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Sandoval gets low score on “racial equity” report card

Updated Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 | 2:31 p.m.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, the state's first non-white governor, received a 53 percent score on a "racial equity" report card for his vetoes of bills that would have helped minority communities, a liberal advocacy group said this morning.

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada rated lawmakers on 15 bills that passed both the Assembly and Senate during the 2011 Legislature.

"We need the governor to show a little more courage, a great deal more compassion in his decisions," said Bob Fulkerson, executive director of the group. He said Sandoval needs to make decisions "not just in the best interest of the clients of Jones Vargas," the influential law and lobbying firm where Sandoval worked after stepping down from the federal bench to run for governor.

Sandoval would have no comment until after his office had read the report, said his spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner.

Most of the legislation used to evaluate lawmakers and the governor was considered progressive. Democratic lawmakers faired far better than Republican lawmakers on the poll. The highest scoring Republican, Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, scored 58 percent. Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, was the lowest scoring Democrat, with 84 percent.

Senior adviser Dale Erquiaga noted that Sandoval recently appointed the first Native American to a cabinet level position in the state's history, and signed bills extending discrimination laws to protect transgender people.

He said the report card "might be disconnected from the full work of the administration."

In the state Senate, Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, scored the highest with 96 percent. Assemblyman Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, had the highest score in the Assembly with 96 percent.

Jan Gilbert, lobbyist with PLAN, stressed that there was improvement, because there were 15 bills this session to evaluate, and in 2009, there were only 10.

PLAN noted the Assembly received an average score of about 70%, the same as in 2009. The Senate averaged 64 percent, 6 points higher than last session.

Fulkerson said this report was not meant to label anyone as "racist." Gilbert said it was meant to "raise the bar" for elected officials.

The bills Sandoval vetoed that PLAN criticized included:

• AB456, which would have allowed students who did not receive passing scores on all sections of the state proficiency tests to receive a diploma.

• AB300, which would have made changes to the state's foreclosure mediation program.

• AB137, which would have mandated a school breakfast program at certain public schools. Nevada ranks 53rd in feeding eligible hungry children breakfast and lunch, trailing Washington, D.c., Puerto Rico, Guam and all states, PLAN said.

Erquiaga said the school breakfast law would have mandated schools serve breakfasts in classrooms, rather than in cafeterias, an approach that schools did not favor.

Sandoval is the state's first Hispanic governor; the state Senate was lead by Sen. Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, who is black, and a number of powerful Assembly committees are headed by black Assemblymen.

Asked whether that helps with passage of such legislation, PLAN Chair Theresa Navarro said, "Just because people are of color does not necessarily mean people will work to contribute to the community."

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