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Nevada AG, lieutenant governer call truce in ESA approach

CARSON CITY — Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison called a truce Thursday in their public squabble over a lawsuit Hutchison filed seeking an expedited ruling on the state’s new education savings account program.

The two elected Republican officials filed a joint stipulation in Clark County District Court to put a hold on the suit that Hutchison, acting in his private capacity as a lawyer, filed in December on behalf of parents urging a judge to declare the program constitutional.

The suit drew the public ire of Laxalt and state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who by law is charged with administering the program that seeks to allow parents to claim the state per-pupil funding appropriated for public schools to send their children to private or religious schools.

Last week Laxalt accused the lieutenant governor of “ethical conflicts” and asked a judge to dismiss his suit. He claimed Hutchison was local counsel helping to defend other challenges against the school choice law and was bound by a joint defense and confidentiality agreement when he filed the suit that named Schwartz as a defendant.

Both Laxalt and Schwartz said Hutchison’s lawsuit would jeopardize the state’s efforts and resources to defend the law in two other lawsuits. Schwartz called Hutchison’s suit a political ploy.

But Laxalt and Hutchison buried the hatchet after a Carson City judge, in a ruling in a separate lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of ESAs, issued an injunction to halt the program pending further court proceedings.

In light of the ruling by District Judge James Wilson, “we have set aside our strategic differences,” Hutchison and Laxalt said in a joint statement, adding that they are “united” behind Laxalt’s efforts to defend the state’s position supporting the school choice law in the Carson City case.

As part of their new forged alliance, Laxalt in a court filing also withdrew his allegations of ethical conflicts against Hutchison.

Schwartz said he was pleased with the development.

“The attorney general and I can now focus on the two existing lawsuits and the serious issues they entail,” he said in a statement.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Find her on Twitter: @SandraChereb

 

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