Nevada Senate

Nevada Senate
Nevada Legislature
Term limits
3 terms (12 years)
New session started
February 6, 2017
Mark Hutchison (R)
Since January 05, 2015
Leader of the Senate
Aaron D. Ford (D)
Since November 9, 2016
Assistant Majority Leader of the Senate
Kelvin Atkinson (D)
Since November 9, 2016
Senate Minority Leader
Since November 9, 2017
Seats 21
Political groups

Governing party

Opposition party


Length of term
4 years
Authority Article 4, Nevada Constitution
Salary $146.90/day (for the first 60 days)
per diem (for the entire session)
Last election
November 8, 2016
(10 seats)
Next election
November 6, 2018
(11 seats)
Redistricting Legislative Control
Meeting place
State Senate Chamber
Nevada State Capitol
Carson City, Nevada

The Nevada Senate is the upper house of the Nevada Legislature, the state legislature of U.S. state of Nevada. The Senate currently (2012-2021) consists of 21 members from 21 districts.[1] In the previous redistricting (2002-2011) there were 19 districts, two of which were multimember. Each senator represented approximately 128,598 as of the 2010 census. Article Four of The Nevada Constitution sets that Senators serve staggered four-year terms.[2] In addition, the size of the Senate is set to be no less than one-third and no greater than one-half of the size of the Assembly.[3] Term limits, limiting senators to three 4-year terms (12 years), took effect in 2010. Because of the change in Constitution, seven senators were termed out in 2010, four were termed out in 2012, and one is to be termed out in 2014. The Senate met at the Nevada State Capitol in Carson City until 1971, when a separate Legislative Building was constructed south of the Capitol. The Legislative Building was expanded in 1997 to its current appearance to accommodate the growing Legislature.


Boom and Bust Era 1861-1918

The first session of the Nevada Territorial Legislature was held in 1861. The Council was the precursor to the current Senate and the opposite chamber was called a House of Representatives which was later changed to be called the Assembly. There were nine members of the original Council in 1861 elected from districts as counties were not yet established.[4] Counties were established in the First Session of the Territorial Legislature and the size of the Council was increased to thirteen. From the first session of the Nevada Legislature once statehood was granted the size of the Senate ranged from eighteen members, in 1864, to a low of fifteen members from 1891 through 1899, and a high of twenty-five members from 1875 through 1879.[5]

Little Federalism Era 1919-1966

In 1919 the Senate started a practice called "Little Federalism," where each county received one member of the Nevada Senate regardless of population of said county. This set the Senate membership at seventeen which lasted until 1965-1967. The Supreme Court of the United States issued the opinion in Baker v. Carr in 1962 which found that the redistricting of state legislative districts are not a political questions, and thus is justiciable by the federal courts. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Reynolds v. Sims and struck down state senate inequality, basing their decision on the principle of "one person, one vote." With those two cases being decided on a national level, Nevada Assemblywoman Flora Dungan and Las Vegas resident Clare W. Woodbury, M.D. filed suit in 1965 with the Nevada District Court arguing that Nevada's Senate districts violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and lacked of fair representation and proportional districts. At the time, less than 8 percent of the population of the State of Nevada controlled more than 50 percent of the Senate. The District Court found that both the Senate and the Assembly apportionment laws were "invidiously discriminatory, being based upon no constitutionally valid policy.[6]" It was ordered that Governor Grant Sawyer call a Special Session to submit a constitutionally valid reapportionment plan.[7] The 11th Special Session lasted from October 25, 1965 through November 13, 1965 and a plan was adopted to increase the size of the Senate from 17 to 20.

