Even before the shouting dies down on Election Day 2006, many heads are already turning toward Carson City and the 2007 Legislature.
Sure, there’s still turkey to be carved, presents to be handed out and champagne to be sipped, but for some it’s never too early to start plotting strategies and getting a start on lobbying for their favorite causes.
As always, there will be numerous important issues discussed at the bi-annual meeting of our legislative leaders. Energy issues will be on the table again, as will funding for education and taxes, although nowhere near the level they have been in previous sessions.
There will be a substantial budget surplus to deal with this year, so it will be interesting to see how legislative leaders attempt to carve up the hundreds of millions of dollars for major issues and pet projects.
The Democrats are sure to push for all-day kindergarten and raising teacher pay. Republicans may look to endow the very popular Millennium Scholarship, or perhaps even rebate money to businesses.
Where it will get very interesting, however, is how the rest of the money will be allocated. There are always programs that need additional funding, and a budget surplus can be a dream come true for their supporters.
While issues will take center stage in 2007, a changing of the legislative hierarchy will also vie for some attention in the early going. After four sessions as Speaker of the Assembly – that body’s top position – Richard Perkins (D-Henderson) will step down (he did not run for re-election). Majority Leader Barbara Buckley will become the first female Speaker in Nevada history. Assistant Majority Leader John Oceguera is likely to replace her as Majority Leader for the Democrats in the Assembly.
It will be very interesting to watch the dynamic between Buckley and Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio (R-Reno). Perkins was often seen as a facilitator between Buckley and Raggio, but without his presence no one knows how the two legislative leaders will get along.
Committee chairmanships are likely to stay much the same, but Buckley will likely give up chairing Assembly Commerce and Labor. That post could go to Oceguera or – if he chooses not to chair a committee – to Marcus Conklin, an able lieutenant and well-respected legislator.
On the Senate side, things could get interesting. At press time, it looks as though Raggio will keep his Majority Leader position, but the conclusion of the governor’s race will decide what happens on the Democratic side. If Dina Titus wins her race to become governor, then the minority leader title will be up for grabs. Even if she loses, it’s a possibility we will see a new minority leader next session. The leading candidate is Senator Steven Horsford, who will be in his second term. He has solidified relationships with many of his caucus members and brings a wealth of union and business contacts to the position. Chairmanships in the upper house will most likely parallel last session, but memberships on those committees could change slightly.
There will be no shortage of issues for the “Gang of 63” to deal with this session, and as always, it is hoped they will do it in a bi-partisan, non-confrontational fashion.