By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Several Nevada lawmakers serving on a panel gearing up for the critical task of redrawing the state’s political boundaries in 2011 said today they support expanding the size of the Legislature to provide better representation.
Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said the Legislature should have added more seats to the Senate and Assembly in the 2001 redistricting process. Because Southern Nevada’s population has boomed for most of the decade, more legislative seats will move south from rural and northern Nevada unless more seats are added, he said.
This makes it almost impossible for some lawmakers to properly represent their districts, both because of the overall population growth and because some rural districts are geographically immense, Raggio said.
“They are not really manageable,” he said. “So you need to increase the size so that you don’t have districts with geographical areas that are just impossible or impractical for one person to represent.”
The Nevada Legislature has 21 state senators and 42 members in the Assembly for a total of 63 lawmakers. The state constitution limits the size of the Legislature to a maximum of 75.
Currently 14 of 21 senators are from Clark County. Twenty-nine of the 42 members of the Assembly are from Clark County.
Raggio said he believes the Legislature should consider expanding all the way to the full 75 allowed, with 25 members in the Senate and 50 members in the Assembly.
Raggio will be involved in the redistricting process but he won’t be crafting a Senate district for himself. The 2011 session will be his last.
Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said they too support an expansion of the Legislature when interviewed after the meeting of the Legislative Commission’s Committee to Study Requirements for Reapportionment and Redistricting.
Goicoechea said at least two Assembly seats and one Senate seat need to be added in the 2011 legislative session. The Assembly Republican Caucus will push for that, he said.
Goicoechea said he would also like to see districts more closely mirror county lines where possible. Several rural Nevada counties have multiple legislative representatives right now, he said.
Smith said she believes more seats are needed to ensure adequate representation outside of Clark County. In the 2001 redistricting process, two Assembly seats and one Senate seat went south from Washoe County to compensate for the population growth. Smith saw her own district carved up as part of that process.
Smith lost re-election in 2002 following the redistricting by the 2001 Legislature. She was re-elected in 2004 and has served ever since.
Smith said the cost of an expansion would not be that great because the legislative building can accommodate more members.
Smith said she is not certain yet on how much of an expansion would be appropriate.
Redistricting occurs one every 10 years following the census count.
The Legislature must redraw their own districts to make them approximately equal in size. They will also redraw the state’s congressional boundaries. Given Nevada’s population growth since the last census, the state will likely expand to four seats in the House of Representatives from the current three seats.
Sen. Bill Raggio on need to expand size of Legislature:
Raggio on some districts being too large to represent:
Assemblywoman Debbie Smith on concerns about representation: