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April 20, 2014

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MEMO FROM CARSON CITY:

Assembly speaker post up for grabs in 2011

Challenges abound for Buckley’s successor

Spring is in the air and term limits are at hand, so it’s time for some fun speculation about who the next speaker of the Nevada Assembly will be.

A more important question, perhaps, who would want the job? More on that in a bit.

First, speculation.

Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, is serving her last term, forced out by term limits.

In this session some whispered sniping held that Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, who would seem to be next in line, shouldn’t be presumed to be the next speaker.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, seemed to be doing some head counting of their own.

If nothing else, Assembly Democratic leaders are on the same page: They don’t discuss it.

“We have a session to get through, and we should be focused on the job at hand,” Smith said. “We’re a close leadership team.”

Oceguera echoed the party line: “I’m just trying to get through the session. We work hard together as a team, and we work well together. That’s why we’re successful.”

What’s most interesting about the 2011 speaker’s race is that many of the votes are unknown. With nine Assembly Democrats forced out by term limits, their seats are up for grabs.

The person who goes out and recruits Democrats and gives them money can count on those votes.

Asked about this, Oceguera paused. “That’s a good analysis of the situation,” he said with a laugh.

Oceguera has proved to be a prodigious fundraiser.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said, “Nothing is over until it’s over,” but he said he expects Oceguera to be speaker. “People are comfortable with him,” he said, adding, “Majority leader may be a different thing.”

Oceguera may have ambitions other than speaker, such as statewide office. The governor’s race is out, with Buckley likely running in a Democratic primary against a well-funded Rory Reid, chairman of the Clark County Commission.

That leaves lieutenant governor, the only other statewide office held by a Republican, in this case the indicted Brian Krolicki.

Oceguera said he would never rule anything out.

Now, back to whether the speaker’s job in 2011 is a job worth having.

Next session, the speaker will have to deal with nine rookies, who are replacing some legislators who are close to irreplaceable. Buckley, for instance, has the intellectual horsepower and work ethic to keep the details of hundreds of pieces of legislation and political moving parts in her head.

Bernie Anderson has long had a firm hand on the Judiciary Committee. Sheila Leslie knows budgets.

Also, the Legislature next session will have to redistrict, the process every 10 years of apportioning both congressional and legislative seats based on new the census.

That will not be fun.

One more: This year’s fiscal nightmare will likely be solved with chewing gum and baling wire, and state Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio is demanding that any tax increase sunset.

That means next session could very well require another tax increase.

Perhaps the response to any question about speaker ambitions ought to be: It’s all yours.

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