomplish in the future.
Education has been a major issue in every session that I have served but I am proud to say that more resources were invested in education this last legislative session than in any session before. We replaced the 50-year-old and outdated funding formula with a new formula that distributes the money in an equitable manner. The funding will now follow the student, based on their needs. As this is implemented, the new formula also ensures that none of the 17 school districts in the State see a cut in their current funding levels.
As promised, we made sure that marijuana tax revenue goes to education. Between that, other funding changes, and new funding formula, the Washoe County School District was able to pass a “structurally balanced” budget. This means the budget did not require dipping into reserve accounts, and that there should be no budget cuts next year. Better still, the new budget adds money to special education programs and funds a 3% raise for teachers.
Affordable and Accessible Healthcare
A number of pieces of legislation were passed this session to improve access and bring down costs for medical care. We took the best pieces of the Affordable Care Act and put them in state law. No matter what happens in Washington, patients in Nevada cannot be excluded for preexisting conditions. This will help to ensure that everyone has access to the healthcare market. We also continued our push to bring down prescription drug prices by passing legislation to strengthen drug pricing transparency.
Affordable housing and low-income housing have become an increasing concern in Northern Nevada. We passed several bills aimed at tackling this growing issue. Working with all parties – homeowners, renters and developers – legislation was passed to provide $10 million per year in tax incentives to build more housing that Nevadans can afford.
A “renters bill of rights” was passed to make sure people, both renters and landlords, are treated fairly. The bill caps late fees at 5% and allows renters if they are evicted the opportunity to go back and collect their belongings are two of the key provisions.
Jobs, the Economy, and Building the Middle Class
Significant pro worker pro middle-class legislation was passed, including bills that
- Strengthen Nevada’s wage and hour laws to protect local workers, employers and our local economy;
- Increasing renewable energy development which creates jobs and improves our quality of life;
- Boost workforce development and increase participation in apprenticeship programs, and,
- Increase Nevada’s minimum wage in steps.
2017 Legislative Highlights
- Strengthening our middle class by putting Nevada businesses first: we passed AB 280, giving Nevada businesses and workers “first crack” at state purchasing contracts
- Funding education: an additional $200 million was invested in our public schools this last session through SB 544, with the governor’s support and a bipartisan vote in the legislature
- Protecting patients and taxpayers: we passed the strongest pharmaceutical pricing transparency legislation in the nation (SB 539)
- Providing our Veterans the services they need: $33 million to fund a Northern Nevada Veterans Home in Sparks (SB 546).
2013 Legislative Highlights
During this legislative session my colleagues and I were focused on three main issues: properly funding education in Nevada, continuing to implement common-sense reforms, and starting or expanding programs with a proven track record of success.
During this session I was glad to see broad, bi-partisan agreement on the direction we need to go with our education system in Nevada. Because of that, the Legislature, working with Governor Sandoval, was able to add hundreds of millions of dollars to the education budget. For instance, Senate Bill 522, which I was proud to support, funded class-size reduction, added an important English Language Learners program, and continued moving us in the direction of fully-funding all-day kindergarten.
During this legislative session, Governor Sandoval led bi-partisan efforts, which I supported, to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act to cover tens of thousands of Nevadans. This, along with setting up the Silver State Health Exchange, were important steps to making quality, affordable healthcare available to all Nevadans, efforts that I wholeheartedly support.
Building our Economy and Jobs
Creating jobs and spurring economic growth continued to be top priorities for me this session, as we continued to climb out of the Great Recession. I was proud to work on and support a number of pieces of legislation that will helped create jobs and strengthen our economy like Assembly Bills 125, 138, 151, 294 and 333, and Senate Bill 123, 385.
The Knowledge Fund as part of the budget we approved, the state can now invest up to $10million promoting economic development at our universities. This money is used to help spur research and development, and to help with the commercialization of the results, creating new businesses and industries.
SB123 helps spur clean energy development in the state. It also moves the state away from dependency on coal energy and toward home-grown renewable power.
AB151 is part of our long-standing goal of making sure that Nevadan’s tax dollars are spent on hiring Nevada workers. This bill pushes the Nevada Department of Transportation to further use local and especially small businesses in its contracting.
SB385 made Nevada more competitive in the emerging field of unmanned aerial vehicle (“drone”) development and production. This bill provided incentive for companies in this growing field to locate or expand here in Nevada.
AB125 makes it easier for us to put unused state buildings or land to work more easily. It allows the state to lease or rent out facilities more easily and inexpensively to companies who seek to relocate or expand in Nevada, giving our economic development officials one more way we can help businesses while using our existing resources.
AB138 encourages businesses to invest in and partner with our higher education system. This helps ensure that our universities are graduating students with skills that employers need, making it easier for people to find jobs and for businesses to expand. This bill provides tax relief for businesses that invest over $1million in our universities, or over $500,000 in our community colleges or smaller colleges.
AB294 is a bill that will make it easier for small businesses to provide services and secure contracts for state work. It focuses the Office of Economic Development on helping small businesses compete for those contracts, and makes it easier for them to do so.
AB333 provides accountability to ensure our economic development efforts are working. With that we can strengthen tax credit and abatement programs that are working to help bring jobs to our state, and change or eliminate programs that aren’t working. It sets up better auditing and reporting requirements, and also strengthens laws already in place to make sure we’re attracting businesses that provide workers with good salary and benefits.
There were many bills this last session to improve government accountability and efficiency, and I was proud to work across the aisle to help create and pass these bills.
We continued work to ensure that projects funded with our tax dollars use local workers and businesses, and to make STAR bonds more transparent and accountable. We continued to move forward with performance-based budgeting (passed the session prior), which means the governor is required to develop the State’s budget based on which programs and services are best meeting the needs of our citizens and businesses. We also moved forward with a website portal to make it easier for everyone to see these budgeting priorities, and to better understand how state money is being spent.
AB150 a bill that I sponsored, was meant to provide a measure of oversight and accountability to allow the legislature to more effectively oversee and audit state and local government agencies. Unfortunately AB 150 was vetoed by the governor but I will continue working to make this a reality.
Another piece of common-sense legislation we passed was, AB327, which creates a hotline that anyone can call to report waste, fraud, or abuse by any state agency. We also required that this hotline’s number be posted on our state website and in every state building so that it is readily available.
We also passed AB333, which forces more auditing and oversight of our tax abatements and incentives. We need to be sure that our incentives for businesses are actually helping to create jobs and expand the economy, and this bill will help us do just that.
We all want our government to be effective in its delivery of needed services and part of being effective is always looking for ways to make government more efficient and accountable, and I want to continue to do that in the next and future legislative sessions.
2011 Legislative Highlights
Jobs and Diversifying the Economy
Creating jobs was our number one priority during this legislative session, as we were in the worst of the Great Recession and facing double-digit unemployment. We passed several pieces of legislation to do that.
For instance, I was proud to work on the School Works bill, which gained support from members of both parties in the legislature, as well as the governor. This bill made $75 million available for school construction in Washoe County alone, all without costing taxpayers a dime. The money was spent to renovate and upgrade our schools, which has created much-needed jobs in the construction trades.
There were several bills passed this last session that will help attract new industries and businesses to our state, and I was proud to support these bipartisan efforts. These bills created the Governor’s Office of Economic Development that eventually led to attracting new businesses and industries to the area, putting people back to work. Growth comes with its own challenges like housing [LINK TO HOUSING ISSUE] that we must tackle going forward, but I am proud to have supported efforts that brought new jobs and industries to our area.
During this legislative session, my colleagues and I were focused on two main issues: properly funding education in Nevada, and reforming how our education system operates.
The original budget proposed by the governor cut education funding down to an unacceptable level. I am proud that my colleagues and I were able to restore much of this education funding that had been on the chopping block.
In addition to funding, our education system needed some structural changes. I supported the common-sense education reforms the legislature passed this session to help us attract and retain the best teachers, make our schools run more efficiently, and provide more training and support for our newer and more inexperienced teachers. Administrators will now be given performance evaluations as well, a piece I think is particularly important. These reforms required making tough decisions, and I believe we made the right ones.
Making Government More Efficient and Accountable
Ensuring that taxpayers’ money is spent in the most efficient and effective way possible is one of my top priorities – they’re my tax dollars too! There were many bills this session to improve government accountability and efficiency, and I was proud to work across the aisle to help create and pass these bills. We worked to ensure that projects funded with our tax dollars use local workers and businesses, and to make STAR bonds more transparent and accountable. We passed legislation to make our state one of the few in the country to have performance-based budgeting, which means the governor is required to build the budget based solely on what programs are serving our citizens and businesses well. We also passed legislation creating a Sunset Commission, which reviews all boards and commissions in the state, to make them run more efficiently, combine those with overlapping duties, and end those that are no longer needed.