Las Vegas Sun

December 15, 2018

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Democrats solidify their majorities at the Legislature

Legislature Opens

Lance Iversen / AP

Spectators look down on the Nevada Assembly on the opening day of the legislative session, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 in Carson City.

Nevada’s Legislature will be bluer and more female in 2019 than in 2017, and those changes could be even more pronounced before lawmakers open their next session in Carson City.

Democrats won 41 of 63 state legislative races in Tuesday’s election, up from 38 in 2017. The party will have a two-thirds supermajority in the Assembly with at least 29 of the chamber’s 42 seats. The election also made Nevada the first in the country with a female-majority Assembly, and it brought the state closer to becoming the nation’s first with at least equal representation in its Legislature for men and women.

“We made history,” Assemblyman Jason Frierson said on election night. “We showed the world what happens when we show up.”

Nevada already ranked among the top states for male-to-female ratios in the Legislature, at roughly 40 percent in 2017. Voters chose 30 men and 30 women this year, with three vacant seats to be filled before the 2019 session. State law says county commissioners represented by a vacant seat pick a replacement from the same party as the previous officeholder.

Emily’s List, a group that recruits and trains pro-choice women candidates nationwide, was supporting 11 women running for the Legislature this cycle.

“Progressive women have been at the forefront of incredible progress in the Nevada Legislature,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List. “This state is proof that with more women in elected office, you get better policies for women and working families. Now, bolstered by this wave of women leaders who have ensured a historic majority-women state Assembly, all Nevadans can count on a state government that works for them.”

A blue Legislature under Democrat Steve Sisolak, who will succeed Brian Sandoval as governor, may again take on legislation vetoed in 2017, including an increase in the minimum wage, paid sick leave for employees and limits on surprise hospital bills.

“We look forward to returning to Carson City for the 2019 legislative session, where we will continue to fight to improve our public schools, create more good-paying jobs, and protect Nevadans’ access to health care,” state Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas and the new Senate majority leader, said in a statement. “We have a long track record of fighting for working families, and that is exactly what we will continue to do.”

State Senate Republicans chose James Settelmeyer of Carson City as minority leader and Joe Hardy of Reno as assistant minority leader. Sens. Scott Hammond of Las Vegas and Heidi Gansert of Reno will serve as the Republican whips.

“Senate Republicans look forward to working with our colleagues in the Assembly and Gov.-elect Steve Sisolak to continue creating positive results for our state,” Settelmeyer said in a statement. “I am honored to lead our caucus and look forward to a productive session.”

Assembly Democrats have not yet announced their leadership positions.

Three vacancies need to be filled in the Legislature: one for a Republican seat in the Assembly with Dennis Hof’s death and subsequent election; and two Democratic seats in the Senate with Aaron Ford’s election as attorney general and Tick Segerblom’s election to the Clark County Commission.

At least one race remains in question as well.

Democrat Julie Pazina has requested a recount in her race in the 20th Senate District against Republican Keith Pickard, who previously served in the Assembly. The Henderson-based seat opened with Republican Michael Roberson’s unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor. Pazina and Pickard are separated by 28 votes.

“The closeness of that result merits a recount to ensure that every vote is counted accurately and every voter’s voice is heard,” Pazina said in a statement. “I believe it’s worth taking a second look at the votes cast to ensure that we get it right in a race with a razor-thin margin.”