Las Vegas Sun

August 18, 2019

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First female-majority legislature in U.S. convenes in Nevada


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.

CARSON CITY — Nevada's Legislature began Monday as the first in the U.S. with an overall female majority.

Democrats hold control over both chambers of the Legislature, with a two-thirds supermajority in the Assembly.

Many of the women who helped tip the gender balance in the Legislature are Democrats, with the party looking to move on gun reform and health care, among other issues.

"Having the first female-majority legislature is such an accomplishment, not only for Nevada but for the nation as a whole," said Democratic Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, who also serves as assistant majority leader. "For so long, I think there has been an underrepresentation of women."

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson praised the female majority as a milestone.

The Democrat called for a ban on bump stocks, which were used in the deadly 2017 Las Vegas shooting to modify weapons and mimic the pace of a fully automatic firearm.

Frierson said Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui had to flee for her life during the attack on the outdoor concert.

"This is personal, and it's certainly personal to Assemblywoman Jauregui," he said, addressing lawmakers inside the packed Assembly chambers.

Lawmakers, he said, should also commit to supporting public education, improving economic security and ensuring quality health care. Frierson said the Legislature should modernize a funding plan for education, provide teachers with more tools and reward educators who work in challenging schools.

Frierson also expressed support for apprenticeship programs, equal pay and access to paid leave.

Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, a Democrat, said the first female-majority legislature is unprecedented and overdue. He called it a "truly historic display of diversity."

Cannizzaro said the female-majority brings the voice of women to the policymaking table, something she expects to see in the policies the Legislature passes.

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has proposed progressive initiatives and Democratic lawmakers have said they plan to revisit some of the bills from the 2017 session that were vetoed by former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Frierson said any notions that the Legislature had made a "seismic shift" to the left were unfounded.

"I have welcomed the minority party to the table so that we can all try to agree where we can," Frierson said last week.

As blizzard conditions moved in across Northern Nevada on Monday, Sisolak ordered the closure of state offices in Carson City, Washoe County and Douglas County, sending most executive-branch state employees home on administrative leave.

Staff in the Nevada Assembly, with the exception of those who work on the Assembly floor or in the offices of leadership, were also allowed to go home early. It wasn't immediately clear whether Senate staffers were given early release as well.

AP reporter Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.