Nevada lawmakers work on reapportionment, special session
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – Democratic and Republican lawmakers worked out a reapportionment compromise early Thursday, clearing the way for a quick special session to ratify the deal.
After more than eight hours of closed-door, back-and-forth talks, negotiators emerged at 2:35 a.m. to say the plan for new legislative and congressional districts was ready for drafting.
The drafting process was expected to take several hours because the remapping plan is so complex – but that still gave the legislators time to take a final vote, wrap up other special session business and adjourn later Thursday.
Gov. Kenny Guinn, who called the special session, was prepared to let it run into Friday – but told legislative leaders their work ”should be completed in the shortest period of time and with the least possible expense to the taxpayers of Nevada.”
”This is so much better than going to court,” said Assembly Majority Floor Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, as the negotiations ended.
Both parties had filed petitions seeking court intervention to get the new district lines drawn in case the legislators couldn’t agree.
”But nobody will be completely happy with the compromise,” added Buckley, who teamed up with Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Las Vegas, to hammer out the plan with Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Sen. Ann O’Connell, R-Las Vegas.
O’Connell, who stayed on after Raggio left just before midnight, said the compromise resolves one of the biggest issues faced by lawmakers this year – ”but it’s not great for either party, so I guess we got a good agreement.”
Most of the lawmakers’ time late Wednesday and early Thursday was spent on determining lines of a new congressional district, the state’s third, in southern Nevada.
In the end, the district wound up almost exactly 50-50 Democrat-Republican, with lines adjusted to hopefully keep the district competitive as more people move into the area during the next several years.
”We’re kind of arguing over golf courses now,” Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said at one point, describing the Democrats’ effort to ensure a political balance instead of a heavy GOP population if a lot of upper-end development occurs.
The compromise on the state Legislature kept the state Assembly at 42 seats and the Senate at 21 seats.
Democrats who now control the Assembly would have a 25-17 advantage in the lower house while Republicans who run the Senate would have a 12-9 advantage.
In the Assembly, a dozen incumbents would have to run against one another and only six would survive. The main reason for the face-offs was to ensure there would be two districts with strong Hispanic majorities and one that’s about half Hispanic.
Assembly incumbents who would have to face one another include Vonne Chowning, D-North Las Vegas, against Doug Bache, D-Las Vegas; and Bob Price, D-North Las Vegas, against Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas.
Sharron Angle, R-Reno, would face Greg Brower, R-Reno; Debbie Smith, D-Reno, would face Don Gustavson, R-Sun Valley; Dawn Gibbons, R-Reno, would run against Dave Humke, R-Reno; and David Parks, D-Las Vegas, would run against Kathy Von Tobel, R-Las Vegas.
In the Senate, veteran Lawrence Jacobsen, R-Minden, would be moved into a district now held by Mike McGinness, R-Fallon. And McGinness’ already huge district would be made even bigger – accounting for about half the entire state. He’ll end up with constituents as far away as Mesquite, several hundred miles from Fallon.
Also in the Senate, Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, would wind up in a district that’s more than 60 percent Hispanic.
Reapportionment is required every 10 years after the federal census. Lawmakers had to revise their districts, carve out a the new congressional district, and revise the districts for state university and college regents and the state Board of Education.
Guinn’s proclamation, starting the special session at 10 a.m. Thursday, also listed 28 other measures for consideration – most of them approved in the hour after the scheduled midnight June 4 adjournment of the Legislature’s regular session.
The proclamation for Nevada’s first special legislative session since 1989, listed no ending time, although Guinn press secretary Jack Finn said the Gov. wanted the session to run no more than 24 hours.
Legislators spent so much time trying to reach a reapportionment agreement in the final days of the 120-day regular session, which, ended just before 2 a.m. on June 5, that by the time they gave up they had only four or five hours left to act on remaining bills.
They employed some creative time-keeping, shifting from Pacific Daylight to Pacific Standard time to shut down by a required midnight June 4 deadline, to pick up an extra hour of session time, but that still wasn’t enough.
There was so much confusion that the legislators appeared to be a few minutes late in voting on AB460, a $24 million tax recapture plan needed to balance the state budget and help give pay raises to teachers.
And they didn’t get around to final action on AB606, which provided pay raises for themselves and for various state and local government officials.
AB460 is on the list of bills for the special session, but not the pay plan.
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