Modern Era 1967-present

The first election after the judicial intervention and newly adopted apportionment law was 1966 and its subsequent legislature consisted of 40 members from the Assembly and 20 members from the Senate. Nine incumbent Senators from 1965 were not present in the legislature in 1967.[8] In the 1981 Legislative Session the size of the Senate was increased to twenty-one because of the population growth in Clark County. Following the 2008 election, Democrats took control of the Nevada Senate for the first time since 1991. In January 2011, Senator William Raggio resigned after 38 years of service.[9] On January 18, 2011 the Washoe County Commission selected former member of the Nevada Assembly and former United States Attorney Gregory Brower to fill the vacancy and remainder of the term of Senator William Raggio. After the 76th Session and the decennial redistricting the boundary changes and demographic profiles of the districts prompted a resignation of Senator Sheila Leslie, in February 2012, and she announced her intention to run against Sen. Greg Brower in 2012.[10] Later in February 2012, citing personal reasons, Senator Elizabeth Halseth resigned her suburban/rural Clark County seat.[11]

Legislative Session Party
(Shading indicates majority caucus)
Democratic Republican
62nd Legislative Session, 1967 11 9 20
63rd Legislative Session, 1969 11 9 20
56th Legislative Session, 1971 13 7 20
57th Legislative Session, 1973 14 6 20
58th Legislative Session, 1975 17 3 20
59th Legislative Session, 1977 17 3 20
60th Legislative Session, 1979 15 5 20
61st Legislative Session, 1981 15 5 20
62nd Legislative Session, 1983 17 4 21
63rd Legislative Session, 1985 13 8 21
64th Legislative Session, 1987 9 12 21
65th Legislative Session, 1989 8 13 21
66th Legislative Session, 1991 11 10 21
67th Legislative Session, 1993 10 11 21
68th Legislative Session, 1995 8 13 21
69th Legislative Session, 1997 9 12 21
70th Legislative Session, 1999 9 12 21
71st Legislative Session,2001 9 12 21
72nd Legislative Session, 2003 8 13 21
73rd Legislative Session, 2005 10 11 21
74th Legislative Session, 2007 10 11 21
75th Legislative Session, 2009 12 9 21
76th Legislative Session, 2011 11 10 21
77th Legislative Session, 2013 11 10 21
78th Legislative Session, 2015 10 11 21
79th Legislative Session, 2017 12 9 21
Latest voting share 57.1% 42.9%

Current session

Affiliation Party
(Shading indicates majority caucus)
Democratic NP Republican Vacant
Begin 2014 10 0 11 21 0
End 2016
November 9, 2016[12] 11 0 10 21 0
November 14, 2016[13] 1 9
November 2016[14] 10 20 1
Latest voting share 55% 45%

Historical Activity of Political Parties

Socialist Party of America Silver Party People's Party (United States) Republican Party National Union Party (United States) Democratic Party

† no Democrats served in the 1893 and 1899 Legislative Sessions

Composition and Leadership of the 79th Legislative session

Presiding over the Senate

The President of the Senate is the body's highest officer, although they only vote in the case of a tie, and only on procedural matters. Per Article 5, Section 17 of the Nevada Constitution, the Lieutenant Governor of Nevada serves as Senate President. In their absence, the President Pro Tempore presides and has the power to make commission and committee appointments. The President Pro Tempore is elected to the position by the majority party. The other partisan Senate leadership positions, such as the Leader of the Senate and Leader of the Opposition, are elected by their respective party caucuses to head their parties in the chamber. The current President of the Senate is Nevada Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison of the Republican Party.

Non-Member Officers

On the first day of a regular session, the Senate elects the non-member, nonpartisan administrative officers including the Secretary of the Senate and the Senate Sergeant at Arms. The Secretary of the Senate serves as the Parliamentarian and Chief Administrative Officer of the Senate and the Sergeant at Arms is chief of decorum and order for the Senate floor, galleries, and committee rooms. Claire J. Clift was originally appointed by then Republican Senate Majority Leader William Raggio. The Democratic Party took the Majority in 2008 and she was retained until 2010.[15] In August 2010, then Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford appointed David Byerman as the 41st Secretary of the Senate.[16] The day after the 2014 General Election, David Byerman was removed from his position and the previous Secretary, Claire J. Clift was re-appointed.[17] Retired Chief of Police, Robert G. Milby was chosen as the Senate Sergeant at Arms for the 78th Legislative by the Republican Majority Leader. Both of the elected non-member officers serve at the pleasure of the Senate, thus they have a two-year term until the succeeding session. The Senate also approves by resolution the remainder of the nonpartisan Senate Session staff to work until the remainder of the 120 calendar day session.

