This is one in a series of profiles of legislative newcomers.
ASSEMBLYMAN ALEXANDER ASSEFA
- Freshman Democrat who succeeds former Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams, who chose not to run for re-election
- Represents District 42, which includes a slice of central Las Vegas that is west of the Strip
- District 42 is a safe Democratic district (46 percent Democratic, 24 percent Republican and 30 percent nonpartisan or other).
- Assefa defeated Kathleen Lauckner and LaDon Henry in the Democratic primary, garnering more than 55 percent of the vote and defeating Laucker by about 536 votes.
- No Republicans filed to run in the district, so Assefa was automatically elected during the midterm election in November.
- He will sit on the Government Affairs, Health and Human Services and Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining committees.
I am a former refugee from Ethiopia. Eighteen years ago I immigrated to the United States with just a bag of clothes and no money in my pocket. At the time, I spoke almost no English. Eventually, I finished high school, went to college where I became a pilot, and later earned a degree in political science.
I moved to Las Vegas in 2006 to join my brother who had already become a Nevada resident. I fell in love with the community and decided that I would make the Silver State my permanent home. Today, I am a small business owner and a very proud American. A story like mine is only possible in this amazing country we call America.
With my election to the Nevada State Assembly, I became the first Ethiopian-American to hold a public office in the United States. Nevadans sent a loud and clear message that an African immigrant who learned English as his third language can be a leader in our community. In part, the reason why I ran for public office is to give back to the nation and the state that have given me so much. Together, we have begun to chart a new path that is reflective of our beautiful diversity.
As a Nevadan, I will always advocate for an equitable and more perfect society for all of us. I will do my part to ensure that America’s awesome culture of welcoming those who are oppressed for who they are and what they believe continues to serve as a beacon of hope for freedom, liberty, and justice for all.
PERSONAL & COMMUNITY LIFE
I love snowboarding. In my very busy life, it is difficult to find time for leisurely activities. When I do, I enjoy the outdoors. This season, I hope to find some time to visit the beautiful mountains of Northern Nevada.
As part of my community activism, I always look for ways to help immigrants navigate and feel welcomed in my district, especially during this tough time for newcomers in our nation’s history.
ON NEVADA AND THE ISSUES:
What are your top three priorities for the 2019 legislative session?
I plan on pursuing ways to make our state government one that is more transparent, efficient, responsible and accountable. I will advocate for a government that serves all Nevadans, not just the wealthy and well connected.
In this session, I will be pushing for measures that will expand access to the ballot by simplifying the process so that Nevadans are not discouraged from participating in our electoral system. Throughout our history many have died for our right to vote, and that is why as a legislator I will do everything in my power to ensure that no community or individual is disenfranchised at the polls.
I will also look for ways to automatically seal the arrest records of innocent Nevadans who are wrongly arrested and whose cases are not pursued for prosecution. This would allow folks to exercise their constitutional right to restore their innocence, as well as avoid expensive court battles and burdensome paperwork.
What programs/parts of the state government could be cut? What programs/areas need more funding in 2019?
Education in our state is lagging behind at a jaw-dropping pace. We need to adequately fund our state’s public school system, explore better methodologies for delivering education, modernize traditional classroom instruction, reduce class sizes, and pay educators appropriately for the quality education we expect them to deliver.
We must also increase funding for support programs that need it. In addition, it’s equally important to have accountability measures in place to ensure that funds go to the intended programs so that we, as a state, maximize the returns on our investment. Part of that entails exploring ways to identify and prevent waste, fraud and abuse of public resources.
What specifically should Nevada do to improve health care this session?
Health care is an inherent right of all Nevadans. One of my top priorities is to expand affordable health care coverage. It makes no sense for people to go into bankruptcy as a result of medical debt following a life-altering illness. We should sit down with all parties at the table and find ways to provide quality and affordable health care in our state.
Should Nevada raise its Renewable Portfolio Standard to 100 percent by 2050? If not, what should the state’s RPS compliance standard be?
In the last election, voters told us that we need to get to 50 percent RPS by 2030. The Legislature should provide ways to meet that standard set by the people. Our state enjoys sunshine for 12 months out of the year, so we ought to be the leader in renewable energy in the country.
Do you support modifying or eliminating current property tax caps in state law?
I hope to work together with my colleagues to explore ways that we can make government more efficient. I believe our primary goals should be to ensure that our government is using its current funding levels appropriately as well as find opportunities to save money and redirect funds wherever possible.
Are there any particular issues on which you see yourself working across party lines? If so, which ones? If not, why not?
Our system of government is designed to function when both sides come to the table and produce practical policies that advance the collective interests of the people. In 2017, the Assembly overwhelmingly demonstrated that bipartisanship. I am confident that we can continue that cooperative framework in the 2019 legislative session. I am very sure that we will find common ground in improving education, reforming the criminal justice system and providing affordable health care coverage.