By Jason Frierson
Nevadans are embodied with a pioneer spirit. We were, after all, battle born in 1864, inheriting crushing territorial debt, and facing war as a nation. Yet, we persevered and stood up a strong state. Faced with the most devastating global crisis in a century, we now begin the work to stand strong once again.
Governors have the unenviable task of making tough decisions. Nevada’s first governor, H.G. Blasdel, said in the first State of the State address: “…of a new State is devolved a responsibility demanding the exercise of the most patient research, and the soundest discretion.”
I supported Gov. Sisolak’s decision to issue a stay-at-home order, as it represented patient research and sound discretion. At the governor’s direction, we have stayed home for Nevada and it has paid off. We have flattened the curve and are entering Phase 1 of Nevada’s reopening.
The Nevada Legislature has been a valuable partner in moving our state forward in this time of crisis. Collectively, the Assembly Democratic Caucus reached out to those in need, delivering food and supplies to the doorsteps of vulnerable families.
We have donated thousands of meals to medical workers at hospitals and nursing homes statewide. We’ve conducted virtual town halls and answered thousands of constituent questions, connecting them with the information they need. We have worked with our partners in the federal delegation pushing for more equitable aid to our state and small business owners. And recently, I signed on with other state legislative leaders around the country to push for more federal aid to help close the holes that are gaping wide in our state budget.
Moving forward, the Legislature will also have the unenviable task of assessing our state’s financial outlook. We must put an infrastructure in place to be able to better work with public/private partnerships to ensure the delivery of crucial services. We must be better prepared to seek, receive and utilize federal dollars. We must give local governments flexibility to meet the needs of their community.
We are presently gathering data and revenue projections to better guide us in coming months. Without question, there are tough decisions to be made. We must remain committed to making decisions in ways that reflect our shared values.
All of these things have been made easier to accomplish with the Governor’s Local Empowerment Advisory Panel (LEAP) and local governments are already creating transitions for their communities going into Phase 1. In no uncertain terms, we must make sure we are better able to process unemployment insurance claims and provide timely relief to those who need it most. To those of you still experiencing frustration with the DETR system, we hear you and we are committed to ensuring you get the financial assistance you need and deserve.
The work ahead is going to be a long road but we must do it together. As speaker, I have always extended an olive branch across the aisle in order to find common ground. Real leadership is forged in a time of crisis and we must put Nevada and her citizens above political rhetoric.
As leaders and statesmen and women, we must remember that we should not only look for common ground during a crisis. As leaders, it is our responsibility to do so all the time.
I am proud to lead the most diverse legislature in the country.
Our members represent people from all walks of life, fighting for the well-being of our entire state. With an economy built on service and people of color making up a significant portion of those industries, Nevadans have had the double whammy of both being exposed to the virus as well as laid off indefinitely. We also recognize the ruthless attack this pandemic has leveraged upon communities of color, and we must confront the disparities the COVID-19 crisis has exposed head-on with data driven recommendations.
The Nevada Legislature stands at the ready, doing the work needed to come out of this pandemic together. Already we have taken steps in the 2019 legislative session that we can build upon, including prohibiting employers from requiring employees from reporting to work to verify an illness, passing paid family leave, banning surprise emergency room billing, and creating a Patient Protection Commission.
We will get through this crisis, but to emerge stronger than ever, it has never been more important to act as one Nevada, as we have at so many critical junctures in the past. We are battle born and together is the only way forward.
Jason Frierson, a Democrat, is the speaker of the Assembly.