State lawmakers convened this week for the beginning of the state’s 80th meeting of the Legislature in Carson City.
The session gets underway with a majority of Democrats in the state Assembly and Senate, along with holding power in the governor’s mansion.
Nevada’s first Democrat governor in two decades, Steve Sisolak, laid out his priorities for his term on his trip to the state capital from Las Vegas for an inauguration ceremony last month—many issues that could affect all Nevadans, both rural and urban.
Some of those issues include tougher gun laws, education and school safety as he passed through several spots in Nye County, including Beatty, Tonopah and other areas on his way to his inauguration last month.
A reporter from the Times-Bonanza & Goldfield News caught up with the new governor in Beatty at the Happy Burro Chili and Beer to ask about some of his platforms and how that will affect rural Nevada.
Sisolak is looking to push for tighter gun control in the state.
“The administration, we wanted to implement background checks that were supported by the vast majority of citizens in the state of Nevada that feel that everybody buying a weapon should have to go through a background check and there’s some loopholes in there for gun shows and private sales that we want to close and make it safer for everybody and have background checks,” Sisolak said.
A ballot measure that passed in 2016 carried with it a requirement to conduct a background check on private-party gun sales. The measure, however, was never implemented.
Former Nev. Gov. Brian Sandoval and former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said the measure was not enforceable. According to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, ballot measures in the state can’t be altered for the first three years after voters approve a measure; in turn, “lawmakers could rework the law after November 2019.”
Sisolak added that he was looking to ban bump stocks in the state.
“Bump stocks, there’s no reason to have a bump stock,” he said. “It’s altering the weapon, just making it rapid fire into an automatic weapon. That’s not something that’s needed, especially after what this community suffered, the state suffered in the wake of Oct. 1. It’s an important issue.”
Despite Sisolak’s call for more regulation on guns, he said he believes in the Second Amendment.
“I support the Second Amendment and the people’s right to bear arms for hunting, for collecting, for protecting themselves,” Sisolak said. “But a background check is something that’s reasonable, and a bump stock is just something people don’t need.”
“Education was our No. 1 priority during the campaign,” Sisolak said. “Unfortunately, we’re always at the bottom of every good list.”
Sisolak said, “We need to get more money into the classrooms, so the teachers are paid a decent wage so the teachers aren’t having to buy the school supplies with their own money, so there’s resources for that and that kids, all kids, regardless of their zip code or their pocketbook, their family’s pocketbook, deserve a quality education.”
The new governor went on to say, “That includes getting more money into the teachers, the teachers in the lower income schools, some of our more urban schools, deserve the same opportunities, and we need to get more experienced and mature teachers into those schools as well.”
This effort includes looking at the distributive school account (DSA) formula.
“We need to look at the DSA, which has been in place for 50 years,” Sisolak said. “It doesn’t address a lot.”
The current formula doesn’t address English Language Learners (ELL) students.
“It doesn’t address students that are on the autism spectrum, which is extremely important to me,” he said. “That students that have a disability are addressed in that and receive extra funding. It’s something that we’re going to need to expand on.”
These potential changes will help urban and rural, according to Sisolak.
“It would help everybody,” Sisolak said. “It would help students who have needs is how it would be done. All of our schools deserve the same quality education, whether you’re in Sparks, or in Beatty or you’re in Las Vegas or in Henderson or in Reno. It doesn’t make any difference. Every student should have access to quality education.”
Sisolak said school safety is a big issue, and former Gov. Brian Sandoval implemented a Statewide School Safety Task Force in 2018. The final report of the task force was done in November 2018.
“There’s the softer side of school safety, which means getting more counselors into schools that can help dealing with these kids; more advisers, getting somebody that can monitor some of the social media sites,” he said.
“But it also involves some of the hard side, which would be better video systems for the schools, better camera systems, reducing the number of access points that are in the schools, so you limit that down to as few as possible,” Sisolak said. “Then, first responders would have an immediate path once they would get there, but there’s a lot we can do on the school safety front.”
Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at firstname.lastname@example.org
At a glance
This writing is Part 2 of 2 of a series on how the face of rural Nevada could be reshaped under a new governor and a Democrat majority in the state’s Assembly and Senate. See the first portion in the Pahrump Valley Times’ Jan. 18 edition.