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Lawmakers elect caucus leaders, who will have major influence on direction of 2019 session

Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels
Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
Legislature
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Republican and Democratic caucuses in the Senate and the Assembly selected the lawmakers who will lead an increasingly Democratic Legislature in the 2019 session.

Las Vegas Democrat Jason Frierson will continue to serve as speaker of the Assembly, while Las Vegas Democrat Kelvin Atkinson will assume the role of Senate majority leader following votes among lawmakers on Wednesday night. Minden-area Assemblyman Jim Wheeler will continue to lead the Republicans in the Assembly and Minden-area Sen. James Settelmeyer will lead Republicans in the minority in both chambers.

“Voters across the state sent a clear message last night. They voted to expand the Democratic majority in the state Senate,” said Atkinson, a longtime lawmaker who noted in his press release that he will be the first openly gay African-American state Senate majority leader in the country. We have a long track record of fighting for working families and that is exactly what we will continue to do.”

Settelmeyer sounded an upbeat note even though a Democrat will be taking the role of Nevada governor for the first time in two decades, leaving Republicans without a veto backstop from a deeply Democratic Legislature.

“Senate Republicans look forward to working with our colleagues in the Assembly and Governor-elect Steve Sisolak to continue creating positive results for our state,” Settelmeyer said. “I am honored to lead our caucus and look forward to a productive session.”

Wheeler, who has served as the Republican leader in the Assembly since Assemblyman Paul Anderson resigned to take a post leading the Governor’s Office of Economic Development last year, was positive about his ability to work across the aisle with Democrats, who hold a two-thirds supermajority.

“I am also thankful to my Republican colleagues for once again electing me as leader of the Assembly Republican Caucus,” Wheeler said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my friends across the aisle to continue to move Nevada forward.”

Frierson did not issue a statement after his position as speaker was affirmed. The Assembly Democratic caucus’ executive director Paul Selberg said in an email that Frierson retained the position by acclamation.

The top-ranking lawmakers hold great sway over the activity of the Legislature, with power to appoint their colleagues to committee chairmanships that in turn have power to kill or preserve bills. Caucus leaders also do much of the negotiating with the governor’s office that leads to a final budget.

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