Democrats pass redistricting, K-12 bills over GOP protests | RecordCourier.com

Democrats pass redistricting, K-12 bills over GOP protests

by Geoff Dornan
R-C Capitol Bureau

Democrats Tuesday pushed through their K-12 funding bill and their reapportionment/redistrcting plan as emergency measures, ignoring GOP objections.

The K-12 funding plan in Assembly Bill 568, which under the constitution must be the first budget bill approved, contains more than $650 million in costs over and above the spending recommended by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Democrats in joint committee rejected the idea of imposing a 5 percent pay cut on teachers, restored their educational and longevity pay as well as nearly all of the funding cut from the basic per pupil support. In addition, the Democratic plan also leaves school districts the bond reserve money Sandoval planned to take and sends the Initiative Petition 1 money directly to the Distributive School Account instead of the General Fund.

Sandoval also added back the basic support money using revenues projected by the Economic Forum.

The additions by both the administration and money committees raise the original governor’s recommended support from $4,877 per pupil this coming year to $5,542 in 2012 and $5,655 in 2013.

But Republican committee members objected to the salary and other pay add-backs supported by the majority.

Maintaining those decisions will require lawmakers to find the money to pay for them.

In addition, Democrats passed as an emergency measure their redistricting plan setting boundaries for legislative districts as well as the four congressional seats Nevada has as a result of the 2000 Census.

Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said the plan “nests” two Assembly seats within each single Senate District while maintaining the current 42 Assembly members and 21 Senators. He said the maximum deviation in any Assembly seat is 1.6 percent from the ideal 64,299 residents and less than 1 percent from the 128,598 residents in any Senate seat.

Currently, 14 Senators and 27 Assembly members are from the Las Vegas area. Under the new plan, 15 Senators would be from Clark along with 30 Assembly members.

The Washoe Senate seat collapsed to make the shift was the one vacated by Bill Raggio and held by appointee Greg Brower.

Republicans challenged the maps as unfair and, in their eyes, illegal because they don’t provide enough solid seats for the 26 percent of Nevadans who are Hispanic.

“There are no clear chances to increase their representation,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden.

He said the Republican plan provided twice as many Hispanic dominated districts.

Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said the Democratic Senate plan provides 13 districts that favor Democrats and five favoring Republicans. He said only three of those districts are competitive.

Brower, former U.S. Attorney for Nevada, said from his experience in enforcing federal law, the plan “does not comply with the voter rights act of 1965.”

“It undermines the ability of the Hispanic community to have its due representation in these bodies.

Several members pointed out the Democrat plan has only three districts with an Hispanic majority.

But Hispanic lawmakers at both ends of the building said the plan doesn’t discriminate against them.

“Nevada has proven Hispanics and other minority candidates can be elected in minority influenced districts,” said Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas.

He said concentrating them into just a few majority districts actually dilutes their chances of winning more seats.

Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, said her district is a good example because it isn’t majority Hispanic and yet, she won election.

Denis said the plan creates a record number of districts where a Hispanic candidate would have a good chance of victory.

Republican speakers also objected to the lines drawn for the congressional districts saying they would produce and protect three Democratic House members for the next decade with only one favoring Republican candidates.

Both measures were approved on a party line vote. After emergency action, they are on the way to the governor’s desk where they will likely be vetoed.

But Democrats may have a way around the redistricting veto since Nevada law doesn’t preclude lawmakers from approving redistricting in the form of a joint resolution instead of a bill. The governor has no veto power over a resolution.

That action, however, would undoubtedly send the issue to the Supreme Court.