79th Session Leadership


Position Name Party District Represented Area
President/Lt. Governor Mark Hutchison Republican n/a Statewide
President pro tempore Moises Denis Democratic Senate District 2 Clark (part)

Majority Leadership

Position Name Party District Represented Area
Majority Leader Aaron D. Ford Democratic Senate District 11 Clark (part)
Assistant Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson Democratic Senate District 4 Clark (part)
Co-Majority Whip Joyce Woodhouse Democratic Senate District 5 Clark (part)
Co-Majority Whip Pat Spearman Democratic Senate District 1 Clark (part)

Minority Leadership

Position Name Party District Represented Area
Minority Leader Michael Roberson Republican Senate District 20 Clark (part)
Assistant Minority Leader Ben Kieckhefer Republican Senate District 16 Carson City, Washoe (Part)
Minority Co-Whip James Settelmeyer Republican Senate District 17 Churchill, Douglas, Lyon, Storey
Minority Co-Whip Scott Hammond Republican Senate District 18 Clark (Part)
Caucus Policy Coordinator Becky Harris Republican Senate District 9 Clark (Part)
Caucus Policy Coordinator Heidi Gansert Republican Senate District 15 Washoe (Part)

Members of the 79th Senate

Districts of the Nevada Assembly are nested inside the Senate districts, two per Senate district. The final Legislative redistricting plans as created by the Special Masters in 2011 and approved by District Court Judge James Todd Russell represent the first time since statehood Nevada's Assembly districts are wholly nested inside of a Senate district. Each Assembly district represents 1/42nd of Nevada's population and there are two Assembly districts per Senate district which represents 1/21st of Nevada's population.[18]

District Assembly
Name Party Residence First Elected Term-limited‡ Seniority
1 1, 17 Pat Spearman Democratic North Las Vegas 2012 2024
2 11, 28 Moises Denis Democratic Las Vegas 2010 2022
3 3, 10 Tick Segerblom Democratic Las Vegas 2012 2024
4 6, 7 Kelvin Atkinson Democratic North Las Vegas 2012 2024
5 21, 29 Joyce Woodhouse Democratic Henderson 20121 2020
6 34, 37 Nicole Cannizzaro Democratic Las Vegas 2016 2028
7 18, 20 David Parks Democratic Las Vegas 2008 2020
8 2, 5 Patricia Farley Nonpartisan Las Vegas 2014 2026
9 9, 35 Becky Harris Republican Las Vegas 2014 2024
10 15, 16 Vacant
11 8, 42 Aaron D. Ford Democratic Las Vegas 2012 2024
12 19, 23 Joe Hardy Republican Boulder City 2010 2022
13 24, 30 Julia Ratti Democratic Sparks 2016↑ 2028
14 31, 32 Don Gustavson Republican Sparks 2010 2022
15 25, 27 Heidi Gansert Republican Reno 2016 2028
16 26, 40 Ben Kieckhefer Republican Reno 2010 2022
17 38, 39 James Settelmeyer Republican Minden 2010 2022
18 4, 13 Scott Hammond Republican Las Vegas 2012 2024
19 33, 36 Pete Goicoechea Republican Eureka 2012 2024
20 22, 41 Michael Roberson Republican Las Vegas 2010 2022
21 12, 14 Mark Manendo Democratic Las Vegas 2010 2022

Senate Standing Committees of the 79th Session

Committee Chair Vice Chair Ranking Member of the Minority Number of Members
Finance Joyce Woodhouse David Parks Scott Hammond 7
Commerce, Labor and Energy Kelvin Atkinson Patricia Spearman James Settelmeyer 7
Education Mo Denis Joyce Woodhouse Scott Hammond 7
Government Affairs David Parks Mark Manendo Pete Goicoechea 5
Health and Human Services Patricia Spearman Julia Ratti Joe Hardy 5
Judiciary Tick Segerblom Nicole Cannizzaro Michael Roberson 7
Legislative Operations and Elections Nicole Cannizzaro Tick Segerblom James Settelmeyer 5
Natural Resources Mark Manendo n/a James Settelmeyer 5
Revenue and Economic Development Julia Ratti Aaron D. Ford Michael Roberson 7
Transportation Mark Manendo Kelvin Atkinson Scott Hammond 5

Standing committees in the Senate have their jurisdiction set by the Senate Rules as adopted through Senate Resolution 1. To see an overview of the jurisdictions of standing committees in the Senate, see Standing Rules of the Senate, Section V, Rule 40.

