This year, the Nevada legislature became the first in the country where women are the majority. Thirty-three of its 63 members are women. And 80% of these women are Democrats.
Democrats have held a majority in the legislature since 2017. Legislative sessions, held only in odd-numbered years, last into June. So what has this crew of lefties been up to?
To start with, election reform.
Several bills would bring Nevada’s laws in line with Idaho’s. Two would allow same-day registration and limit the number of days on which local elections can be held. Another would require that election officials verify every name on recall petitions rather than just spot-checking them.
Legislators are also considering a variety of other changes. One bill would have Nevada join 16 other states that allow teens who will be 18 by the general election to vote in primaries. A second would restore voting rights to felons who are no longer incarcerated, allowing them to vote during probation and parole. Others would implement a voter initiative for automatic voter registration, allow continuous absentee ballots and increase the number of sites where absentee ballots can be turned in (data from Daily Kos Elections).
Still lacking, however, is a bill to initiate a bipartisan reapportionment commission. Currently, the legislature maps congressional and legislative districts with the approval of the governor. In 2012, the governor vetoed the legislature’s efforts, and a court appointed an independent commission. Neither Republicans nor Democrats in power since have sought to make an independent commission permanent.
Democrats have also proposed an increase in the minimum wage. The current minimum is $7.25 if health benefits are provided and $8.25 if they are not. AB456 would raise the minimums to $11 and $12 by adding 75 cents an hour annually over the next five years. Many Republicans seem glad to avoid phasing in a $15 minimum wage; eight other Democratic states are doing so. Only one, however, started with wages as low as Nevada’s.
And women’s issues are getting more attention in Nevada. A May 17 article in the Washington Post stated, “More than 17 pending bills deal with sexual assault, sex trafficking and sexual misconduct, with some measures aimed at making it easier to prosecute offenders.” One bill would remove any time limit for prosecuting rape if there is DNA evidence.
In general, however, the Nevada legislature seems to be carving a middle course killing bills to ban capital punishment as well as ones to allow concealed carry without a permit.
Women who’ve served in the legislature for some time, however, told the Washington Post they are seeing a major change in attitudes among legislators. Men who ridiculed women’s concerns in the past are listening now. And no one is asking an assemblywoman if she’s “been a good girl today.”
A “loosely coordinated campaign of political action groups and women’s rights organizations” has been recruiting and training women candidates in Nevada.
Emerge Nevada has been active among Democrats for 12 years. Twenty-four officeholders are alumnae, including 12 members of the legislature. Its website currently offers an “in-depth, six-month, 70-hour training program.” Meeting one weekend a month, classes introduce women to an array of office holders and cover topics such as campaign strategy and media and messaging.
Emerge America now exists in 28 states but not Idaho. Maybe one day?
Idaho does, however, have dynamic office holders willing to act as mentors and campaigns that welcome trainees.
Women — and men — who are considering running for office in 2020 might start their own step-by-step study now and have a campaign ready to go when filing starts in February.