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Sandoval reaches out to Democratic leader as Nevada Legislature enters final weeks

Updated May 5, 2017 - 6:10 pm

CARSON CITY — Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval and senior administration officials met Friday with Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to try to push the legislative process forward as the Nevada Legislature enters its final weeks.

Sandoval, accompanied by Chief of Staff Mike Willden and senior adviser Andrew Clinger, walked across the Capitol complex Friday afternoon.

The governor said his goal was to “talk about a path” toward an end game for bringing the session to a close early next month. By law the 120-day session must end by midnight June 5.

“I think it’s important to have this conversation,” Sandoval told the Review-Journal before his sit-down with Frierson, adding he doesn’t want to wait until the last minute.

Sandoval said he planned to talk about his budget priorities, including $60 million for education savings accounts that Democrats oppose, and some of his other policy objectives that have not been heard.

After the hour-long meeting, Sandoval described his conversation with Frierson as “great.”

“I have great respect for the Speaker,” he said. He offered no further details, other than to say he was told hearings on some of his bills have been scheduled.

Frierson was unavailable to meet with reporters because of other commitments, an aide said. But Sarah Abel, spokesman for the Assembly Democratic caucus, said the speaker and the governor have met regularly throughout the session.

She described Friday’s meeting as “standard practice.”

Education savings accounts, or ESAs, could be a cog in the legislative wheel. Democrats killed one bill sponsored by Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, to implement the policy. An identical bill from the governor’s office has not been scheduled for a hearing, and Democratic leadership has consistently said their focus is on public education.

ESAs would allow parents to tap into taxpayer dollars to help pay for private school tuition or other educational options.

Last week Assembly Minority Leader Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, said his caucus would vote against a budget that does not include ESA funding.

Democrats can pass a budget without Republican support, but do not have the clout to override a veto by the governor.

Anderson said Republicans were counting on the governor “having our back” with the threat of a veto to try to force Democratic acquiescence on the ESA issue. Sandoval won’t say if he would veto the budget if the Democratic majority leaves out ESAs, but has consistently said the program is important to him.

“I don’t want to have to carry around a sledgehammer,” the governor told the RJ. “We are going to talk about it.”

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.

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