Democrats Are Moving Quickly In Carson City But Can They Keep The Pace Going?


Casey Morell

The floor of the Nevada Assembly.

Democrats control the Assembly and Senate and the governor is a Democrat.

Together, they moved fast on gun background checks.

Can they keep up that pace with other big issues: school funding formulas, minimum wage and controlling the cost of health care drugs?

"We are certainly focused on moving Nevada forward and we have a partnership with both houses and the executive branch that I think will enable us to get some good policy through," Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson told KNPR's State of Nevada.

While Democrats hold all the levers of power in Carson City, Frierson said he is working with Republicans to make sure good policy for the whole state is passed.

"I am committed to leading in a collaborative and inclusive way to the extent we are able," he said, "What that means is I am willing to extend an olive branch across the aisle to make sure everybody has an opportunity to advance good policy for their district."

However, Frierson said it will be up to the minority caucus to work with the majority and not just say 'no' to everything.

One of the issues he believes both sides could agree on is improving access to quality health care for everyone.

A proposal could again go before the Legislature to create a Medicaid for all type health insurance program. The idea was floated in 2017 but Frierson said there wasn't enough time to tackle the difficult topic.

Support comes from

He believes there is room for compromise to help address the high cost of health care. 

"I don't think it's a partisan issue," he said, "I think that we will consider our options and see what we can afford to expand that access or at least decrease costs."

One of the big focuses in the effort would be to help improve access to care in rural Nevada, which struggles with access. 

An area that Republican members of Legislature and the Democrats did not see eye to eye on was the gun background check expansion.

Frierson said the gun background check made it through the process quickly because lawmakers felt they were fulfilling the will of the voters. In 2016, the voters approved expanding background checks for all gun sales but then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt gave an opinion that the background check could not be implemented.

Frierson said having Attorney General Aaron Ford working on the issue made the difference.

"First step, we had an attorney general who was willing to enforce the measure and support the will of the majority of Nevada voters," he said.

Frierson said some of the issues that Laxalt said made the expanded checks unenforceable have been addressed.

One of the biggest issues that is expected to be addressed this legislative session is the funding formula for Nevada schools.

The current formula used to distribute funds to Nevada students is based on a plan created in the 60s. It does not take into account any special needs that a student might have, including special education, English as a second language or gifted and talented.

Frierson is hopeful that the funding formula will finally be addressed and a weighted funding formula will be put into place, which will allow funds to follow the student for their particular needs.

"We have to remain committed to making adjustments to make sure we're allowing our dollar to follow students who need it," he said.

The assembly speaker admits that changing the formula will be a gargantuan task but he believes the Legislature can get it done.

Other issues that are expected to make through the Legislature include scrapping the death penalty, changing language in the state's abortion laws, creating a state bank for marijuana businesses and allowing state workers to unionize. 

Frierson said that while some of those bill proposals may have support from top Democrats in Carson City none of them should be considered a done deal.

"I don't believe any piece of legislation regardless of who is in power is a slam dunk," he said, "We are going to have thoughtful conversations about bills and policies and not just advance them because we can but because we have vetted them and we believe that they are good policy."



Assemblyman Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, Speaker of the Assembly

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