The Nevada Independent

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The Nevada Independent

Now the work begins

Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka

On his first day as speaker of the Assembly, Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) presided over a chamber with 14 new members — a body so full of fresh faces that the average experience per lawmaker was just 2.6 years.

Across the hallway, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) also lauded the diversity of the state’s Legislature.

For the third session in a row, more than half of all legislators are women. The ethnic, age and religious makeup of the Legislature is “beginning to reflect a lot more of what Nevada looks like,” Cannizzaro said, noting that the minority and majority top leadership positions in the state Senate are held by women for the first time in legislative history.

Cannizzaro and Yeager now lead a Senate and Assembly at odds — at least by party — with the governor’s office for the first time since 2017. 

Still, Yeager, elected unanimously and without drama (unlike some congressional speakers we know), cast the legislative session to come as one that ought to be defined by compromise. 

It was a message echoed by fellow legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle: Assembly Majority Leader Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas) and Assembly Minority Leader P.K. O’Neill (R-Carson City) in the Assembly, Cannizzaro and Minority Leader Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) in the Senate. Cannizzaro and Seevers Gansert even touted co-sponsoring a bill, SB89, that would tighten parts of the state’s sex trafficking law.

“It's a very strong example of bipartisanship,” Seevers Gansert said. “Partisan politics has its place but the campaign season is over and now it's time for us to govern together as Nevadans.”

Yeager, in his speech, minimized partisanship, calling for fewer “keyboard warriors” and more actual “warriors.” 

But so, too, did he tout a litany of Democratic policy wins from 2021 — including the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan for K-12 schools, a revamped version of the state’s antiquated school funding system. Spending through the formula is on track to rise by $2 billion in the next two years — something that has become a keystone of Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo’s proposed budget. 

Yeager also highlighted Democratic priorities for the session: sweeping investments in education, including $250 million more to education than Lombardo proposed to help provide pay increases for teachers, as well as pay raises for state employees, investments in mental health care and resources to address the “looming eviction crisis.”

Cannizzaro’s speech tread similar ground. As she described bipartisan compromise as something that is “not going to be easy” but also “must be done,” she also emphasized the need to focus on increasing educational opportunities, investing in the next generation, ensuring affordable and accessible health care and supporting small businesses.

Amid Monday’s festivities and nonpartisan well wishes — a day steeped in ceremony, with much of the day filled with lawmakers introducing their families on the floor — it was those issues that hung in the background as caucuses and interest groups also sought to draw the lines of policy battles in advance of the meat of the 82nd session. 

“These last few years have been difficult for so many Nevadans,” Cannizzaro said. “It is our duty to continue to serve those Nevadans and make sure that we are delivering for them real solutions that make their lives better.”

No more remote voting 

It was a staple in the 2021 session, as pandemic-era restrictions affected typical legislative proceedings, but will it make a return in 2023? Lawmakers are largely doing away with it this year.

Though newly approved legislative rules remove most of last session’s rules related to “remote-technology systems,” a new rule carves out a way for such systems to be used under “exceptional circumstances” and only if approved by leadership.

Speaker Steve Yeager said Monday afternoon that the body expects to have members present at votes, but the remote voting provision could be used in extreme situations, such as a lawmaker having a death in their family.

The new rules also exclude a pair of emergency provisions from the last session that required members to wear face coverings and monitor their own health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2023 Legislature. Sign up for the newsletter here.


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