Monday, September 19, 2011

A new school year—how you can get involved

Dear Neighbor,

A new school year has begun, with excitement and anticipation. We all have a stake in the quality of education. Good schools are key to our kids’ future and to the future of our state.

I have heard frequently from constituents—parents and teachers—that one real problem in these bad economic times is the high cost of school supplies. Parents without a job or with other financial problems may find it difficult to purchase everything their children need for school. Teachers are buying supplies for their students out of their own pockets.

Last month, I partnered with several community organizations to host a “Back to School Fair,” where families could get free backpacks and school supplies. It was a great time and very well attended. We were able to give out over 500 backpacks to students in our community.

All students benefit from family involvement in their education. Sometimes it is hard for a parent, grandparent, or other family member to know how to best help a student they love. This past session, we passed legislation to provide our schools new resources to more effectively reach out to families.

There are plenty of ways families can get involved; below are links to several websites that are good resources. For those with children in Clark County schools, the CCSD website is particularly helpful.

Clark County School District— Click on "Parents."

Nevada State Parent Information and Resource Center (PIRC)--

Parent Teacher Association—, click on "Topics" and then on "Student Success."

Business leaders and everyone in of the community can also get involved--

Jobs and Economic Development
During the last session of the legislature, we passed several measures to help create jobs—now and for the future. These new jobs are beginning to come on line, with more to come in the next few months.

AB 144, “Nevada Jobs First,” is beginning to generate jobs and will have an immediate, positive impact on our economy. This legislation provides a bidder’s preference for businesses that hire Nevada workers and buy Nevada products. Experts say that for every dollar spent under this legislation, $1.47 will be generated back into the economy. In my next newsletter, I will provide more details on how this legislation is working.

Keeping you informed
I believe one of my most important responsibilities as an elected official is constituent outreach—to listen to your concerns and ideas and to keep you updated on legislative activities. Below is the best way to reach me.

By phone— 702-232-3892
By email—



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Friday, July 15, 2011

FYI Reforms

Education --AB 220, AB 222, AB 224, AB 225, AB 229, AB230, AB 233, SB 197:
• Extends probationary status of teachers from one to three years
• Requires—for the first time--- probationary status and evaluations of school administrators to hold principals and other school administrators accountable for their performance
• Establishes a pay-for-performance system for teachers and principals
• Makes it easier to dismiss an educator for egregious misconduct
• Establishes a Teachers and Leaders Council to reform the educator evaluation system, using a four-tier process rather than a simple satisfactory/unsatisfactory standard
• Requires reporting on number of teachers, administrators and support staff in each district and school
• Revises the criteria for decisions about layoffs of educators to include more than seniority
• Requires 50% of an educator’s evaluation to be based on student achievement
• Requires that criteria for an alternative route to license be established to broaden the scope of professionals who can be hired to teach in today’s classrooms
• Gives the governor the authority to appoint the Superintendent of Public Instruction from a list submitted by the State Board of Education, with the superintendent then reporting to the governor
• Changes the State Board of Education from a totally elected body to one in which four of the voting members are elected by congressional district and three voting members are appointed
• Gives school districts flexibility in helping students who are credit deficient to catch up and graduate, while requiring them to meet rigorous standards
• Improves parental involvement by coordinating and sharing effective strategies to better communicate with parents and engage them in their children’s education, and creates an office of parental involvement within the Department of Education
• Encourages the Nevada System of Higher Education to examine and revise programs and services on each campus to maximize cost savings and efficiencies

Jobs/Economic Development ---AB 144, AB 182, AB 183 (incorporated into SB 506), AB 449:

• Establishes a bidder’s preference for companies that hire Nevada workers and purchase materials locally to keep jobs funded with taxpayer dollars in our state
• Reorganizes Nevada’s economic development efforts to bring together existing businesses, state and local government, and higher education to attract new high-tech industries to our state
• Authorizes inland ports, geographic areas created by city or county government to accelerate the creation of new jobs and investment through an emphasis on a logistics supply chain
• Reduces the reserve required in school district bond accounts so that more funding can be used for rehabilitation of old schools, creating more construction jobs as schools are repaired.

