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 single-member districts.[2] In the previous redistricting (2002-2011) there were 19 districts, two of which were multimember. Since 2012, there have been 21 districts, each formed by combining two neighboring Assembly districts. 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.[3] 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.[4] 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 was 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.[5] 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." It was ordered that Governor Grant Sawyer call a Special Session to submit a constitutionally valid reapportionment plan. 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.[5] 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.[7] 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.[2] Later in February 2012, citing personal reasons, Senator Elizabeth Halseth resigned her suburban/rural Clark County seat.[2]

Legislative SessionParty
(Shading indicates majority caucus)
62nd Legislative Session, 196711920
63rd Legislative Session, 196911920
56th Legislative Session, 197113720
57th Legislative Session, 197314620
58th Legislative Session, 197517320
59th Legislative Session, 197717320
60th Legislative Session, 197915520
61st Legislative Session, 198115520
62nd Legislative Session, 198317421
63rd Legislative Session, 198513821
64th Legislative Session, 198791221
65th Legislative Session, 198981321
66th Legislative Session, 1991111021
67th Legislative Session, 1993101121
68th Legislative Session, 199581321
69th Legislative Session, 199791221
70th Legislative Session, 199991221
71st Legislative Session,200191221
72nd Legislative Session, 200381321
73rd Legislative Session, 2005101121
74th Legislative Session, 2007101121
75th Legislative Session, 200912921
76th Legislative Session, 2011111021
77th Legislative Session, 2013111021
78th Legislative Session, 2015101121
79th Legislative Session, 201711921
Latest voting share57.1%42.9%

† Includes 1 Independent caucusing with Democrats

Current session

(Shading indicates majority caucus)
Begin 201410011210
End 2016
November 9, 2016[2]11010210
November 14, 2016[2]19
November 2016[2]10201
December 6, 2016[2]11210
July 19, 2017[2]10201
Latest voting share55%45%

Historical Activity of Political Parties

Socialist Party of AmericaSilver PartyPeople's Party (United States)Republican PartyNational 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.[2] In August 2010, then Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford appointed David Byerman as the 41st Secretary of the Senate.[2] The day after the 2014 General Election, David Byerman was removed from his position and the previous Secretary, Claire J. Clift was re-appointed.[2] 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


PositionNamePartyDistrictRepresented Area
President/Lt. GovernorMark HutchisonRepublicann/aStatewide
President pro temporeMoises DenisDemocraticSenate District 2Clark (part)

Majority Leadership

PositionNamePartyDistrictRepresented Area
Majority LeaderAaron D. FordDemocraticSenate District 11Clark (part)
Assistant Majority LeaderKelvin AtkinsonDemocraticSenate District 4Clark (part)
Co-Majority WhipJoyce WoodhouseDemocraticSenate District 5Clark (part)
Co-Majority WhipPat SpearmanDemocraticSenate District 1Clark (part)

Minority Leadership

PositionNamePartyDistrictRepresented Area
Minority LeaderMichael RobersonRepublicanSenate District 20Clark (part)
Assistant Minority LeaderBen KieckheferRepublicanSenate District 16Carson City, Washoe (Part)
Minority Co-WhipJames SettelmeyerRepublicanSenate District 17Churchill, Douglas, Lyon, Storey
Minority Co-WhipScott HammondRepublicanSenate District 18Clark (Part)
Caucus Policy CoordinatorBecky HarrisRepublicanSenate District 9Clark (Part)
Caucus Policy CoordinatorHeidi GansertRepublicanSenate District 15Washoe (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.[3]

NamePartyResidenceFirst ElectedTerm-limited‡Seniority
11, 17Pat SpearmanDemocraticNorth Las Vegas20122024
211, 28Mo DenisDemocraticLas Vegas20102022
33, 10Tick SegerblomDemocraticLas Vegas20122024
46, 7Kelvin AtkinsonDemocraticNorth Las Vegas20122024
521, 29Joyce WoodhouseDemocraticHenderson201212020
634, 37Nicole CannizzaroDemocraticLas Vegas20162028
718, 20David ParksDemocraticLas Vegas20082020
82, 5Patricia FarleyIndependentLas Vegas20142026
99, 35Becky HarrisRepublicanLas Vegas20142024
1015, 16Yvanna CancelaDemocraticLas Vegas201622028
118, 42Aaron D. FordDemocraticLas Vegas20122024
1219, 23Joe HardyRepublicanBoulder City20102022
1324, 30Julia RattiDemocraticSparks201622028
1431, 32Don GustavsonRepublicanSparks20102022
1525, 27Heidi GansertRepublicanReno20162028
1626, 40Ben KieckheferRepublicanReno20102022
1738, 39James SettelmeyerRepublicanMinden20102022
184, 13Scott HammondRepublicanLas Vegas20122024
1933, 36Pete GoicoecheaRepublicanEureka20122024
2022, 41Michael RobersonRepublicanLas Vegas20102022
2112, 14Vacant
  • Assumes that each Senator runs and wins re-election through their 12 years of Constitutional term limits.
  • 1 Senator Woodhouse previously served from 2007-2011
  • 2 Senators were appointed in 2016

Senate Standing Committees of the 79th Session

CommitteeChairVice ChairRanking Member of the MinorityNumber of Members
FinanceJoyce WoodhouseDavid ParksScott Hammond7
Commerce, Labor and EnergyKelvin AtkinsonPatricia SpearmanJames Settelmeyer7
EducationMo DenisJoyce WoodhouseScott Hammond7
Government AffairsDavid ParksMark ManendoPete Goicoechea5
Health and Human ServicesPatricia SpearmanJulia RattiJoe Hardy5
JudiciaryTick SegerblomNicole CannizzaroMichael Roberson7
Legislative Operations and ElectionsNicole CannizzaroTick SegerblomJames Settelmeyer5
Natural ResourcesYvanna Cancelan/aJames Settelmeyer4
Revenue and Economic DevelopmentJulia RattiAaron D. FordMichael Roberson7
TransportationPatricia FarleyKelvin AtkinsonScott Hammond4

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.

