Dear Constituents, Supporters and Friends,
Over the past few sessions, I have tracked the percentage of votes that passed unanimously or with bipartisan support to see if headlines about the most divided country in recent history hold true for the work the 63 of us do in the legislature. On average 55-60% of bills pass unanimously and 90-95% pass with some measure of bipartisan support.
According to a recent analysis by the Nevada Independent, this session appears to be no different with 53% of bills passed unanimously and 92% garnering bipartisan support. However, it is important to note that legislators in the majority party had 63 percent of their bills and resolutions pass out of the Legislature, compared to just 18 percent for Republicans. There has also been an increasing trend of national agendas and policies making their way into our battle born state. I was proud to serve with our Assembly Caucus Leadership Team alongside Dr. Robin Titus and Tom Roberts and many of my thoughtful colleagues to navigate this session’s dynamics successfully through a diversity of viewpoints and strategic responses to the challenges we faced.
Like every session, there were some good and some bad bills, some compromises and some partisan digging in, particularly on legislation that impacts businesses, healthcare and elections. As with any issue these days there is ample information, misinformation and sometimes disinformation so, if you have any questions about a particular bill or vote, I will provide you the most accurate information I have available and direct you to primary sources so you can evaluate the legislation for yourself. To review all bills, reports, budgets, votes, or to watch committee meetings and floor sessions, go to: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/81st2021
Of the 6 bills I introduced, 4 passed through both houses with broad bipartisan support and were signed into law.
Public Safety: Cracking Down on Sex Traffickers
AB182 – Over the past three sessions, I have been so grateful to pass legislation that helps victims, reduces demand and penalizes traffickers. This bill strengthens AB166 from last session to help police protect victims and crack down on individuals using their businesses as a front for sex trafficking. Many thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Washoe County Sex Trafficking HEAT team, Las Vegas Metro Police, Washoe and Clark County District Attorney’s, Awaken, the Attorney General’s office, NV Truckers Association, Cosmetology and Massage Boards, the Retail Association and the Nevada Resorts Association.
Education: Expanding our Teaching Workforce
AB225 – About 2 years ago, I ran into an old acquaintance who had been successfully substitute teaching for 2 years. He was an honors student in a masters degree program but, due to a slight learning disability which had no bearing on his teaching abilities, he could not receive his license. After I reached out to the Department of Education, they worked with him on an appropriate accommodation and now he is not only helping meet our teacher shortage demands, he has become an inspiration to his students as well.
Although 28% of Nevadans have a disability of some sort and there is ample research about the effectiveness of teachers with disabilities, only 1% of the teaching profession is representative of this population, leaving many of our students without these inspirational role models who demonstrate obstacles can be overcome with the right attitude, effort and accommodations. This bill establishes a process for the Department of Education to find accommodations where appropriate and deemed necessary to reduce barriers for able and willing future educators.
Mental Health: Protecting Patient Privacy
AB366 – This bill was brought to me by the Psychology Board as a necessary fix due to recent regulation changes. AB366 protects patient privacy in certain mental healthcare circumstances by excluding video recordings used for supervisory purposes from permanent medical record keeping requirements.
Mental Health: Addiction and Substance Use Prevention and Treatment
AB374 – According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Nevada has seen a 50% increase in opioid and fentanyl-involved drug overdose deaths since the onset of the pandemic. Like many families across Nevada, we have experienced the loss of a loved one to a drug overdose. No family should have to face this preventable and treatable situation and a better coordinated effort is much needed since Governor Sandoval’s Opioid Task Force ended. AB374 establishes the Statewide Substance Use Response Working Group to increase collaboration between state and local agencies to implement evidence based strategies for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery.
In Other News… K-12 Education Funding!
In addition to my job as a lawmaker, I am also tasked with being a decisionmaker. One of the biggest decisions we were faced with this session brought me back to the whole reason I got involved with the legislature in the first place: Education.
Ten years ago, I entered the Legislature as a citizen advocate for education funding and reforms. We were at or near the bottom in the nation in every category from math and reading scores to graduation rates and chance for success in life.
Although significant investments in programs like Read by Three, Zoom and Victory Schools over the years has yielded demonstrative results, our state is still 27% below the national per pupil funding average and, after a year of unprecedented challenges for our teachers and students, we have a long way to go if we want to see a future Nevada that is economically diverse, stable, and prosperous.
This session we took several historic steps toward supporting every student in every school across our state.
The Nevada Mining Association wanted our support for the new revenue stream, in part because ballot questions from the 31st Special Session (which have been polling at 85% in favor) were going to move forward in 2022 unless a compromise was met. The ballot measures would have devastated several rural communities and caused some mining operations to shut down causing massive job lay-offs.
In SUPPORT of the Mining Tax, the President of the Mining Association made the following statement about AB495:
The new dedicated education revenue and some additional parts of the deal included increased funding for:
Opportunity Scholarships for School Choice Programs for Low Income Kids
Charter School Funding
Additional Legislative Wins:
For the school choice community and advocates, these efforts were enthusiastically supported.
For those of you who have been with me since this journey began in 2010 when I started advocating for education, you know how important these historic steps are. Combined, we invested $1 billion into much needed funding for our students. It is critical our state remains accountable to successful student outcomes if we want to see real progress nationally. Although there is more work to be done with education funding and reforms, I could not be prouder of this moment in our legislative history. The Mining Industry came forward in support of AB495 with the assurance small and medium sized mines, jobs and the rural communities who rely on this critical economic driver in our state will remain intact.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve for such a time as this and to join many others who have worked tirelessly over the decades to improve the quality of our state and the outlook for our kids, our workforce and our economy.
We still have a busy year ahead of us with interim committees, the work of distributing funds from the American Rescue Plan and the important task of redistricting after we receive the final 2020 census data. I will continue to serve on the Interim Finance Committee, the Education Committee, the newly formed Substance Use Response Working Group, the Northern Nevada Sex Trafficking Task Force on top of my teaching schedule at UNR and the National Judicial College and my other personal and professional commitments.
As always, I am grateful for your input, support, and friendship. It is an honor to serve the great state of Nevada and my constituents in Assembly District 25.
Jill Tolles, Assembly District 25