State Democrats Lay Out "Nevada Blueprint"
More than three dozen Senate and Assembly Democrats gathered in the Legislative Building to outline their priorities for the rest of the session.
More than three dozen Senate and Assembly Democrats gathered in the Legislative Building to outline their priorities for the rest of the session. Their focuses are improving education, security for families and seniors, access to colleges and technical schools, and diversifying the economy.
"When we talk about equal pay for equal work, we're having it everywhere," Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas said. "When we talk about affordable child care, we're having that everywhere. When we talk about criminal justice, we're hearing that everywhere."
Those are some of the items of focus for the Senate Majority Leader and the democratic caucus. Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson says it is time for the government to work for everyone.
"In the past, the government has been too focused on helping the rich and powerful get more rich and more powerful, but it's time that we start to help working people again," Frierson, D-Las Vegas said.
The Democrats' plan for education is to provide more funding through a tax on marijuana. Governor Brian Sandoval has called for a 10 percent excise tax on the drug. They also want to repeal laws that emphasize test results, hoping to focus more on learning. Curriculum could include financial literacy and training for high-tech jobs. Expansion of public magnet schools and the enacting of a sales tax holiday for school supplies could also be in the works.
"We're focused on ensuring that everybody in our state has access to a free and appropriate public education," Ford said.
While Ford emphasized that school choice should be public, Republicans are still hoping to find a resolution to Education Savings Accounts, which allow parents to use tax money to send their children to private schools.
"School choice is part of Nevada's policy. It's in the law," Assemblyman Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas "We certainly had some funding mechanisms that need to be tweaked and I think that's what we're here to accomplish."
Republicans remain focused on school choice, but also want to increase transparency and accountability for education spending, recruit and retain the best teachers to help continue education programs, and bolster the higher education gap through expanding access and investments. Senator Ben Kieckhefer said he wants to offer scholarships to low-income students who attend school full-time, rather than part-time students who are less likely to graduate.
"3.5 percent graduation rate if you're taking fewer than 12 credits in our community colleges," Kieckhefer, R-Reno said. "We shouldn't be focusing our money on such a low return on investments. Things like free community college in this sort of Bernie Sanders mantra is not going to work here, in Nevada."
Economic growth continues to be a driving factor at the legislature. Republicans say they are committed to infrastructure improvements, advancing solutions to incentivize job creation and training people for the high-quality, high-paying jobs, and attracting new businesses with a friendly tax structure. Anderson says the plan is to continue down the path and build on the policies that were passed in the last session.
"We're seeing record high weekly wages, record job growth, even our starting salaries are at record levels," Anderson said. "So, I think we don't want to put any obstacles to economic development."
Democrats say they want to give Nevada companies the first opportunity for state contracts, provide small-business loans, offer tax credits for employers who help cover child care costs for their employees, and hold companies accountable when they accept tax incentives.
Both parties have plans that focus on security and safety for Nevada families and health care.