Editorial: Raggio provides strong leadership

It's no surprise to anybody that the numbers in Nevada's Legislature continue to slip to the south. That's been going on for more than 30 years.

What's remarkable, however, is just how long the north has been able to hold sway through the leadership authority of Bill Raggio, a Republican, in the Senate and Joe Dini, a Democrat, in the Assembly.

As the Legislature prepares to deal with reapportionment - that 10-year recurring nightmare - again in 2001, it may be worth exploring why Raggio and Dini have been able to hold the keys to the engines that drive Nevada's legislative machine.

Part of it, of course, is seniority. Twenty-six years for Raggio. Thirty-two years for Dini. They're sharp, savvy in Nevada politics and they know everybody.

More than that, however, they are deal-makers. You might call them power-brokers, but there's an art and a practicality to building consensus and forging legislation that will actually accomplish needed change in Nevada.

We saw Raggio take charge of a wandering education philosophy. Certainly there remains controversy over the direction his reform package has taken, but it is generally agreed that strong action was needed.

Dini also led an effective effort to help protect foster children in Nevada, a messy and complicated issue on which it is also agreed that strong action was needed.

These are only a couple of examples, because Raggio and Dini play large roles in most of the legislation that eventually becomes law.

In the past, the leadership power in the north has been the source of friction and undoubtedly led to inequities - particularly the funding imbalance that Washoe County once enjoyed. But there have been some advantages to southern lawmakers, too, in having Raggio and Dini to mediate their disputes and take some of the heat for contentious decisions.

Clark County will get more representation after the 2001 reapportionment, and perhaps someday every legislative vote will swing to the south. But until somebody from the south steps up with the skills of Raggio and Dini - and the desire to remain in the state legislature instead of running for higher office - then northern legislators will continue to influence the state with leadership rather than sheer numbers.


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