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Southern Nevada officials talk solidarity as legislative session looms

Southern Nevada lawmakers held the political equivalent of a pep rally with local government officials Thursday looking forward to the upcoming session of the Legislature.

But even with broad agreement that southerners need to hang together for their economic and demographic advantages to hold sway in Carson City, there were signs it will take more than pleasantries over coffee and pastries to maintain solidarity.

Still, the local officials and lawmakers who attended the kibbutz seemed determined not to come away from yet another legislative session feeling as though money and power sharing in state government doesn’t reflect Southern Nevada’s vast advantage in population numbers and business activity.

“How come in Southern Nevada we are always fighting each other,” said Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. “If Southern Nevada is healthy, the rest of the state does well.”

The event at University of Nevada, Las Vegas attracted about 120 government officials, lawmakers and lobbyists.

Brian McAnallen, vice president of government affairs for the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, and Robert Lang, co-director of the Brookings Mountain West think tank, led much of the event.

To avoid running afoul of the state open meeting law, governing bodies that sent enough members to constitute a quorum had to post agendas, open the floor to public comment and record the proceedings to produce minutes.

City council members from Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas and Mesquite attended, as did members of the Clark County Commission.

With Kirkpatrick, state Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, and Minority Leader Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, and Assemblyman Cresent Hardy, R-Mesquite, took questions from the local officials.

Roberson, who as a freshman in 2011 won praise from conservatives for serving as foil to then-Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, struck a moderate tone, asserting that elected officials agreed on 80 percent to 90 percent of issues.

“Moderation is not a dirty word. Centrism is not a dirty word,” he said.

But specifics on the upcoming session were sparse.

Audience members spent much of the event broken up into small groups to discuss issues such as education and infrastructure.

The infrastructure group urged the Legislature to support projects such as a high-speed rail connection to California and a stadium with surrounding development at UNLV.

Kirkpatrick said the UNLV stadium project will be on the legislative agenda, possibly in the form of legislation to create a special district to capture tax revenue.

Other proposals were less well-received.

During a question-and-answer session near the end of the event, Terri Janison, senior director of health and community for the United Way of Southern Nevada, who had been in the education group, suggested that changes to the statute regulating public employee union contract negotiations could make education more efficient.

“It is not that we want to get rid of it as a whole,” Janison said. “It is just that we want you to take a look at the finances of it.”

Kirkpatrick responded that collective bargaining changes aren’t likely to be a priority for the Legislature.

“In the Assembly we are not having those discussions until we have solved some problems,” she said.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285 .

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