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No longer on Finance panel, Raggio to begin 39th year

CARSON CITY — It’s official.

According to a list of committee appointments released this week, Bill Raggio, beginning his record 39th year as a state senator, no longer will serve on the Senate Finance Committee.

The Reno Republican has served on Finance — a seven-member committee that’s generally one of the most coveted — on all but two of his years in the Senate and has been committee chairman in 10 different sessions.

The committee reviews spending by all state agencies.

Raggio, 84, requested that new Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, not consider him for the committee last month after Senate Republicans replaced him as their leader in the upper house.

"I didn’t want to be an impediment," Raggio said Thursday. "I removed myself from Finance. Some of my views on constructing the budget don’t coincide with the caucus. I thought it would be better to let them have their own people."

Raggio was replaced as caucus leader by his GOP colleagues in part because he endorsed Democratic Sen. Harry Reid over Republican challenger Sharron Angle in the U.S. Senate race and supported tax increases in the 2003 and 2009 sessions.

The state Senate elected several more conservative members in the November election. But longtime Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, remained on the Finance Committee. Rhoads also endorsed Reid and supported tax increases during the 2009 session.

Fred Lokken, a political science professor at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, said the Republicans will be making a mistake if they don’t use Raggio for assistance on budget, redistricting and other matters during the session that begins Feb. 7.

"But I am not optimistic the rift will be addressed," Lokken said. "Maybe he is stepping back, but Raggio is the No. 1 politician in the history of the state in my view."

One way of looking at Raggio’s decision not to serve on the Finance Committee, according to Lokken, is that he is "allowing them (Republicans) to pursue what he thinks is the wrong agenda."

When the final days of the Legislature arrive, he added, they might decide they need to court Raggio and secure his help in brokering deals with Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, will chair the Finance Committee. Horsford had co-chaired the committee in 2009.

Instead of Raggio, new Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, will serve on the Finance Committee.

Kieckhefer is a former Reno Gazette-Journal and Associated Press reporter who once covered the Nevada Legislature. In recent years, he has been the press secretary to Gov. Jim Gibbons and spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services. He quit the latter position after he was elected to the Legislature.

This session Raggio’s morning committee assignment will be on the Government Affairs Committee. He also will serve on the Health and Human Services and Education committees.

"I am very satisfied," said Raggio about the appointments.

Because the Democrats hold an 11-10 advantage in the Senate over Republicans, two Republicans — Joe Hardy of Boulder City and Elizabeth Halseth of Las Vegas — won’t have morning committee assignments.

Since there are three morning committees and Democrats have the right to chair each committee, two committees will have a 4-3 Democrat-Republican membership and the third, Government Affairs, will have a 3-2 Democrat-Republican membership.

That leaves the two Republicans without a morning committee.

When the Republicans controlled the Senate in 2007 by an 11-10 advantage, they created a committee membership list that also kept two Democrats from serving on a morning committee.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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