Meet Our 2018 Labor Candidates: Lesley Cohen for Assembly District 29

Fast Facts:

★ In the wake of the #1October shooting of 2017, Lesley is helping to push forward a bill to build a peer support network for Nevada's first responders.
★ She received a 100% rating from the Nevada Conservation League for moving Southern Nevada forward toward a clean energy economy.
★ A Henderson resident since childhood, Lesley has been rescuing retired racing dogs for many years—greyhounds, specifically. "I adopt them out to others who are willing to open their homes to provide a happy retirement for these beautiful animals."

The political candidates we've talked to over the course of this election season have come in all stripes—from the vivacious and highly-visible public figures to the quiet and devoted policy wonks, and everyone in between. The individuality of our elected officials is clear, and Nevada State Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen, district 29, is no exception. Lesley was happy to speak with us about the nitty gritty of the bills she's created and supported over the last four years, and with your help at the polls, plans to push in the next legislative session.

You've been in office since 2013, and have had a chance to experience how things get done and what the needs and challenges of that State Assembly seat are. What will your focus be for the next term?

I think all of us on both sides of the aisle and throughout the state know that our biggest issues in the next term and beyond are going to be education and healthcare. I chaired the interim committee on seniors and veterans, as well as adults with special needs, so we now have ten jam-packed bill draft requests (BDRs) coming out of committee in those areas, and those will be my focus in terms of healthcare. 

Education is going to be a big lift, and we’re all going to have to work together in the legislature to move our education system forward.

You passed a bill to provide permanent funding to improve workforce training programs and apprenticeships. What do you see as the role of workforce training programs and apprenticeships in Nevada in the years ahead?

Workforce training programs are so important to Nevada because they're producing a well-rounded workforce, and we badly need that. There’s a big concern here now that if someone wants to bring their company and its jobs to Nevada, there isn’t a workforce here to fill those jobs, and we lose out. You can have a tax-friendly state for business, sure, but if those businesses dont see there are enough trained, skilled people in the workforce to get those jobs done, they won't come. 

We also
 understand that not everyone is going to benefit from attending a traditional college, so I want to open doors to people interested in pursuing a variety of professions, and get them trained for good-paying jobs and set up to support their families. 

What else have you achieved that you’re proud of? 

I helped pass a veterans' hiring bill to encourage the state to hire more of our vets! More than 10% of Nevadans are veterans, but only 3% of state employees are vets. I'm also proud of a consumer protection bill around the growing practice of "puppy leasing," making us only the second state in the country to ban this practice. I've also sponsored or supported bills that protect our state's lucrative wedding industry, that promotes eco-tourism, which is a billion-dollar industry, and bills that support and promote our solar industry. 

In general I introduce and get behind bills that are good for the environment, and for creating or bringing in good jobs that can't be shipped overseas. 

Our state is changing pretty rapidly, and so is the national political climate. What are your plans for counteracting the negative effects of both on Nevada’s working families?

I think we have to continue to be a legislature with an open door policy and get the job done by working on both sides of the aisle. In the last session we were able to work with our Republican governor on several things. We have to keep doing that. No matter what’s going on with the rest of the country, we can't be distracted—we have to be able to continue sit down and get things done here in and for Nevada.

Organized labor has always been a big player in Nevada. So many people and families here have benefitted from having jobs that were protected by organized labor. I want to make sure that people continue to be allowed to band together to negotiate. 

We'll close with this: What are you most excited about for this upcoming session? 

I’m really excited about the bills I’m working on for next session. I have a bill for a #1October license plate to raise funds will likely be for the resiliency center for future traumatic events, and I'm introducing a bill that will ensure that, at all levels, people who are being paid to participate in legislative activities are required to report it. 

I'm also working on a bill for peer support for first responders. These are the people run into burning buildings, who are there when shots are fired, and they have emotional and mental health needs that maybe counselors and psychologists don't understand, they don't fully get what first responders are dealing with on a daily basis. There’s been some success in other states with peer support hotlines and networks. 

The rest of us can say “You did a great job, you did all you could do and we appreciate it.” I don’t know if that’s going to resonate with someone who feels like they never did enough. But hearing that from their own peers is powerful. You know the person on the other line is a brother or sister that truly understands. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Learn more about Lesley Cohen at her campaign website, cohenfornevada.com.