Rookies will be big factor in 2011 Legislature |

Rookies will be big factor in 2011 Legislature

(AP) – Rookie lawmakers will play a big role in the 2011 Legislature as lawmakers tackle a potential $2.4 billion budget shortfall and reapportion 63 legislative districts.

At least 17 of the 42 Assembly members will be new. And at least eight of the 21 senators will be newcomers, though some likely will be Assembly members moving over to the Senate.

The main reason for the 40 percent turnover in the Legislature is that the constitutional amendment regarding term limits finally kicks in. Voters in 1996 passed an amendment that limits the time a legislator can serve to 12 years in each chamber.

In all, 10 Assembly members and seven senators cannot run for their current seat in 2010 because of term limits. Additionally, seven Assembly members and two senators are either retiring from politics or giving up their seats to run for other offices.

“The next session is lining up to be the worst on record, and nearly half of the Legislature will be there for the first time,” said Eric Herzik, a University of Nevada, Reno, political science professor. “It makes you feel confident, doesn’t it?”

Herzik said the decision in 2011 whether to raise taxes or cut spending at a time when the state may still be in a recession won’t be easy for any legislator, let alone a rookie.

And reapportionment, the redrawing of legislative district boundaries to reflect the 2010 Census, is the “most partisan of all issues,” he said.

Both Democrats and Republicans will be seeking an advantage for their party through reapportionment. How they draw the districts could determine which party wins seats for 10 years.

Republicans still complain that Democrats, the majority at the 2001 Legislature, gerrymandered Assembly districts to ensure re-election for their party for the next decade. Democrats now hold a 28-14 membership lead in the Assembly. They hold a 12-9 edge in the Senate.

Barring a radical registration shift in the next few months, Republicans will remain Nevada’s No. 2 party, putting them at a disadvantage in reapportionment hearings.