Democrats in Legislature capitalize on chance to enrich Nevadans’ lives

Vegas News
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Ryan Tarinelli / AP

Assembly members gather before the Nevada Assembly in Carson City, Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. The Legislature began its session Monday as the first overall female majority legislature in U.S. history.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019 | 2 a.m.

Four months ago, Democrats entered the 2019 legislative session with a nearly wide-open pathway to achieve their policy goals after taking control of the governor’s office and both chambers of the Legislature.

When they gaveled out Monday, they and the reasonable Republicans who worked across the aisle with them could walk away knowing that they hadn’t squandered their opportunity.

This Legislature did a great deal of good for a large number of Nevadans.

They approved new funding for public education, including $62 million for school safety, and finally updated the state’s hopelessly outdated funding formula for K-12 schools.

They preserved Nevada women’s access to reproductive care, bucking a trend in other states to restrict this essential need. They took action that will increase gun safety in our state, including legislation establishing universal background checks and allowing law enforcement authorities to seize guns from individuals who’ve been proven to be a threat to themselves and others.

They aided low-income Nevadans through such measures as an increase in the minimum wage to $12 and the establishment of mandatory paid time off. They passed a number of bills that will protect our environment and conserve our natural lands.

They established protections for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and took steps to increase transparency in the pricing of prescription drugs.

And that’s just a sampling. The list of those who’ll benefit is a long one.

Of course, it wasn’t a perfect session — these things never are.

For starters, the fate of a key funding mechanism is up in the air. A bill to maintain a payroll tax rate that was scheduled to begin decreasing got caught up in an ongoing partisan dispute over whether it required a two-thirds majority vote for passage, and Republicans are threatening to sue over it after the state Senate approved the bill with a simple majority. What happens to it from here is a $98 million question — that’s how much revenue it would provide funds for teacher raises and school safety.

In Southern Nevada, even though the Clark County School District says it obtained enough funding to provide raises to teachers, the Clark County Education Association says it “will not accept any cuts in the classroom” and remains poised to strike.

Other bills were watered down, including a package of gun safety legislation that unfortunately came out of the session without a provision to allow local governments to establish policies more strict than those in state statutes.

Another disappointment was a lack of progress in restructuring the Nevada Board of Regents, which is rife with problems that have resulted in UNLV being shortchanged and mismanaged over the years to the advantage of UNR.

But there were a lot more hits than misses during the 2019 session.

Overall, the policies adopted during this session are respectful of the equal rights of all Nevadans, and of our state’s economic, geographic and ethnic diversity. They’ll help Nevada continue to grow as a place for new residents and employers who share our values of protecting the rights of all of our neighbors, welcoming newcomers, helping those in need and creating better opportunities for all families who choose to live here.

“We passed historic measures into law that will make sure the recovery we’re experiencing is going to reach every single kitchen table of every family,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said Tuesday. “We’re going to help our schools empower every child to achieve their full potential, and ensure our health care system is there for everybody who needs it, when they need it and at a price they can afford.”

It was a long four months, and plenty of people walked away from Carson City disappointed, angry or both.

But this was a positive session for Nevadans.

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