Political lineup shifts a bit to the right
Democrats still will control both houses of the Nevada Legislature in the 2011 session, but by smaller margins than last year.
Compared to other parts of the country, Nevada Democrats emerged relatively unscathed in Nevada. Only three incumbent lawmakers were defeated, one of them Republican Sen. Dennis Nolan, who lost in the primary.
But because of term limits, there will be a lot of new faces in the 2011 session – 18 in the Assembly alone. Of the 10 new senators, seven were Assembly members who won Senate seats. There are 21 seats in the state Senate. The Democratic majority dropped from 12 to 11 when Michael Roberson defeated one-term incumbent Joyce Woodhouse.
In the Assembly, 20 of the 42 seats will be filled by new faces. One of them is termed out Sen. Maggie Carlton, who won an Assembly seat. The second – Washoe District 25 – was won by Republican Pat Hickey, who previously served in the 1997 session. The remaining 18 are freshmen who have never served before.
After losing two seats, the Democrats no longer have a veto-proof 2/3 majority in the Assembly. The breakdown is 26-16.
One of the two seats that flipped from D to R is Carson City’s District 40. Democrat Bonnie Parnell decided to retire and Republican Pete Livermore won the seat in a close contest with Robin Williamson.
The other loss was Republican Mark Sherwood’s defeat of one-term Democratic Assembly-woman Ellen Spiegel in Clark District 21.
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said the elections have filled out his caucus with “qualified and experienced candidates.” He agreed their prior service in the Assembly will help the upper house get up and running despite the changes brought on by term limits.
“We felt we had the best qualified and most experienced people running,” he said.
With an 11-10 margin, he said it’s time the put aside partisanship and “for us to work together.”
He said both parties need to be “focused on putting Nevadans back to work and improving our educational system.”
“We’re going to have to find ways to make state government more accountable and efficient,” he said. “That’s what the voters said they wanted and that’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Assembly Majority Leader and, for the 2011 session, Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said his freshman class is a quality group “because we did a pretty thorough vetting process.”
Oceguera said there are some “hard discussions about committee selections and assignments” going on. He spent most of the day in meetings with his new lawmakers, talking about those issues. He said each has been asked to submit their wish list of committee and work assignments.
Oceguera spokesman Gary Gray also credited “an extraordinary job of candidate recruitment this time” for the quality of the freshmen elected Tuesday
Oceguera said committee and other assignments will be settled in probably about two weeks.
Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said with so many new members, staff is expanding the traditional orientation programs for lawmakers. The first orientation is set for Nov. 17-19. Orientation will be followed by issue briefings Nov. 30 and Dec. 7. A second orientation will be held Jan. 19-21 and Jan. 24, tentatively the day of Governor-elect Brian Sandoval’s first State of the State speech.