Republican Pat Hickey served as a state assemblymember for one term from 1996-98. The time required to be a legislator was a problem, and his private business—he was a painting contractor—suffered, so he retired from the Legislature. Last year he tried again and was elected to the Assembly from District 25, which runs from the Mayberry area west of Reno through south Reno to the Storey County line southeast of the city. In his first term, the party breakdown was 17 Republicans (including Brian Sandoval) out of 42 members with a Democratic governor. This year it was 16 Republicans out of 42 with a Republican governor. We spoke with him about three-fourths of the way through the 2011 legislature.

How have things changed in the Legislature in 14 years?

Well, it’s different, I guess, because I’m different. You know, 14 years ago, I was honestly looking over my shoulder at my kids and my small business back home. Fast forward, they’re through school, and the business is stable or in the crapper, depending on how you want to characterize it. So I’m able to be more focused this time. It’s certainly more partisan. However, with the large freshman class, you know, there’s a newness and at least an openness personally. And I think that the partisanship and the strains that bind make it difficult for us to get together as I think we’re kind of inclined to [do], respect each other’s points and want to support each other’s legislation on some levels. But the other powers behind the scenes are maybe more evident or stronger than [when] I was here before. But I think the personal dynamic is good.

Things have gotten more rigidly Republicans versus Democrats than they used to be.

Right. Of course, when I was here before, we were kind of insignificant. We were such a small minority that there was no leverage or we weren’t relevant. And, certainly, the Republican minority is very powerful in this mix because of the veto-sustaining minority that we have. You know, we’ve tried to do some things. I created a little freshman caucus. We tried to have a dialogue … just among freshman members. It didn’t really come off. A few came, but I think there were committees scheduled that we didn’t know about. So it didn’t really, practically work. You know, and you probably heard that I had another forum [an April 11 legislative town hall meeting] here where people laid out their positions, which were not all that close to the point of compromise or agreements. …

Certainly the rhetoric you see in campaigns—if you maintain that all through the legislative session, nothing gets done.

Yes. I would say this. If it’s true that there are two competing interests behind the various people and the parties, i.e., the unions on one side, business interests on the other, I would say, in my opinion, business interests are a lot more willing to consider movement on things such as taxes, and I think, at least from what I’ve observed, the unions are far more rigid with respect to some of the reforms that we’re interested in—some changes to collective bargaining, some consideration of maybe exemption for education from prevailing wage and even, frankly, some of the governor’s education proposals are really being diluted and circumvented and opposed by the teachers especially. So, you know, there’s the people, but then there’s the powers and the interests behind them that I think make it difficult for people to come together.