Nevada LegislatureSocial Justice

The Big Switch: Senator Patricia Farley on Her Next Moves in the Nevada Legislature

Last November, Senator Patricia Farley (R-Summerlin South) made huge news… By simply switching out a few letters. So how’s life for Senator Patricia Farley (NP-Summerlin South) this legislative session? And why is she directing so much energy into children’s issues? I spoke with the Senator on her big move last fall, and what she hopes to accomplish this year.

After a contentious election season that resulted in Republicans losing their majorities in both houses of the Nevada Legislature, they suffered one final blow. After being elected as a Republican in 2014, Senator Patricia Farley changed her registration to Nonpartisan and announced she would caucus with the Democrats next session. Why?

Farley gave a fairly simple explanation: “I was not being opportunistic about it. I just needed to change my schedule.” When Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) refused to accommodate Farley’s needs as a single mom with school aged children, that was the last straw. She decided to declare her independence.

“I don’t think I’ve ever conducted myself as politics first. I conduct myself as relationship first.” – Senator Patricia Farley

Farley said she’s built better working relationships with her colleagues on both sides of the aisle since her big switch. “Me moving over has made us better friends.” And thus far, she’s appreciated Democratic leaders working with her schedule and her bills.

So which bills is she working on? For one, there’s SB 167 to expand the school community garden program. Why? Not only does Senator Farley garden with her own kids, but she’s also toured five Title I schools. Farley said she’s been “overwhelmed by teachers who just loved it”, as well as by the students who were learning math and science while they learned how to care for the garden.

Another issue Farley’s passionate about is child care. At the SB 147 hearing earlier this month, she shared her own experience as an employer and a working mother. Why? “There were a lot of people on [the Senate Revenue Committee] who were not aware of the cost of child care.”

“This should be everyone’s goal, regardless of party label. Kids need to be well taken care of and prepared for school.” – Senator Patricia Farley

Farley then explained she’s working on her own child care bill that caps the program’s cost at $10 million. She also pre-butted opponents’ claim that programs like this “put people out of business”. “When you advertise the benefit, the more businesses open.”

Why is child welfare so high on Farley’s radar? She was “looking for areas that aren’t well represented” by high-powered lobbyists.

Still, I had to ask about the child welfare issue that has attracted so much attention and so much controversy. Where does Senator Farley stand on ESA vouchers? She voted for SB 302 in 2015, and still supports a more targeted program today.

The difference now? Farley does believe it needs to be more targeted towards aiding the families SB 302 backers promised ESA vouchers would serve. “There need to be caps. Students in poor performing schools need to be in the front of the line.” Farley brought the discussion around full circle in comparing the state’s struggle to provide child care to needy Nevadans with ESA voucher opponents’ concern that vouchers are just private school subsidies for the rich.

“If we don’t have the money to adequately fund child care, we can’t assist rich people in paying for private school.” – Senator Patricia Farley

Farley added, “$10,000 is too much to pay for day care. We have to do the same with ESA’s.” Farley’s comments point towards the possible “end game” on the state budget and education funding this session. Can Governor Brian Sandoval (R) and #NVLeg Democratic leaders reach any kind of agreement on vouchers that will allow for an overall state budget to be passed by early June? Perhaps Farley has not just hinted at her next big move, but the key to unlock “the end game”.

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