No One Gets Everything They Want
Talking supermajority, the influence of women, and the Democratic legislative agenda with Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson
What would you say is on the Democratic agenda for the 2019 session?
We are looking at focusing on public education and healthcare. Access to healthcare, cost of healthcare, transparency in healthcare. Those two things are going to be a large part of our focus. We have to focus on the integrity of the process and ensuring that we have an open and transparent and respectful process where we are statesmen, we agree to disagree when we have to, and try to move the state forward.
With a Democratic supermajority in the Assembly and almost one in the Senate, how do you think that’s going to make things different?
It’s going to be different in that the governor has different stresses that he will have to balance based on the fact that he’s a Democrat. But I think that Gov. (Steve) Sisolak shares an interest, similar to Gov. (Bria)] Sandoval, with moving the state forward, including everyone at the table, having a reasonable approach rather than one that focuses on the fringes.
In terms of the female majority, that’s a historic first in any legislature across the country. How do you think that’s going to make this session different?
Interestingly, we had two previous female speakers of the Assembly before the Legislature as a whole was majority female. And so I don’t think that it’s going to change what has already been a commitment to have the values that women bring to the table reflected in our policies. Now, obviously, there are going to be an increased number of women having internal influence. I think that that is going to ensure that those issues that are important to women remain front and center. We’ve been committed to this for some time. So I think it sends a message more than it will change policy.
Do you think that the progressive wing of the party is going to push to say, “Mr. Speaker, we have the majority now, let’s start doing all these things that we’ve always dreamed that we can do, and push this agenda as far as we can”? And how will you react to that?
It’s important to remember as responsible leaders that there’s no stakeholder group, friend or foe, that gets absolutely everything they want. We have been championing issues important to our progressive community for a long time. So a lot of the issues that are important to our progressive partners we will continue to advocate for in a way that represents the actual population of our state. We are not going to try to be California or Vermont or Maryland; we’re going to be Nevada. And that means we embrace some progressive principles, but not every single thing that works in other states is going to work in Nevada. My intention is to make sure that they (progressives) feel valued and heard at the table.
Some of the constituents who come (to Carson City) think, “We’re going to get what we want,” but you never get 100 percent of what you want. I mean, unless you’re (the late former longtime Senate Majority Leader) Bill Raggio.
I would guess that if Bill Raggio was in the Senate now it would be a different time, because we had two or three new freshmen at a time back then. I have 19 members of my caucus alone who are in their first or second term. So it’s a different time. But we have been a big-tent party and are going to continue to be a big-tent party and include everybody’s voice.
How mindful are you of the next session, and voters looking to you to see whether the Democratic majority can govern responsibly and if so, will they get rewarded with another term (in the majority) especially in the very critical year of redistricting?
Right. We can’t govern two years at a time. We have to have a long-term vision of where we want to take Nevada. We have to show what we can do with that kind of influence. And, quite frankly, if we can do it in a bipartisan way and make sure that we don’t repeat some of the mistakes that were made in 2015 (under a Republican majority) with how the institution was treated, I think it’s good for everyone.
What are you going to do to ensure that the minority party feels like they have a voice in the process?
I think the Assembly Republicans in particular have an opportunity to be a partner in moving the state forward, and just because I have 29 (Democratic) members doesn’t mean that I stop being speaker of the entire Assembly. I welcome collaborating, coordinating, taking advantage when there are opportunities to have bipartisan efforts, recognizing it’s not always going to be bipartisan. And it’s going to be up to them to decide if they want to govern as responsible stakeholders, recognizing that there is certainly going to be a reflection in the policies that we advance based on our principles and our priorities, but we’re not going to shut them out.
Is there one thing — one bill, one particular issue, one policy priority — that you think, We have to get this done or we can’t go home and call the session a success?
We have to improve the quality of our public education and improve the support that we provide that system. I think that has to be a priority. And expanding access to healthcare and lowering costs. ... We of course have to continue to provide a healthy job environment and a healthy financial environment for the state. We can do a service to the business community by providing stability for them, so that we’re not swinging back and forth with undoing tax plans that were advanced two sessions ago. I think the business community needs stability and predictability, and we’re committed to providing that.