State Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro is seeking re-election to her suburban Las Vegas district.
The first-term Democratic lawmaker represents an evenly split District 6 in the western Las Vegas valley. Her race in 2016 was decided by barely 1,000 votes out of 56,000 cast.
Cannizzaro told State of Nevada that she expects the state to retain its commitment to reducing carbon emissions, saying investing in alternative energy can help diversify the economy.
On her first term:
I am so honored to be able to serve the constituents in Senate District 6. For me there is always going to be challenges anytime you are seeking a new position or endeavoring to make a difference in the community those don’t come without challenges along the way. And I’m, of course, ready to take on any challenges that may come down in the next four years.
On improving Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation:
It has been unprecedented the number of claims that our unemployment system has been processing. One of the goals of the special session that we were able to accomplish is that we were able to remove a lot of the administrative burdens and a lot of the things that were creating so much of the backlog with some of these claims so that we can actually get those claims processed… and we have seen that those claims have been reducing.
We know that there are still folks who are out there who have challenges, and we’re trying to help. Constituents have reached out to me to get them in touch with DETR and make sure that we can get them through that claims process.
Moving forward, we, really, as a state are in a unique position where we have got to start talking about: How do we get our economy back up and running? How do we help to support small businesses? How do we make sure as we move forward into 2021, we are setting ourselves up for success? I think there are a number of things that we’ll be addressing this legislative session to just that.
And certainly, one of the conversations I’ve had a lot of discussion on is economic diversification. That’s something we’ve talked about here in the state. We’ve had some successes in the tech industry with those efforts to make sure we’re diversifying, but one of the things…. that we talked about the last session was making sure that we were investing in clean energy here in Nevada.
That is really, I think, an opportunity for us, as a state, to look at diversification because we do have a lot of natural resources that can help to make us a state that can be a leader in clean energy.
We’ve put in place, I think as a result of legislation last session, a system that is going to create those kinds of opportunities. I’m excited to work on some of those opportunities and to make sure that we are doing everything we can to economically set the state up for success.
On the feasibility of economic diversification:
I think one of the things that the Legislature certainly does is to create a place where those types of economic endeavors can thrive. When we’re looking at the last session, having to ask things like increasing the renewable energy portfolio standard. We’re talking about let’s rely on more renewable energy. Let’s look at ways in which we can increase that as an energy source here in the state.
When we talk about a carbon reduction plan, which is something that is not only going to benefit the people of Nevada, it also addresses the climate crisis that we are facing but also starts to set up a place where things like economic diversification into renewable energy and into clean energy is a system where it can thrive in Nevada.
We know that we have an abundance of natural resources here like sunshine and wind. If we can create the place where those economic opportunities are feasible and can be successful, then that’s absolutely the place where the Legislature can operate and also help to create that even though we’re looking in this next year to still feel the effects of the pandemic.
That is something that we can absolutely do, and I think it is something that is a worthwhile conversation that I’m looking forward to having this next Legislative session.
Can the state afford some of the programs that address climate change?
This isn’t a choice of: We’re going to implement renewable energy standards or we’re going to rely on renewable energy and therefore create a cost increase for Nevadans.
So much of the conversation around why relying on renewable energy really does help everyday Nevadans manage their energy costs. I think you can look at even just the example of rooftop solar. So many folks have invested in rooftop solar have been able to use that utilize that as an energy means, and as a result, have seen lower energy bills. That money in their pockets is money that they might use to do other things and put it into the economy.
I think it is certainly a step in the right direction and not necessarily something where the state is going to extend money that we wouldn’t otherwise have or create additional costs for Nevadans. That’s not something we are looking to do.
When we talk about those opportunities, it really is saying outwardly: We as Nevadans believe that we can have an environment here where renewable energy is part of our economic diversification.
What issues are you hearing about from constituents, and why are you the candidate best to deal with them?
I think the number one thing on Nevadans’ minds, and certainly the residents of Senate District 6, is how we are going to address this pandemic in a responsible way and we’re going to be able to pull ourselves out of the situation as we move forward.
That I think is in the forefront of folks’ minds. Hand in hand with that comes the discussion about health care, access to affordable and accessible health care. I know when I talk to constituents, they want for people to take the pandemic seriously because we know that it is a public health crisis, and it is something that we have to all work together in order to overcome.
Of course, people are eager to get back to work and so that has been, I think, some of the bigger conversations that I’ve been having with constituents at the door.
Also wrapped up in that is education. We have students who are learning by virtual means. We know that there is still going to be some increased educational needs going into a school year where hopefully we can have everybody back in-person, and where we can have students really working with teachers in the classroom to get an education.
I know that we know there is going to be a real need to make sure that we’re focused on those kids who may need a little additional help. I’m a product of the public education system here in Nevada. Neither one of my parents had graduated from high school, and so, education is absolutely a key for me to be able to be in the position that I’m talking to you right now.
This past legislative session we passed the largest education budget in state history. We gave teachers a much-needed raise. We increased reimbursement for school supplies. We’re looking at the way in which we fund education to make sure dollars actually get to the class where they need to be.
In my four years in the State Senate, I have leapt to do a number of things that talk about those same kinds of issues. We have done legislation to help tackle the cost of prescription drug pricing with protected pre-existing conditions.
I am, right now, working on a study that is doing an analysis of the state to look into the feasibility of a public option so we can increase the affordability and access to care for people and those are huge critical issues, especially when we’re faced with a public health crisis.
Should the State Legislature codify some of the issues that are expected to come before the Supreme Court like abortion, same-sex marriage and access to health care?
We have been doing some of these at the state level here in Nevada because it is the kind of policies that not only support Nevada families but that also we know are important for the everyday health and welfare of our constituents.
We actually passed a bill that protects pre-existing conditions because we know that is a critical piece of the [Affordable Care Act]. We know that there are hundreds of thousands of people who would fall under this provision of having pre-existing conditions and would therefore be denied, effectively, access to health care.
And that is something we worked very hard to make sure that we could protect the last session. That was a bill we passed and that the governor signed into law. That is going to protect Nevadans regardless of what happens at the federal level.
We have also seen where we have taken actions to make sure that our LGBTQ community members feel supported. We have on the ballot because it passed two times, the two legislative sessions I’ve served in, marriage equality. It’s Question 2 on the ballot this November.
We have taken steps to make sure that our values here in the state really do reflect those who we are representing and so I was proud to vote for that bill on the two times that it came up in the Legislature.
I’m going to be proud to vote for it on the ballot this November.
When it comes to women’s health care and a woman’s right to make sure she can make those decisions for herself. We’ve been tackling that issue at the state level.
We passed the trust Nevada Women’s Act this last legislative session that removes some antiquated statutes on our books. And then, we also passed additional dollars for family planning to ensure that women can have access to health care and make their own choices in that way.
There’s a lot of work that we’ve already been doing at the state level and I absolutely think that is incumbent upon the state legislators and those who represent the constituents here in Nevada to make sure we’re prioritizing those, that we’re supporting those even at the state level.
I would anticipate that will continue to happen. I’m really proud of the progress we’ve already been able to make in those areas.
(Editor's note: Cannizzaro's Republican opponent, April Becker, was invited on but declined, citing schedule conflicts.)
Nicole Cannizzaro, majority leader, Nevada state Senate
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