Southern Nevada to Gain Clout in Next Session

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Term limits and the redrawing of voting
districts to reflect population growth will mean a likely political
power shift to southern Nevada in the next legislative session.

Northern Nevada for decades has kept its muscle intact because
northern lawmakers held key legislative leadership posts.

But Clark County will have almost three of every four legislative seats, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. And in the 2013 session, for the first time, term limits will be in full effect in both houses, stripping
the seniority that has kept northern lawmakers in influential
roles.

The state Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker decide the
agendas of their houses. They name committee members and chairs,
and can introduce the bills they want and can block bills from
coming to votes.

Minority leaders of both chambers advise the leaders which of
their members should serve on specific committees, and all four
leaders convene private party caucuses to discuss their positions
before bills are passed or rejected.

For most of the last 30 years, state Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno,
was either the Senate majority leader or minority leader, while Joe
Dini, D-Yerington, was Assembly speaker. Northern and rural
Nevadans also routinely have captured the Assembly minority
leader's post.

People like Raggio and Dini became leaders not only because of
their brains and organizational abilities, but because of
seniority.

Raggio served 38 years in the state Senate before his
resignation in January. Dini accumulated 36 years in the Assembly
before he retired in 2002.

While voters in their northern Nevada districts kept re-electing
them, southern Nevada voters defeated legislators like John
Vergiels, a one-time Assembly speaker and one-time state Senate
majority leader, ending his opportunity to hold leadership posts
indefinitely.

Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows
Community College in Reno, sees Clark County getting the lion's
share of public works projects in coming years because of its
dominance of the Legislature.

"It is what a democracy is supposed to be," Lokken said.
"Government is supposed to serve the people, and the people are in
the south. Clark County generates most of the revenue for the
state. We have had powerful incumbents in the north."

Public works projects are especially significant now because
they create jobs, and all parts of the state are suffering from
high unemployment, he said.

Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of
Nevada, Reno, said the northern advantage already has ended.

"When Raggio left, that was the end of it. There will have to
be an extraordinary set of circumstances before a northern Nevadan
gets a key post," he said.

"Northerners will say that is not fair, while southerners will
say it is time we rebalanced the scale."

Term limits mean legislators no longer can serve more than 12
years in each house. That will end the ability of Washoe County and
rural Nevada voters to keep electing the same people until they
become legislative leaders or committee chairs because of their
seniority.

In addition to term limits, southern Nevada has a greater chance
to dominate the Legislature over the next decade because of
redistricting.

Because of Clark County's huge growth over the last 10 years
compared with the rest of the state, one state Senate seat and one
Assembly seat shifted from the north into Clark County under the
redistricting maps drawn up by District Judge James T. Russell and
his three special masters.

Now, 15 of the 21 state Senate seats and 30 of the 42 Assembly
seats are entirely in Clark County. One Senate and one Assembly
seat also are partly in Clark County.


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