Joe Neal Jr.DemocraticClark No. 41972-2004Retired
Bernice MathewsDemocraticWashoe No. 11994-2010Retired
Term Limited
Maurice WashingtonRepublicanWashoe No. 21994-2010Retired
Term Limited
Steven HorsfordDemocraticClark No. 42004-2012Successfully ran for the Nevada's 4th congressional district served 2013-2015
Patricia SpearmanDemocraticDistrict No. 12012-
Kelvin AtkinsonDemocraticDistrict No. 42012-
Aaron D. FordDemocraticDistrict No. 112012-

Hispanic/Latino Senators

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

Bob CoffinDemocraticClark No. 31986-2010Term Limited
Successfully ran for Las Vegas City Council
Mo DenisDemocraticDistrict No. 22010-
Ruben KihuenDemocraticDistrict No. 102010-2016Elected to Serve Nevada's 4th congressional district in 2016; Term starts 2017
Yvanna CancelaDemocraticDistrict No. 102016-Appointed to Serve after the resignation of Ruben Kihuen

Women in the Senate

Since statehood, there has been thirty-four women elected to the Nevada Senate and six have been appointed to fill a vacancy. Twenty-two out of the thirty-four have been Democrats, eleven have been Republicans, one was elected as a Republican but switched to Non-Partisan and chose to caucus with the Democrats.

SenatorPartyArea Represented/DistrictAssembly TermSenate TermNotes
Frances FriedhoffDemocraticLyon County-1935-1936Appointed to fill vacancy caused by husband's resignation
Helen HerrDemocraticClark No. 31956-1960
1966-1976First woman elected to the Nevada Senate
Margie FooteDemocraticWashoe No. 21966-19741974-1978
Mary GojackDemocraticWashoe No. 11972-19741974-1978
Jean FordDemocraticClark No. 31972-19761978-1982Served in the Assembly as a Republican but elected to the Senate as a Democrat[3]
Sue WagnerRepublicanWashoe No. 31974-19801980-1990Elected in 1990 to Lieutenant Governor of Nevada
Helen FoleyDemocraticClark No. 31980-19821982-1986
Ann O'ConnellRepublicanClark No. 5-1984-2004
Dina TitusDemocraticClark No. 7-1988-2008Successfully ran for Nevada's 3rd congressional district in 2008
Successfully ran for Nevada's 1st congressional district in 2012
Peggy O'NeillDemocraticWashoe No. 2-1989-1990Appointed to the vacancy caused by the resignation of Don Mello
served in the 1989 Special Session only
Stephanie TylerRepublicanWashoe No. 3-1990-1992Appointed to the vacancy caused by Sue Wagner's election to Lt. Governor
Diana GlombDemocraticWashoe No. 1-1990-1994
Lori Lipman BrownDemocraticClark No. 7-1992-1994Elected to fill the term of Nicholas Horn who died in office in 1992
Sue LowdenRepublicanClark No. 3-1992-1996lost reelection to Valerie Wiener in 1996
lost the 2010 GOP Senate Primary to Sharon Angle
Kathy AugustineRepublicanClark No. 71992-19941994-1998Successfully ran for Nevada State Controller in 1998
Bernice MathewsDemocraticWashoe No. 1-1994-2010First woman of color elected to the Nevada Senate
First woman of color elected to the Reno City Council in 1990
Valerie WienerDemocraticClark No. 3-1996-2010Term Limited
Maggie CarltonDemocraticClark No. 22010-1998-2010Term Limited in the Senate
ran successfully for the Nevada Assembly
Christine MilburnRepublicanClark No. 8-7/2002 - 11/2002Appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mark James
served in the 2002 Special Session only
Barbara CegavskeRepublicanClark No. 81996-20022002-2014Elected Secretary of State
Sandra TiffanyRepublicanClark No. 51992-20022002-2006Lost reelection to Joyce Woodhouse
Joyce WoodhouseDemocraticClark No. 5-2006-2010
Lost reelection in 2010 but successfully ran in a newly created district in 2012
Shirley BreedenDemocraticClark No. 5-2008-2012Did not seek reelection
Allison CopeningDemocraticClark No. 6-2008-2012Did not seek reelection
Elizabeth HalsethRepublicanClark No. 9-2010-2012Resigned mid-term
Sheila LeslieDemocraticWashoe No. 11998-20102010-2012Resigned mid-term to challenge Greg Brower in 2012, subsequently lost
Patricia SpearmanDemocraticDistrict 1-2012-
Debbie SmithDemocraticDistrict 132000-2002
2012-2016Elected to fill the unexpired term of Sheila Leslie
Died in office
Patricia FarleyIndependentDistrict 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 HarrisRepublicanDistrict 9-2014-
Julia RattiDemocraticDistrict 13-2016-
Nicole CannizzaroDemocraticDistrict 6-2016-
Heidi GansertRepublicanDistrict 152004-20102016-
Yvanna CancelaDemocraticDistrict 10-2016-

LGBT Senators

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

SenatorPartyArea Represented/DistrictAssembly TermSenate TermNotes
David ParksDemocraticDistrict 71996-20082008-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 SpearmanDemocraticDistrict 1-2012-Defeated sitting Senator John Lee in a Democratic Primary[3]
Kelvin Atkinson[3]DemocraticDistrict 42002-20122012-Replaced Steven Horsford (D, NV4) who ran for Congress in 2012

See also