Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2021

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WHERE I STAND:

Despite legislative gains, there’s still more to do

Every summer, Brian Greenspun turns over his Where I Stand column to guest writers for several weeks. Today’s guest is Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick.

With the end of the 77th legislative session now in the rearview mirror, it’s important to recognize the gains that were made, particularly for Southern Nevada, and the work that still needs to be done.

There were more than 1,000 bills considered this legislative session, with more than half becoming or affecting statute. While some of the headlines may have been what wasn’t accomplished this session instead of what was, our state has much for which to be proud.

This session, we respected the fragility of our economy while laying the groundwork for the future. We increased statewide support for our children in schools by almost 6 percent. Full-day kindergarten was extended to an additional 75 schools (a robust number in Clark County). There was almost $400 million invested to reduce class sizes statewide, and for the first time, the Legislature implemented a statewide program targeting the needs of English-language learners. The ELL programs will be supported with a package that includes free pre-kindergarten schooling, expansion of full-day kindergarten, reading skills centers and reading academies while school is out of session.

This Legislature also put a focus on our campus at UNLV and Southern Nevada community colleges. The Legislature recognizes the importance of continuing to support higher education and ensuring we do everything in our power to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow. With that came the opportunity for the university and community to support a potential stadium project as well as making improvements to existing infrastructure.

In addition, this session we made it harder for criminals to perpetrate crimes by enacting a statewide DNA database for persons arrested for felonies. We maintained our gold standard in gaming by being the first legislature in the nation to license Internet gaming while also giving Nevadans a chance to take out discriminatory language in our Constitution against LGBTQ friends and family.

The Legislature also focused on getting Nevadans back to work. We passed a bipartisan bill on fuel indexing that will be used for critical infrastructure projects and job creation in Southern Nevada. We passed a film bill that gives incentive to the industry to film in Nevada, bringing jobs and needed economic injections into our community. We also reinvested in our critical state worker infrastructure by beginning to restore the pay cuts that had been made during the Great Recession.

Although we accomplished much this session, our work is not yet done. Our state continues to face economic challenges and must decide how to fully fund education. I strongly believe that we need to look at long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes to these challenges.

Too often this legislative session, Democrats in the Legislature found themselves confronted by a rigid Republican orthodoxy. I had high hopes going into this session that we could work together on a tax package. Unfortunately, while we were able to work in a bipartisan manner on many other issues, we could not come to the table and have an honest discussion about what our state needs in terms of tax policy.

Again, a minority of members in the Legislature can slow even the will of the people to push for an honest tax discussion. Unfortunately, we will be confronted again next session with the same question we have been for the past five sessions: Will we have a tax structure designed and built in the 21st century or one that targets single industries and relies on the boom-and-bust mentality of what has gotten us into our current morass?

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, is the speaker of the Nevada Assembly.

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