My Experience at the Legislature

antonio-dems
Antonio (left) and Joko Cailles at the Reno Women’s March in 2017.

By Antonio Gonzalez

Back in November I remember watching the election results in fear and despair. I was watching good people like Jason Frieson (which was extremely surprising seeing him lose) and Skip Daly go down in defeat and thinking that the 78th session would be a devastating session for many Nevadans including myself. However this also motivated me to get more involved in order to try to get some good things done and to prevent very bad legislation from getting passed. Thankfully I found out that the good people of Washoe Dems were encouraging folks to create citizen lobby groups to advocate for those who we had anticipated would be negatively affected by the legislation that the Republicans were planning to propose. I decided to get involved with the education group because of how important this issue was going to be with the lack of funding and the threat of vouchers and also I got involved with the gun group due to the threat of bad gun violence policy including campus carry.

While in the first month I was not able to be too involved due to my time constraints with my semester and work, I was paying very close attention to what was going on with campus carry and how as Governor Sandoval promised in his State of the State speech, how the legislature was going to fund education and how Sandoval would get other Republicans to vote to raise and impose new taxes. One day after I finished a shift at work, I called Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez Thompson to see if I can sit on the floor with her. With my time and work easing off I had the privilege to see up close what was going on and also had a chance to meet with other legislators. From that day on my motivation on getting involved and to influence my elected officials only got higher. The breaking point however was on Latino Lobby Day. Senator Ruben Kihuen and Senator Ben Kieckhefer talked about a bill that I felt a personal connection with and that I thought would do a lot of good for students in the state. Considering that I had to drop out for 4 years I didn’t want to see students have to go through the same situation that I had to go through and I felt personally that it would help me. SB227 which was the Silver State Opportunity Grant program, would help pay students for their tuition if they come from a lower income families. That way they wouldn’t be required to work 40 or more hours a week. After that day I decided to personally lobby for this bill and to do everything that I could to make sure that this bill would pass. While unfortunately I was unable to get in touch with my Senator, who is Greg Brower, I managed to talked to other legislators like my Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez Thompson, Assemblywoman Amber Joiner, Senator Ben Kieckhefer to thank him and even Republican Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman. Also not only did I get people from the TMCC student government to get involved but I had the chance to testify for this bill in the Assembly Education Committee with one of the main Deans from TMCC Kyle Dalpe. This opportunity would not had been possible if it wasn’t for Senator Ruben Kihuen who encouraged and motivated me to testified. At the second to last day of the session the Assembly passed SB227 and I had the privilege of being at the signing. Something that I will never forget.

While not everything was perfect, after all the most overreaching voucher of the nation is now law and stand your ground was expanded, there were also some victories. Voting restrictions died, there will be no guns at colleges and education will finally be funded. I also learned that I can have an impact in my government. After all doing my part in passing an important program with the help of TMCC is a huge deal. This experience will help me a lot in the long term. And it is not an experience I will ever forget.

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