Las Vegas Sun

November 21, 2014

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OTHER VOICES - 2013 Legislature:

Schwartz: North-south funding at the center of session

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David McGrath Schwartz

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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.

• • •

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

Anjeanette Damon

Ray Hagar

Jon Ralston

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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 Sun reporter David McGrath Schwartz.

Affiliation: Las Vegas Sun

Contact: @schwartznews

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

North-south funding. In K-12, higher education and transportation, there were serious studies and concerns how the state divides money between Southern Nevada, Northern Nevada and the rurals. Basically, Southern Nevadans are getting screwed. But I don’t think there’s much will among Southern Nevada lawmakers to come together as a bloc to make serious changes.

The second issue is collective bargaining for local government employees. Both Clark County and Washoe County school districts had tense negotiations with their teachers that ended up in arbitration. Arbitrators sided with the teachers, giving them raises and eliminating positions. This was a hot topic a few months back, but now no one wants to talk about it.

Taxes. The teachers union’s education initiative really changed the dynamics of the session. While it won’t pass the Legislature and will go on the ballot, I think there will be an effort to put some type of more moderate alternative, with a broader coalition behind it, on the ballot.

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

Mental health. First the Carson City IHOP shooting, then Newtown, but most real is the tale of Assemblyman Steven Brooks. I think there will be earnest talk about how the state handles people who are mentally ill and can’t take care of themselves.

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

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s re-election. He’s got some great favorables, and Sen. Harry Reid’s Democratic machine — or at least part of it — will make a play to see if they can knock him off kilter.

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

The south is still not cohesive, while the north is. John Lee would’ve been a big Southern advocate in the Senate, as would Marcus Conklin in the Assembly. Both those lawmakers lost in the election. No lawmaker from Southern Nevada has stepped forward to carry the banner for Clark County. With Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, chairing Senate Finance, I think she’ll protect the north.

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

The Nevada Legislature is like any other group of 63 people that are randomly picked from a telephone book. Some are fantastic, smart and ethical. Some are not. Most are in between. Lobbyists have a huge role in the state.

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