March | April 2017



Nevada Sen. Kelvin Atkinson

Nevada Sen. Kelvin Atkinson is chair of CSG West. A graduate of the Western Legislative Academy’s Class of 2003, Atkinson previously served as chair-elect and vice-chair of the organization. Atkinson, a former Nevada Assemblyman, was elected in November to serve Senate District 4 in Nevada.

What are your goals as CSG West chair?

“My goal is to expand on the wonderful things CSG has been doing. I’ve been a part of CSG West for the past 10 years. The reason why I’ve been so drawn to it is its focus on Western issues and sharing (the) things we have … in common. My goal is to continue the great things we’ve done over the years, and try to make it better. There are a few more organizations we haven’t tapped into before and I’d like to expand our network.”

How does CSG West help policymakers in your region?

“I think what they do to help policymakers is just phenomenal. Again, going back to being able to share information. It’s a great research tool. It’s a great tool that allows us to collaborate on things at the state capitols that we have in common. They begin to be the hub for us for those kinds of things. We’re able to go to them, they’re able to do a lot of work that we don’t have staff to do, especially in states where we have part-time legislative body. We like to say in Nevada, we learn from some of the other states’ mistakes. We’re able to go to sessions (at various conferences) to hear other legislators talk about issues. I’ve come back with countless amounts of legislation that I’ve heard from members, sessions and seminars. I’ve been able to come back and introduce it in our state.”

What are the five biggest issues affecting your region?

“I’ll focus on the top 3 that are prevalent in most states—the economy, jobs and foreclosures. We can add education as well.”

“We can be open-minded, first of all. We’ve become a bit partisan and not listening to everyone’s ideas. We have got to get back to that common ground. We can look at the great legislation other states have implemented. There are some great opportunities out there. There’s great legislation that other states have done.”
“We’re actually in the middle of dealing with foreclosures. We’ve put together some foreclosure groups. We are looking at legislation in other states. (We’re going to) put together some working groups (about) expanding our workforce and not relying on the old way of doing business.”
“As far as creating jobs, look at (the) new resources out there, energy and manufacturing jobs. We need to explore those through legislation and through partnerships and individual opportunities throughout the U.S. We’re trying to do that.”
“We’ve got to do more for education in our state and I believe that will help grow our economy. (In Nevada) we were headed in the direction of providing a lot more funding for Head Start and all-day kindergarten until the economy tanked. I think that’s where we should be (with increased funds).”
“Higher education ends up with most of the cuts, we don’t do a whole lot to fund them. I think the philosophy in higher education (is) you have to pay to go. In our state, we don’t want our students to have to make a decision to go to UNLV (University of Nevada-Las Vegas) or Reno or USC (University of Southern California) because we’re charging just as much as they are. We’ve had to raise fees so much because we’ve cut and cut in higher education.”