weather icon Clear

2019 Legislature: Nevada Democrats don’t want to abuse supermajority

CARSON CITY — With a near-supermajority in the Legislature and control of the governor’s office, Democrats hold nearly all the cards as the 2019 Legislative session begins Monday.

But Democratic leaders say they don’t plan to employ the sort of full-court progressive push that some might expect.

“I do believe we’ll have to do a yeoman’s job to temper some of our allies,” Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, D-Las Vegas, told the Review-Journal on Friday. “Some have this mentality that we have all three chambers, so let’s go after everything we haven’t been able to do in the last 25 years.

“I don’t think that’s good.”

The agenda and budget laid out by Gov. Steve Sisolak — who became the first Democratic governor in the state in two decades — reflects a bold progressive shift that could change Nevada.


Democrats tried to pass collective bargaining, workers’ rights and criminal justice reforms in 2017, when they also controlled both chambers of the lawmaking body, but many of their proposals were met by the veto pen of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Many of those measures are expected to return this time around, only to a more sympathetic ear. That includes the likes of collective bargaining for state workers and a minimum wage increase, concepts that Sisolak announced his support for during his State of the State address last month.

Also expect early movement on gun control measures, as Democrats push to find a fix to the background checks initiative approved by Nevada voters in 2016 but deemed to be not enforceable as written.

But in terms of top priorities, health care and education rank at the top for Democrats, said Assembly Floor Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno.

Part of the education push includes remedying what happened to the IP1 room tax increase, which was supposed to increase education funding but was instead diverted to the state’s general fund during the Great Recession.

And health care, she said, must be affordable, which includes a bill to help patients who are hit with what Benitez-Thompson called “surprise bills.”

Those could be bills that come after a doctor or hospital visit only to find out they were out of network or that a certain part of the procedure wasn’t covered by insurance.

“We’re really committed to protecting people who get caught in the middle,” Benitez-Thompson said.

Sisolak’s proposed budget calls for significant funding increases for health care and education. To pay for that, in part, he wants to keep some taxes that were either set to go down or expire. Republicans believe that a two-thirds vote in both chambers would be required to maintain those taxes, and since Democrats are one seat shy of that supermajority in the Senate, Republicans feel like they have power to negotiate.

Atkinson, however, said that he believes extending taxes requires only a simple majority, and said he expects that debate to happen early in the session.

“That’s not a new tax to me,” Atkinson said, who added that he had not spoken with Republican leaders about the issue as of Friday.

Managing power

Atkinson was on the other side of the trifecta power when Republicans controlled the Senate, Assembly and governor’s office in 2015, and watched the backlash against the Republicans’ efforts to curb collective bargaining and reform public employee retirement.

Because of that, Atkinson wants Democrats to work with colleagues across the aisle. To that extent, he says he plans to do away with a 2015 rule change that prevented the minority party from introducing amendments on the Senate floor.

“They went for broke in 2015. A lot of it backfired,” Atkinson said of the 2015 Republicans. “We’re trying our best to not go down that route, trying our best to implement new policies that are fair and equitable for all sides.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Sisolak signs public records reform bill into law

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill that strengthens Nevada’s public records law, making it easier and cheaper for people to get public records and providing for fines if public agencies willfully flout the law.