The 80th Session of the Nevada Legislature made history by electing the first female majority legislature in the country. This milestone paved the way for new, diverse voices in our state’s leadership. The Session was a success for Nevada progressives, with several major pieces of legislation being passed, with bipartisan support, to rein in gun violence, develop Nevada’s clean energy economy, strengthen our democracy and electoral system, and improve the economic conditions of working families. Many of these efforts, particularly on voting rights and raising the minimum wage, were spearheaded by the dedicated leadership of Speaker of the Assembly, Jason Frierson. Additionally, Nevada finally has a Governor, Steve Sisolak, who is unafraid to take on the gun lobby, who makes Nevada’s environment a priority, and who is committed to supporting Nevada’s workforce. However, our work is never over and this Session was only the beginning in creating a progressive Nevada. More efforts will be made in 2021 to ensure that state preemption laws for firearms are repealed, that our clean energy economy is accessible to everyone, and that no Nevadan is denied a living wage or time off to care for themselves or sick loved ones.
This Session, majority leadership from both the Senate and Assembly pursued an aggressive public school funding package with SB551. The bill added over $16 million for school safety, appropriated $72 million for teacher pay raises across the state, and completely repealed the Koch Brothers-backed voucher scheme from Nevada law. SB551 also creates a permanent stream of revenue for education by preventing the sunsetting of the Modified Business Tax, something which passed with bipartisan support in previous Sessions. However, Senate and Assembly Republicans this Session refused to come to the table on public education funding, despite a $10 million allocation to the Opportunity Scholarship program contained within the bill. Rather than offer solutions, they opted to not only vote against additional funds for education, but file a lawsuit to undo SB551, and the revenue stream from the Modified Business Tax.
On the other hand, we believe that the legislature’s attempted reform to the public school funding formula, SB543, fell far short of its intended goal. Being introduced extremely late in Session, without input from educators or the community, SB543 was an inappropriate and rushed method of dealing with a very serious issue. We will continue working with our education and legislative leadership to fix the issues with the initial bill and create funding formula that adds new revenue, rather than simply shifting funds around at the expense of rural and low-income schools.
AB291 and AB153, two gun violence prevention bills, were initially high priority bills for Battle Born Progress, but are not included in this scorecard. This is because AB291 was amended by Senate leadership, without the consent of vested stakeholders and behind the back of the bill sponsor, to remove a key section that would have repealed state preemption laws pertaining to firearms, while adding language to codify an extreme-risk-protection order. AB153’s language, making it a misdemeanor to fail to safely store a gun in a home with a minor, was added to AB291. Both of these amendments were added with mere days left in the Session, making it difficult for lawmakers to fully digest the changes to the bill. The version of AB291 passed by the Legislature was a very different bill than what was initially introduced, and excluded the most important provision of the original draft. As such, we did not feel it was fair or accurate in our methodology to score legislators on their vote, especially in the Assembly where they demonstrated real leadership on the original bill. We are gravely disappointed in Senate leadership for their handling of this bill, lack of transparency, and the abandonment of gun violence survivors and community stakeholders in that process. We do, however, strongly commend Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui for her leadership and bringing this bill forward, and look forward to working with her next Session to address preemption.
Legislation included in this report card was chosen based on our policy priorities and the amount of time and resources invested into advocating for each bill by Battle Born Progress and our members. We graded legislators based on their votes for, or against, these priority bills.
AJR10 was also supported by Battle Born Progress, but was not included in this scorecard due to it being approved via voice vote. In the interest of utmost accuracy, we decided not to include it without the ability to verify who voted for and against. However, we commend Speaker Jason Frierson’s leadership in bringing forward a resolution to raise the minimum wage in Nevada.