Democrat, GOP lawmakers to collaborate on redistricting plan

CARSON CITY — After two highly partisan stabs at redistricting legislative and congressional districts, Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature are heading toward a compromise that won’t attract another governor veto.

Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said he has assigned Sens. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, and James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, to develop and work with Democrats on a new plan to redraw districts to reflect population changes.

Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Chairman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, added he has made overtures to Republicans about working out a redistricting agreement.

“This shouldn’t be decided in court,” Segerblom said. “Redistricting is a political matter, not a legal matter.”

No public talks have occurred yet, but Segerblom said proposed district boundaries can be changed almost instantly with the mass of U.S. census data and the computers the Legislature possesses. The 2011 session must adjourn by Monday night.

Gov. Brian Sandoval twice has vetoed Democrat-approved redistricting bills on the grounds that they packed Hispanics into a few legislative districts and diluted their potential voting power. He also called for creation of a congressional district where Hispanics are the majority.

All 10 Hispanics in the Legislature are Democrats who voted for the Democrat plan.

Segerblom has maintained that Hispanics vote mainly Democrat and that they do not need to be in the majority to win legislative or congressional seats.

Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, is expected to seek a congressional seat. Kihuen was born in Mexico and often has spoken in Spanish when addressing crowds of people protesting budget cuts.

“Absolutely we can do redistricting now,” McGinness said. “It is probably the most political thing in this building. The fact we are getting together is hopeful.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, also confirmed a redistricting agreement might come. He said legislative leaders and the governor briefly discussed redistricting after Wednesday’s talks that led to an agreement on the state budget.

The “consensus” of all parties was to reach agreement and pass a redistricting plan before the Legislature adjourns.

Already lawsuits challenging whatever redistricting plan emerges from the Legislature have been filed in state and federal district courts.

McGinness had predicted earlier that redistricting would be decided by a judge.

Even on Wednesday, Settelmeyer spoke pessimistically about a redistricting deal, saying it looked like the matter was heading to court.

But that afternoon, Sandoval and legislative leaders were all smiles as they announced an agreement on a $6.2 billion state budget.

Settelmeyer had changed his tune by Thursday.

“There is a rumor that there is discussion that there might be some discussions (on redistricting),” he quipped.

Completing redistricting is doubly significant because as part of the budget agreement, legislators and Sandoval are changing the makeup of the state Board of Education.

Under the deal, the 10-member elected board will be replaced by a new board of four elected members, one from each of Nevada’s congressional districts, and three members appointed by the governor, the Senate majority leader and the Assembly speaker. That means the boundaries of the congressional districts also will be the boundaries of the Board of Education districts.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could get this done in time Monday (for adjournment)?” McGinness asked.

Contact Review-Journal reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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