Government Efficiency, Transparency and Accountability --AB 1, AB 240, AB 242, AB 276, AB 248, AB 404, SB 251(includes language originally in AB 474):

• Requires long-term planning by state agencies and performance-based budgeting resulting in setting of priorities, improvement of existing programs and elimination of programs not producing results
• Requires the periodic review of state boards and agencies to determine those that should be eliminated, consolidated or changed to make them work more efficiently
• Further limits the use of expensive consultants by state government and requires more accountability for all government contracts
• Provides more accountability for leasing or buying of state property
• Establishes a website on state spending
• Requires greater transparency from state agencies and boards on taxes collected and owed, tax abatements, and leases
• Requires greater accountability for spending from nonprofits that receive state spending

Health care (AB 146, AB 280)

• Improves services offered by the Consumer Health Assistance Office by authorizing the director to develop procedures for mediation of disputes between patients and health care providers
• Requires medical facilities to develop and adopt safety checklists for health care providers

Foreclosures (AB 273, AB 284)

• Protects homeowners who got their initial loan from more than one lender from deficiency judgments on the secondary lien if they are living in home and it is not an investment
• Tightens requirements for recording deeds of trust to protect homeowners from mortgage fraud

PERS (AB 405) – Authorizes an objective $500,000 study, with $250,000 paid by the state and $250,000 paid by donations from businesses. The study would only occur upon a sufficient business donation match

PEBP (AB 553) – State employees hired on or after January 1, 2011 would not be eligible for a health insurance subsidy from the state when they retire. The retirement subsidy will continue for current state employees; and the subsidy for active employees will not be affected.

Chapter 288—Collective bargaining (SB 98):
• Subjects of mandatory bargaining under 288.150 must include instances of fiscal emergency that may permit local governments to re-open contracts.
• “Supervisory employees” as defined under 288.075 (supervisors who hire and fire), civil attorneys and physicians/doctors employed by local governments cannot collectively bargain.

Bills Vetoed by the governor that we will continue to pursue

Among the 27 bills vetoed by the governor, were the following--

• to help Nevadans in jeopardy of foreclosure stay in their homes by strengthening our loan modification program (AB 300)

• to require schools in high-poverty areas to provide free school breakfasts for all students, funded by federal dollars (AB 137)

• to help Nevadans make better health care decisions by requiring more accountability from the health insurance industry for their rates and policies (AB 309)

• to require those who work with young children in licensed child care facilities to have additional training in early childhood education (AB 546)

June News Letter To My Constitutes

Dear Friend-

The 76th Nevada legislative session has now ended. We were able to conclude our business on time, with a balanced budget that prevented the very worst proposed cuts to education and essential state services. We enacted policies to spur job growth and help small businesses, reforms to education, and more transparency and accountability for state government.

Faced with the worst budget deficit in the nation with a 54% shortfall, we had no choice to make painful cuts. We were able, however, to come together—Democrats and Republicans from throughout the state—to forge a compromise budget that sustains K-12, higher education, services for our elderly and children, and other essential services.

Education ---K12 and higher education

While cuts were made, we were able to fund education—our public schools, colleges and universities-- at a substantially higher level than that originally proposed by the governor. (Can add some specifics here)

(To be customized based on which bills individual caucus members supported) We passed a package of significant reforms to improve the quality of education in our state. These reforms were developed after months of discussions with business leaders, education experts, school officials, teachers, parents and other elected officials. Our reforms--

