CARSON CITY — With Nevada Democrats controlling both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion, leading Republican lawmakers are acknowledging their limited power in this year’s legislative session.
But as a super minority in the Assembly, Minority Floor Leader Jim Wheeler said there’s a two-word plan for wielding influence: citizen involvement. He pointed to letter-writing campaigns, emails and peaceful demonstrations as ways for Republicans to make their voices known this session.
“We’ve seen the Democrats do this for years. And we just haven’t been very good at it, up until now. But we think in this session that’s going to change,” he said.
The Republican said he expects citizen involvement on school choice and gun control issues, along with any efforts to raise the minimum wage. Republicans will also focus on mental health and economic viability, he said.
Democrats hold a supermajority in the Assembly and a simple majority in the Senate. Gov. Steve Sisolak has laid out progressive initiatives, and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson has indicated plans to move on gun control, health care and criminal justice reform.
Frierson has also called for a ban on bump stocks, which were used in the deadly 2017 Las Vegas shooting to modify weapons and mimic the pace of a fully automatic firearm.
Nevada Sen. James Settelmeyer, who serves as minority leader, said Republican lawmakers will do their best to fight gun regulations from Democrats, but he said that some legislation could end up in court because of Second Amendment issues.
“It’s not the weapon that does this, it’s the individual, and I think we need to look at mental health,” he said.
Settelmeyer said Republicans will be on defense this legislative session and education, as always, will be a major priority for lawmakers given its size in the state budget.
It’s a topic Settelmeyer said he expects friction on, and said he hopes the debate will center on the educational results and whether students improved.
The session began on Monday with bipartisan themes in many speeches from lawmakers of both parties.
Wheeler expressed optimism about working with Sisolak, mentioning the governor has provided his cellphone number.
Wheeler also offered a word of caution to Democrats, saying the party will have to confront the consequences if legislation pulls far to the left.
“I look forward to 2020 if that happens,” he said.