The Trickle-Down Effect

Recently,the big political focus has been on the Democratic scrum for the House of Representatives: Dina Titus vs. Ruben Kihuen in District 1; Steven Horsford vs. John Lee in District 4; John Oceguera apparently getting a pass to the general election against incumbent Joe Heck; and in District 2—well, that’s Northern Nevada, and Democrats apparently gave up on that one a long time ago.

But three of the Democratic House candidates are incumbent state senators, and two of them—Horsford and Lee—would give up their seats to run for the House. Both are at the end of their second term. Both are term-limited, so they could serve only one more four-year term. Throw in that fellow Democratic state Sens. Mike Schneider and Valerie Wiener are term-limited and Allison Copening hasn’t made it clear yet whether she will seek re-election, and the caucus begins to look a bit thin.

Not that Republican state senators aren’t suffering, too. Two of their senior members, both from rural Nevada, have to leave:  Mike McGinness of Fallon, who succeeded Bill Raggio as GOP leader; and Dean Rhoads of Tuscarora, who struck many on both sides of the aisle as a voice of reason and compromise even as he stuck to his guns on the issues. Barbara Cegavske of Las Vegas may run for the House against the winner of the Horsford-Lee primary because, among other reasons, term limits mean the next session will be her last. Elizabeth Halseth isn’t up for re-election but has her own set of problems, given her husband’s arrest on lewdness charges, his filing for divorce, and assorted reports about her plans.

All of which may strike you as unimportant stuff. But Democrats control the state Senate 11-10, and even if the redistricting maps favor them, much can happen. The biggest question is what will happen in Carson City in 2013. Nevada doesn’t seem poised to be in a state of recovery, bliss and outright happiness. The state Senate will have a bunch of new faces. The Assembly will have a new speaker, with Oceguera term-limited.

Consider: What condition will the state be in? Nevada isn’t leading the nation into recovery. It seems to have some notions about solar energy, which is good news, but how much new technology is Nevada likely to attract if it cuts education again at any and all levels? Horsford pushed for a study of our tax system, but will that change when it takes two-thirds of the Legislature to raise taxes?

And what are the chances of addressing these questions reasonably and responsibly with another round of new legislators and leaders, many of them simply shifting around—in other words, a state Senate comprised of term-limited Assembly members and some Republicans whose idea of compromise is abject surrender to them on every question?

These are issues worth thinking about, and they are going largely undiscussed. But even if they are discussed, the problem will be passing meaningful legislation—and not just due to that insipid two-thirds requirement. Namely, passing legislation requires an understanding of systems and processes that newcomers to the Legislature or one of its chambers are likely to lack. Toss in that the likeliest candidates for leadership are from Northern Nevada when more than 70 percent of the Legislature will represent Southern Nevada and, sad to say, it looks like the same old sad song on a different day.