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EDITORIAL: Going south — finally

The necessary ouster of Sparks Assemblyman Ira Hansen as speaker-designate, and the sensible appointment last week of Las Vegas Assemblyman John Hambrick to replace him, resulted in a historic shift in legislative power.

For likely the first time ever — to date, none of the state’s capable historians has identified a precedent — the leadership of both parties in both chambers of the Nevada Legislature are from the Las Vegas Valley. Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas; Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas; Assembly Minority Leader Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas; and Mr. Hambrick, a Republican, will control the agenda of next year’s session and steer their respective caucuses.

It’s about time.

Clark County has been the state’s population center and economic engine for more than three decades. But Northern Nevada lawmakers wielded disproportionate power that resulted in regional favoritism. Not surprisingly, they treated Southern Nevada as a tax revenue exporter — at the expense of valley schools, colleges and roads.

It wasn’t until the 2013 Legislature that Southern Nevada finally had a proportionate number of legislative seats. And now, finally, legislative leadership reflects that shift. Hansen was poised to become another in a long line of Northern Nevada Assembly speakers, but he stepped down after new attention was paid to racially charged and homophopic comments he made in newspaper columns and talk radio rants.

The agenda for the 2015 Legislature is long, important and urgent. And it’s the job of lawmakers to serve all state residents, not just the ones from their districts or their counties. But Southern Nevada’s leaders also have an obligation to right decades of funding wrongs, to restore some semblance of statewide equity and address Clark County’s many acute needs, from underperforming schools dominated by students who can’t speak English to its underfunded college campuses and inadequate mental health system.

The 2015 Legislature will mark the end of an era. Southern Nevada’s days of paying everyone else’s bills are over.

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