The NCSL Blog


Former NCSL President Senator Debbie Smith, who died of brain cancer in 2016, has been inducted into the Nevada Senate Hall of Fame.

Senator Debbie SmithSmith was elected to the Nevada Assembly in 2000, where she served as chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and as speaker pro tem. In 2012 she won her Senate seat and became assistant majority leader and chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Her love of education was the impetus for her public career. At age 22, she was elected to a rural Nevada school board, and went on to be president of the Nevada PTA, a member of the National PTA Board and chair of the state Council to Establish Academic Standards.

She waged a heroic fight against her cancer, which was diagnosed in 2015, shortly after she assumed the NCSL presidency. Her disease couldn’t stop her from working tirelessly for her constituents. In April of last year, she returned triumphantly, with humor and style—and wearing a purple wig!—to the Senate chamber. She willingly showed off her scars and passed an historic increase in education funding and legislation to protect children from bullying and abuse.

Former Senator Mike McGinness, was inducted along with Smith.

From the Las Vegas Review Journal's coverage:

Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, said McGinness “took me under his wings and showed me the ropes” during his freshman session in 2011.

“(Debbie Smith) exemplified the highest ideals of this institution,” said Democratic Majority Leader Aaron Ford of Las Vegas, who paused with emotion as he recalled his friend and colleague.

Smith’s husband, Greg, and daughter, Erin, attended Tuesday’s tribute.

Senator Julia Ratti, D-Sparks, who was elected to Smith’s seat after being urged to run by Smith’s family, said Smith taught her two valuable lessons.

One is to treat people with fairness and decency.

“The second lesson is, we are not guaranteed another day,” Ratti said. It’s a reminder, she said, to always make time for family and friends.

Photos of Smith and McGinness will hang on the wall along the Senate Hall of Fame outside the Senate chambers.

Portions of this blog are excerpted from a tribute to Smith by Karen Hansen, NCSL's director of Communications and Outreach.

Posted in: Legislators, NCSL
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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.