• Establish a new Teachers and Leaders Council to improve our current educator evaluation system, using a four-tier process rather than a simple satisfactory/unsatisfactory standard.
• For the first time, include school principals and other school administrators in the evaluation process and probationary status to hold them accountable for their role in improving student achievement.
• Increase the probationary status of teachers from one to three years and require post-probationary educators to go back on probationary status if they receive two consecutive years of unsatisfactory evaluations.
• Expedite the process for dismissing educators for egregious misconduct
• Require the criteria for teacher lay-offs to include more than seniority
• Establish a pay-for-performance system to reward teachers and principals who improve student achievement.
• Require the reporting of the number of teachers, administrators and support staff in each school and district to better help us determine if there is too much bureaucracy in our education system.
• Encourage the Nevada System of Higher Education to examine and revise programs and services on each campus to maximize cost savings and efficiencies

Jobs/Economic Development

With our continuing record unemployment, nothing is more important that getting Nevadans back to work. While there have been indications of economic growth in the past few months, we took steps to immediately create jobs for Nevada workers, to help small businesses recover and to plan for a long-term restructuring of our economy so we never find ourselves in such a dire economic situation again.

• To help get Nevadans get back to work, we established a bidder’s preference for companies that hire Nevada workers and purchase materials locally. AB 144 will help keep taxpayer dollars in Nevada.

• AB 449 looks to our future economic growth by completely reorganizing Nevada’s economic development efforts to bring together existing businesses, state and local government, and higher education to attract new high-tech industries to our state.

• We allowed school districts to reduce the amount required in their bond reserve accounts so monies can be used right away for school rehab, creating construction jobs as old schools are repaired and refurbished.

• We eliminated the modified business tax on payroll for about 70% of Nevada’s small businesses.

Government Efficiency, Transparency and Accountability

We took steps to make our state government more efficient, transparent and accountable to taxpayers.

• AB 248 requires long-term planning by state agencies and implements performance based budgeting.
• SB 251 requires the review of state boards and commissions so we can consolidate for efficiency and get rid of any that are not producing results.
• AB 240 further limits the use of outside consultants and requires more accountability for all state contracts.

Health Care

We passed measures to help Nevadans make wise health care decisions to reduce the cost of medical care and ensure greater patient safety.

• AB 148 strengthens the Nevada Health Assistance Office, helping them to better arbitrate disputes between patients and health care providers.
• AB 280 requires medical facilities to establish “safety checklists” that health care providers must follow. These checklists have dramatically reduced the level of infections and other problems in hospitals in other states.


While we took steps last session to reduce the number of foreclosures in our state, too many Nevadans are still losing their homes or are in jeopardy of foreclosures, We passed legislation to further crack down on mortgage fraud and to help protect Nevadans in jeopardy of losing their home. We are disappointed that the governor vetoed a measure to help us improve our foreclosure modification program to help reduce the number of foreclosures. We will carefully monitor the progress of this critical program and will offer reforms next session.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bill advances requiring businesses to post signs on smoking

CARSON CITY – Assemblyman Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, said he saw a poster in a men’s restroom recently warning of the dangers of smoking during pregnancy.

So he doesn’t see any harm in requiring businesses that sell cigarettes to post a sign cautioning pregnant women about those same dangers.

Frierson and other Assembly members voiced their support for a bill before the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee, which approved the measure on Wednesday.

Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, the sponsor of Assembly Bill 170, said the March of Dimes is going to print 2,000 posters and distribute them to the Southern Nevada and the Washoe health districts.

The only two dissenting votes were cast by Mark Sherwood, R-Henderson, and Pete Livermore, R-Carson City. Sherwood said there were already existing remedies cautioning pregnant women about cigarette smoking.

Livermore said this was placing a “consequence” on merchants who are having a tough time keeping their stores open now.

But Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-Las Vegas, said everything should be done to prevent health problems. He said it would be better to spend a couple hundred dollars on the front end instead of several thousand dollars treating resulting medical problems.

“This will give people a heads-up,” he said.

Existing law requires restaurant and bars to post signs warning of the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. The current law requires businesses that sell tobacco products to prominently display a sign that the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to minors is prohibited by law.

At the committee hearing, a representative of the retailer industry took a neutral position on the bill, which now goes to the floor of the Assembly.