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August 29, 2015

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After lawmaker criticism, PTA says it did not ask April Mastroluca to resign

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April Mastroluca

After finger-pointing from lawmakers that seemed to blame the National PTA for the sudden resignation of Assemblywoman April Mastroluca, the national education advocacy organization that employs Mastroluca said it did not ask her to give up her elected position.

But the group’s national spokesman said the organization requires employees to work during the business day.

“National PTA did not ask her to resign,” James Martinez, senior manager of media relations for the PTA, said in an email. “We do, however, require that National PTA employees devote working hours to our mission, and we do not provide months of leave with pay for nonmedical reasons.”

Mastroluca, a Democrat from Henderson, resigned Friday, just weeks after getting re-elected to her third term in Nevada’s Legislature. Mastroluca was seen as a possible chairwoman for the important Assembly Ways and Means Committee, which will dissect Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget.

Mastroluca cited “unanticipated family issues” as the reason for her resignation.

“I must put my family first," she said upon resignation.

She declined to comment for this story.

But tweets from lawmakers critical of the PTA and the organization’s response seems to suggest Mastroluca’s decision involved a hurdle faced by many of the state’s 63 part-time lawmakers: How do legislators find a “day job” that allows them to take a leave of absence, or do they work nights and weekends during a four-month stint crafting policy for the state?

Mastroluca is a national service representative for the southwest area of the National PTA. She’s worked for the PTA for about eight years, Martinez said.

On Friday, Mastroluca’s fellow lawmakers criticized the PTA on Twitter.

“I wouldn't want to be the PTA's lobbyist in the 2013 session,” Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, tweeted Friday.

Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, retweeted Segerblom’s tweet and added “maybe they play it smart and not send anyone SMH.” (SMH is Internet slang for “shaking my head.”)

The PTA doesn’t have a professional lobbying staff but has sent parent volunteers from the state affiliate to represent the organization during the legislative session in the past. Segerblom later Friday erased his original tweet and replaced it with: “Just kidding about PTA, we all love what it does and what it stands for."

In an interview Friday, Segerblom apologized.

“The tweet is deleted,” he said. “Nobody’s going to be punished. It’s an inappropriate comment I apologize for.”

Segerblom is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and Atkinson is chairman of the Commerce Committee, two of the more powerful committees in the Legislature.

Segerblom said he had no firsthand knowledge of Mastroluca’s situation but said, “It’s a tragedy to lose someone of the caliber of April Mastroluca.”

The Legislature has recently lost institutional knowledge and experience because of term limits. Mastroluca, with two terms under her belt, was one of the more seasoned legislators.

Segerblom blamed the system of the part-time Legislature, which meets for 120 days every odd year.

Lawmakers get paid $8,777.40 in salary plus $18,240 in per diem — $27,000 for four months of work. They also get up to $10,000 for travel and living expenses.

But they don’t get health care. Starting in early February, they can buy into the state’s health insurance program, but it’s not subsidized by taxpayers. The full cost for state health insurance is more than $1,400 a month.

Mastroluca’s replacement will be chosen by the Clark County Commission.

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