“There’s change in this building that is just this amazing story of transformation. And it really highlights the importance of the female majority being not just here, but finally being heard.” Nevada Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, D-Las Vegas
In 2018, Nevada voters made history by voting in the first majority-female state legislature. “Historically, state legislatures have been stubborn, slow-to-change institutions, which were heavily male-dominated,” said Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
“Along with the gender shift has come a steady increase in racial diversity: Of 63 lawmakers in Nevada, 11 are African American, nine are Hispanic, one is Native American and one, Rochelle Thuy Nguyen (D), 41, is the legislature’s first Democratic female Asian American Pacific Islander.” (Washington Post, May 17, 2019)
This change in the composition of the state legislature affected the types of bills being considered and passed. Healthcare and education were at the top of the list.
AB169, sponsored by Democrats, established a statewide Maternal Mortality Review Committee. Nevada’s maternal mortality rate is lower than the national average, but the U.S. as a whole has the worst maternal mortality rate among developed nations. This committee will track deaths among pregnant woman, so the causes can be investigated and resolved.
Another bill signed into law was SB179, called the Trust Nevada Women Act. This law decriminalizes abortion and removes the law requiring a doctor to ask a woman’s marital status before performing an abortion. In 1990, voters approved Question 7, which protected abortion rights. SB179 eliminated certain remaining restrictions.
Nevadans with pre-existing conditions will be protected by AB170, which codified the Affordable Care Act’s protections into state law, meaning that whatever happens with the federal law, 1.2 million Nevadans with pre-existing conditions are protected. Another protection was established with AB469, which will prevent out-of-network providers from charging patients more than they would pay in-network, in an emergency.
To protect Nevadans’ health care in the future, SB544 created an 11-member Patient Protection Commission, fulfilling a pledge made by Gov. Steve Sisolak. This commission will review prescription drug prices, the availability of insurance, and the impact of federal changes to health care, among other things. SCR10, adopted by both houses, directed the Legislature to create a study on “the feasibility, viability and design of a public healthcare insurance plan that may be offered to all residents of this state.”
Education funding was a huge issue this session. SB551 created a permanent revenue stream for public education. It provided for $72 million for teacher pay raises plus tens of millions for school safety. It also removed the Education Savings Accounts from Nevada law; this law was giving public money to private schools. On a side note, Gov. Sisolak has been donating his entire salary to Nevada public schools, as he promised when he ran for office.
Renewable energy was promoted in this session. SB358 establishes the 50 percent renewable standard by 2030, something Nevada voters approved in 2018. AB465 expanded solar access for low-income communities, which benefits all of us.
A bill which will affect Fallon’s city elections was AB50. This law moves municipal elections to even-numbered years, saving money and resources, and possibly increasing voter turnout.
SB143 passed, establishing a law passed by Nevada voters in 2016. This law provides for universal background checks on all gun purchases, with some exceptions for family members, etc. On a personal note, I’ve heard anti-gun control advocates say a law like this hurts law-abiding gun owners. My question: How do you know someone is law-abiding without doing a background check? I’ve never received an answer.
AB291 also passed, banning bump stocks and making it a misdemeanor for someone to leave guns lying around where children can get hold of them. It also includes a “red flag” provision, which allows a court to take away someone’s guns if that person presents a threat to themselves or others.
A criminal justice reform bill, AB236, passed almost unanimously, with just two Republicans voting against it. The basic idea was to decrease prison population by reducing penalties for certain non-violent crimes and expanding eligibility for probation. AB431 restores full voting rights to felons upon their release from prison, helping them to assimilate back into society.
A total of 582 bills were passed this session, without the need for a costly special session. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard. These laws will make our state healthier, safer, and a better place to live for all of us.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com.