Diversity in the Nevada Senate

African American Senators

Nevada's State Senate has included seven self-reported African-American Senators.

Senator Party District Term Notes
Joe Neal Jr. Dem Clark No. 4 1972-2004 Retired
Bernice Mathews Dem Washoe No. 1 1994-2010 Retired
Term Limited
Maurice Washington Rep Washoe No. 2 1994-2010 Retired
Term Limited
Steven Horsford Dem Clark No. 4 2004-2012 Successfully ran for the Nevada's 4th congressional district served 2013-2015
Patricia Spearman Dem District No. 1 2012-
Kelvin Atkinson Dem District No. 4 2012-
Aaron D. Ford Dem District No. 11 2012-

Hispanic/Latino Senators

Nevada's State Senate has included three self-reported Hispanic/Latino Senators.

Senator Party District Term Notes
Bob Coffin Dem Clark No. 3 1986-2010 Term Limited
Successfully ran for Las Vegas City Council
Mo Denis Dem District No. 2 2010-
Ruben Kihuen Dem District No. 10 2010-

Women in the Senate

Since statehood, there has been twenty-seven women elected to the Nevada Senate and four have been appointed to fill a vacancy. Eleven out of the thirty-one have been Republicans while twenty have been Democrats.

Senator Party Area Represented/District Assembly Term Senate Term Notes
Frances Friedhoff Dem Lyon County - 1935-1936 Appointed to fill vacancy caused by husband's resignation
Helen Herr Dem Clark No. 3 1956-1960
1966-1976 First woman elected to the Nevada Senate
Margie Foote Dem Washoe No. 2 1966-1974 1974-1978
Mary Gojack Dem Washoe No. 1 1972-1974 1974-1978
Jean Ford Dem Clark No. 3 1972-1976 1978-1982 Served in the Assembly as a Republican but elected to the Senate as a Democrat[19]
Sue Wagner Rep Washoe No. 3 1974-1980 1980-1990 Elected in 1990 to Lieutenant Governor of Nevada
Helen Foley Dem Clark No. 3 1980-1982 1982-1986
Ann O'Connell Rep Clark No. 5 - 1984-2004
Dina Titus Dem Clark No. 7 - 1988-2008 Successfully ran for Nevada's 3rd congressional district in 2008
Successfully ran for Nevada's 1st congressional district in 2012
Peggy O'Neill Dem Washoe No. 2 - 1989-1990 Appointed to the vacancy caused by the resignation of Don Mello
served in the 1989 Special Session only
Stephanie Tyler Rep Washoe No. 3 - 1990-1992 Appointed to the vacancy caused by Sue Wagner's election to Lt. Governor
Diana Glomb Dem Washoe No. 1 - 1990-1994
Lori Lipman Brown Dem Clark No. 7 - 1992-1994 Elected to fill the term of Nicholas Horn who died in office in 1992
Sue Lowden Rep Clark No. 3 - 1992-1996 lost reelection to Valerie Wiener in 1996
lost the 2010 GOP Senate Primary to Sharon Angle
Kathy Augustine Rep Clark No. 7 1992-1994 1994-1998 Successfully ran for Nevada State Controller in 1998
Bernice Mathews Dem Washoe No. 1 - 1994-2010 First woman of color elected to the Nevada Senate
First woman of color elected to the Reno City Council in 1990
Valerie Wiener Dem Clark No. 3 - 1996-2010 Term Limited
Maggie Carlton Dem Clark No. 2 2010- 1998-2010 Term Limited in the Senate
ran successfully for the Nevada Assembly
Christine Milburn Rep Clark No. 8 - 7/2002 - 11/2002 Appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mark James
served in the 2002 Special Session only
Barbara Cegavske Rep Clark No. 8 1996-2002 2002-2014 Elected Secretary of State
Sandra Tiffany Rep Clark No. 5 1992-2002 2002-2006 Lost reelection to Joyce Woodhouse
Joyce Woodhouse Dem Clark No. 5 - 2006-2010
Lost reelection in 2010 but successfully ran in a newly created district in 2012
Shirley Breeden Dem Clark No. 5 - 2008-2012 Did not seek reelection
Allison Copening Dem Clark No. 6 - 2008-2012 Did not seek reelection
Elizabeth Halseth Rep Clark No. 9 - 2010-2012 Resigned mid-term
Sheila Leslie Dem Washoe No. 1 1998-2010 2010-2012 Resigned mid-term to challenge Greg Brower in 2012, subsequently lost
Patricia Spearman Dem District 1 - 2012-
Debbie Smith Dem District 13 2000-2002
2012-2016 Elected to fill the unexpired term of Sheila Leslie
Died in office
Patricia Farley Non-Partisan District 8 - 2014- In 2016, Patricia Farley switched her party affiliation from Republican to Non-Partisan and announced that she would caucus with the Democratic Party
Becky Harris Rep District 9 - 2014-
Julia Ratti Dem District 13 - 2016-
Nicole Cannizzaro Dem District 6 - 2016-
Heidi Gansert Rep District 15 2004-2010 2016-

