The 24th special session of the Nevada Legislature will leave few fond memories or even feelings of satisfaction. It did give us a preview of challenges to come, and like all key moments in history it leaves winners and losers.
It was a clear win for the lawmakers. None of them wanted to be here. Many thought there was no reason for them to be here, but given the assignment, they did their job.
The governor may have called the session, but the outcome (tough, unattractive decisions and all) was the result of real bipartisan work by their leadership.
The session was a missed opportunity for the governor. It was a chance to change the subject from his personal peccadilloes and turn around what's been a troubled year and a half in office. The fact that he had no direct communication with the speaker in the 2 weeks before the session, and the fact that he didn't produce his own list until the day of the session was telling. In the end he'd managed to alienate even members of his own party who had gamely supported him. And, as the lawmakers met his personal life once again intruded with the publication of new photos of the governor and another woman at the Reno Rodeo.
Both the governor and Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley addressed the state on television the night before. The word of mouth review in the legislative halls the next day was that only one of them appeared gubernatorial, and it wasn't the governor. Buckley skewered Mr. Gibbons for his lack of involvement and set her own agenda for the 2009 session: a search for a new financial structure for the state. Then she followed the next day by leading her house through the work at hand with nary a glitch. It was an undeniable demonstration of leadership and perhaps a glimpse of the 2010 governor's race.
Her counterpart in the Senate was another matter. Steven Horsford was in the room when the budget package was negotiated and presumably signed off on the result. The newly minted Minority Leader ran the wheels off the bipartisan bus with a late reversal on cuts in school book purchases. A rookie mistake, perhaps, but one wonders in the next session whether other leaders in his own party and the opposition will accept Horsford's word as his bond.
Buckley had praise for her Republican counterpart in the Senate, Washoe County's Bill Raggio, who promised a one day session and delivered, though thanks to Horsford's sandbagging, other Democrats meddling and a shot in the back from the governor, he accomplished it with considerably more difficulty and more wear and tear than he deserved, and he emerges to face his first serious primary election battle in decades.
COULD GO EITHER WAY
Finally, for the state as a whole, there is no score. We face a recession with no end yet in sight; under funded needs of a rapidly growing state, supported by a roller coaster revenue structure; a showdown looming when the lawmakers meet next year. And just over the horizon, term limits that will make the kind of leadership that kept this session on track all the less likely in the future.