CARSON CITY -- While she shivered in 35-degree temperatures after dealing with a sleeping bag soaked from rainwater that fell through a hole in her tent, College of Southern Nevada student Sarah Christensen insisted her trip to "Sandoville" was worth the inconvenience.
"The cause is worth it; the bad weather is a small price to pay," Christensen, who also works at a 24-Hour Fitness in Las Vegas, said Tuesday morning. "Education is a cause to fight for."
Christensen and about 40 other people, including five Democratic legislators, camped out Monday night in Sandoville, a tent city set up outside the Legislative Building.
Signs at the tent city explained that Sandoville is "the place where education dies."
The chilly protesters, many of them college students from Clark County, are lobbying legislators and attending hearings through today in an attempt to induce Republicans to reject Gov. Brian Sandoval's education spending plans.
Some of the protesters also attended a March protest that attracted nearly 1,000 students.
Christensen, 29, said her feet felt frozen from the rain, but she managed to make it through the night.
She and other students want legislators at least to vote to retain about $600 million in taxes that will otherwise expire June 30.
But on Monday, the day the protesters arrived in Carson City, Sandoval vetoed the Democrat-approved public school budget that contains about $700 million more in spending than he recommended.
Legislators also appear ready to pass a higher education budget today that probably will be at least $100 million more than his recommendations. Another veto is likely.
Sandoval on Monday and Tuesday avoided appearances at the tent city that carries his name. He was in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
But his wife, Kathleen, camped out in a tent city next to the Legislature in February 2007 during a protest over cuts in spending to help the homeless.
Among the legislators camping out Monday night was Assemblyman Richard Carrillo, D-Las Vegas.
"I slept like a bear. I like the cold weather," he said.
Carrillo said some of the tent city students might not be able to finish college and acquire good jobs unless the Legislature rejects cuts in higher education spending.
"We are here to make something happen," he said. "The biggest thing is letting them know we are here for them."
Sens. Mo Denis and Steven Horsford, both D-Las Vegas, Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, and Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, also camped out in the cold Monday night.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas junior Emma Guerrero wants Sandoval to see the faces of people who might not get an education if his budget plan wins approval.
"I represent the students who are hurting, people who won't be able to go to college," said Guerrero, 22.
She took unpaid leave from a job with the Culinary union to travel to Sandoville.
Guerrero said the students have reviewed legislators' voting records and are trying to meet with each legislator.
"We tell them what we think and listen to what they think, too," she said.
Sebring Frehner, a senior at Nevada State College in Henderson, vowed that it would be "over my dead body" if his college is closed by budget cuts.
"All we want is a reasonable compromise, a balanced approach," he said.
Sebring, 33, worked in the gaming, service and electronics industries before entering college. He has secured a chemist job for the summer with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Without college, Sebring realizes he never would have been hired for such a good, well-paying job.
"We are going to give this everything we have," Sebring said about the legislative push.
Bob Fulkerson, director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, roughed it out Monday night with the students.
PLAN is an umbrella advocacy organization that represents more than 40 liberal-leaning groups in Nevada.
He still sounded optimistic Tuesday about winning over Sandoval and Republican legislators.
"This 'my way or the highway' approach is not the way to run the state," Fulkerson said. "It is much better being on the side of people sleeping out than being against them. They never will give in. Why not compromise?"
Life in Sandoville has not been all gloomy and cold.
Luckily, they have an out if the weather becomes too inclement. Several of their leaders have rented motel rooms where they can shower, brush their teeth and thaw out.
They can use restrooms in the Legislative Building, too.
Also, several legislators treated the campers to pizza on Monday night.
They watched "Freedom Riders," a movie about the 1960s civil rights protests in the South.
"The people who went to Birmingham (Ala.) had it a lot tougher than we do," Guerrero said.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.