LGBT Senators

Nevada's State Senate has included three out LGBT Senators.

Senator Party Area Represented/District Assembly Term Senate Term Notes
David Parks Dem District 7 1996-2008 2008- Term Limited in the Assembly
Successfully ran for Senate in 2008
Lost a Primary Election to succeed Rory Reid on the Clark County Commission in 2010, remained in the Senate
Patricia Spearman Dem District 1 - 2012- Defeated sitting Senator John Lee in a Democratic Primary[20]
Kelvin Atkinson[21] Dem District 4 2002-2012 2012- Replaced Steven Horsford (D, NV4) who ran for Congress in 2012

See also


  1. "Nevada State Senate - 2011 Districts" (PDF). Legislative Counsel Bureau. January 6, 2012.
  2. "Nevada Constitution". Legislative Counsel Bureau. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  3. "Nevada Constitution". Legislative Counsel Bureau. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  4. "Political History of Nevada" (PDF). Nevada State Printing Office. 2006.
  5. "Political History of Nevada" (PDF). Nevada State Printing Office. 2006.
  6. Dungan v. Sawyer, 250 F.Supp. 480 (1965)
  7. Dungan v. Sawyer, 250 F.Supp. 480 (1965)
  8. Political History of Nevada, Pages 284-286
  9. Sen. William Raggio (January 5, 2012). "Letter to Washoe County Commission" (PDF).
  10. "Leslie Resigns State Senate Seat to Run in New District 15". Las Vegas Review Journal. February 15, 2012.
  11. "Republican Halseth Resigning Senate Seat". Las Vegas Review Journal. February 17, 2012.
  12. Election results. State legislators in Nevada assumed office the day after the election.
  13. Patricia Farley (District 8) switched parties from Republican to Nonpartisan.
  14. Democrat Ruben Kihuen (District 10) resigned in anticipation of being sworn in to the 115th United States Congress.
  15. Sean Whaley (May 25, 2010). "In Surprise Move, State Senate Majority Leader Replaces Long-Time Top Staffer". Nevada News Bureau.
  16. "Nevada Senate Majority Leader Picks Census Bureau Liaison to Serve in Top Administrative Post". Nevada News Bureau. August 18, 2010.
  17. "Claire Clift to return as Senate Secretary". Nevada Appeal. November 8, 2014.
  18. Redistricting in Nevada
  19. "Biography of Jean Ford". Women's Research Institute of Nevada. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  20. Miller, Ross (June 12, 2012), Nevada Primary Election Results, Nevada Secretary of State, retrieved January 9, 2013
  21. Sen. Kelvin Atkinson Comes Out During Marriage Debate, Queerty, 23 April 2013, retrieved 24 April 2013

External links

Coordinates: 39°09′44″N 119°45′58″W / 39.162278°N 119.766136°W / 39.162278; -119.766136

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