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As GOP looks ahead to 2015, Dems get nervous


Republicans pulled off an unprecedented win this election, seizing control of both the state senate and assembly. Now, they’re starting to put together their wish list for the upcoming legislative session.

You know that feeling when you finally get to sit in the driver's seat after years of waiting?

That seems to be the mood of most Republicans these days, Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey (R-Reno) included.

“Sometimes I’m wondering if this is all a dream and I’m going to wake up back in a far distant reality where we were not in the majority.”

All Hickey needs for reassurance is to look around at the 24 other Republican lawmakers in the assembly come February. It’s been more than two decades since the GOP had a majority there. And now, with also a 1-person majority in the senate, the party intends to take advantage of its new power.

“...Reforms in education like an expansion of charter school authorities and other reforms including construction defects, some changes to collective bargaining, to prevailing wages and to dealing with, as the governor has indicated, the tax structure.”

On that last point, the restructuring of taxes, Governor Brian Sandoval says that's a priority for him next session, but isn't revealing any specifics yet.

Hickey credits the governor for the party's success this cycle and expects much of their agenda will be driven by what he proposes. Still, those items, like tamping down on public unions or changing standards for prevailing wages, will probably enjoy wide support in the assembly.

"I think they have to realize that this was an aberration this year."

That's Democratic State Senator Tick Segerblom of Las Vegas.

"And quite possibly in two years they could be in the minority again so treating us fairly would certainly be something they want to do. The more they want to gut into public employees this session, that's just going to create a lot of people who aren't too happy with them them next election."

Segerblom is concerned about public employees losing all collective bargaining rights with the GOP now in control. While the governor has a history of being a moderate, Segerblom is not sure about the many new Republicans coming into the legislature.

But Republicans like Pat Hickey and his colleague in the senate, Greg Brower (R-Reno), say that doesn't mean simply steamrolling the other party. Brower, who's the newly appointed chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says they won't be pursuing some radical agenda.

"I don't think you'll see legislation that is too far off on the right having success. You're certainly not going to see legislation too far off on the left having success. And I think that's in line with the governor's priorities and approach to lawmaking, as well."

Brower expects the focus to be on economic development and education reform. And believes some bill in those area will still have the ability to get unanimous support.

Depending on how the Republicans want to change the tax structure, they could need a 2/3 majority, which would require democratic support. That could give the minority some leverage, but, by and large, it's going to be the GOP running the show.

Democratic Senator Debbie Smith (D-Sparks) says they've compromised with Republicans in the past on issues like the rising cost of the public employee retirement system or teacher evaluations. But with the legislative power entirely in the GOP's hands now, she worries they won't have much say when it comes to vouchers or public unions, for example.

"These are things that affect working people. When you starting affecting the people who do our work, it's very concerning to me."

One thing is certain for 2015: Governor Sandoval will be at the helm and the outcome depends on how he steers his party.

Will Stone is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.