U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took aim at the world's oldest profession Tuesday, telling state lawmakers the time has come to have an adult conversation about Nevada's legal sex trade if the state hopes to succeed in the 21st century.

The Democratic Senate majority leader's comments before a joint session of the Legislature came as owners, lobbyists and working girls for Nevada's brothel industry looked on from the gallery.

Reid, who won re-election to a fifth term in November, focused his speech on the job creation efforts in a state hard hit by the Great Recession.

"We've recovered in the past and we'll recover in the future," he said. "We've met crisis before and we've prevailed. Winning is what we do. Winning is what we have to do."

But for attracting businesses, Reid said "parents don't want their children to look out of a school bus and see a brothel. Or live in a state with the wrong kind of red lights."

"So let's have an adult conversation about an adult subject," he said.

When the nation thinks about Nevada, he said, "it should think about the world's newest ideas and newest careers — not about its oldest profession."

He remark was met with silence in the packed Assembly chambers.

Reid also defended federal stimulus programs, saying they were necessary to save the nation's economy from the brink.

"I'm not saying the law was perfect. But I am saying it was necessary, and it's working. It saved Nevada and our country from an economy much worse than what we've experienced."

He received applause when he said he would work to reform education and pledged to do "everything I can to help ease the burden on state and local school districts."

Reid also touted renewable energy, saying "the future of our economy depends on it and so does the future of our environment and our national security."

Tourism, he said, will always be Nevada's biggest industry, but it can't be the only one.