Las Vegas Sun

October 2, 2014

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OTHER VOICES - 2013 Legislature:

Damon: ‘At this point, it looks to be caution and comity’

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Anjeanette Damon

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The Sun's opinion page provides a wide range of opinion about the start of the 2013 Legislature.

From the Sun:

The Sun's editorial Break the status quo.

Brian Greenspun's "Where I Stand" column.

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Elected officials

Gov. Brian Sandoval

Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick

Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson

Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey

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Political scientist

David Damore

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Political journalists

Elizabeth Crum

Ray Hagar

Jon Ralston

David McGrath Schwartz

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Have your own opinion?

Write a letter to the editor.

We asked five Nevada political journalists to answer five questions about this session of the Legislature. Here are the answers of Anjeanette Damon, the Sun’s senior editor of politics.

Affiliation: Las Vegas Sun

Contact: @anjeanettedamon

1. What do you think are the top three issues for the Legislature?

Education: For years now, lawmakers and governors have paid lip service to making education their top priority. But little of what they have done actually has improved our bottom-of-the-barrel rankings. I would expect an attempt to change the funding formulas for both higher education and K-12, and some individual programs will receive more funding.

Tax structure: Democrats will talk about it. Perhaps a move will be made to expand the sales tax to services. Ultimately, it probably will be pushed to next session.

Health care: From expanding Medicaid to creating a health insurance exchange to fixing Nevada’s struggling mental health system, lawmakers will spend a significant amount of time on this issue.

2. Any outlier issues or things people aren’t talking about now but could quickly demand attention?

Each session a surprise issue pops up, and it usually has to do with a special interest rather than a broad social or government problem that needs to be addressed. This might happen again with funding for a sports stadium or the never-ending tow truck wars.

3. What are the main political themes going into this session?

At this point, it looks to be caution and comity. New legislative leaders aren’t as combative as past ones and aren’t gunning for higher office. Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed a modest, mostly status-quo budget and seems to want to avoid political firestorms. But I also think this session will be dominated by personalities. We’ve got a bunch of strong ones in Carson City now, and term limits make the time crunch for climbing the political ladder much more intense.

4. What do you think we’ll see regarding Nevada’s “geopolitics” (north vs. south) this year?

This will be the political theme underlying much of what the Legislature does this session. With entrenched northern powerhouses gone from the Legislature because of term limits, southern lawmakers now have the political might to level the playing field. The tension will mostly dominate the debate over education funding, both higher education and K-12.

5. How would you summarize this session to a neighbor not terribly familiar with Nevada politics?

The same entrenched debate over Nevada’s tax structure and meager education and social safety net funding will continue. Nevada’s most powerful industries and businesses — who have lobbyists now with more expertise on the process than many of the lawmakers — will work the process for legislation beneficial to their interests. And some fun, distracting debates will arise over issues we never anticipated.

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