Education Bill heads to governor

CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) - In his State of the State Address earlier this year, Governor Brian Sandoval pointed to education savings accounts and taxation on marijuana sales as two major entries in his budget. Senate Bill 544 has neither of those things.

It all started on the night of June 1, 2017 in Senate chambers, when Republicans walked out of the floor session and did not return. But not before voting no twice on the taxation of marijuana sales.

Republicans claim they had a deal with Democratic leadership on education savings accounts, or ESA. Republicans say when Democrats backed out on the deal, they voted down the marijuana tax.

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford denies there was ever a deal.

“There was no meeting of the minds in the voucher program…our focus as Democrats has always been public school education. We are determined to get it funded, and that’s what we did yesterday,” said Senator Ford.

With no money from a marijuana tax, there was a budget deficit in school funding. Senators voted to plug the hole with money set aside for ESA.

While there was no such drama in the Assembly on June 2, the events in the Senate were alluded to by Assembly members who spoke about their opposition or endorsement of SB544.

"I believe in good faith in that house negotiated to a point where we were comfortable. That we were close. That we had the ability to get this done. So I can find no fault with this house,” said Assemblyman Paul Anderson, Minority Leader.

Anderson says he would not vote in favor of the bill because there was no ESA funding contained in it.

“We sat through the 2015 session, where we after onslaught, after onslaught. We didn't get anything of what we wanted. But we forged ahead. We put the state first, and when it came down to having to choose our own philosophical needs, versus the universal needs of this state, we chose the greater good,” said Dina Neal, a Democrat from Assembly District 7.

Neal endorsed SB 544.

The final vote of 27 to 15 means SB544 is headed to Governor Sandoval’s desk.

But because it does not contain ESA or a marijuana tax, will he sign it?
And is there plenty of time to incorporate a tax and ESA into another piece of legislation? That all depends upon who you talk to.

"Look, if we can come to an agreement on education savings accounts, we can come to an agreement on marijuana money. That's always been the outline of this issue and we could still get there," says Republican Senator Ben Kieckhefer, assistant minority leader.

"You know we're kind of past that point, but we've been very conscious about different scenarios that might play out and more than anything else we know for sure that we are passing a constitutionally balanced budget and we're funding the state for the next two years,” says Democrat Teresa Benitez-Thompson, Assembly Majority Leader.