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March 29, 2017

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Analysis: 3 of the most intriguing moments from Sandoval’s speech

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Gov. Brian Sandoval delivers his State of the State speech, Jan. 29, 2015.

Gov. Brian Sandoval didn’t cut loose with a game-changing initiative Tuesday night in his State of the State address like he did in 2015, when he unveiled a plan to pump more than $1 billion into education.

But that doesn’t mean his speech was without its interesting moments. Here were a few:

So much for the call for unity

After beginning his address by urging Republicans and Democrats to reject the “counterproductive divisiveness of partisan politics,” Sandoval delivered a budget item that cleaved the crowd along party lines.

Sandoval’s call for $60 million in funding to revive the state’s Education Savings Account law prompted Republicans to stand and Democrats to stay seated.

“I knew it’d be a split house on that one,” Sandoval said, chuckling.

But looks may have been deceiving.

No doubt, Democrats will do more than sit silently as Sandoval’s ESA proposal goes through the legislative process — they’ll push back, as indicated by Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford in his response to Sandoval’s speech.

But how hard?

What we know is that Ford called ESA revival “the wrong priority for Nevada’s kids” and said:

“It is not fair to Nevada families to divert our limited resources toward private schools. Any amount of money directed toward a voucher program will result in less money being made available to public schools.”

So far so good for anyone who came into the speech hoping the Democrats would battle ESA like the Alamo defenders.

But Ford didn’t draw a rock-hard line. Instead, he said that unlike Republicans in 2015, Democrats would work with Sandoval “on funding for public schools, continuing the upward trajectory of Nevada’s public school system, and giving parents more say and more choices within the school system.”

So it would seem that Democrats, who hold majorities in both legislative chambers, might to use ESA to bargain for something else. It’s not clear what that would be, but there have been whispers about counterproposals involving income caps or a tiered system that would benefit lower-income families.

A key criticism of the law, the implementation of which was halted by a Nevada Supreme Court ruling saying its funding method was unlawful, is that it would do little more than offset the costs for wealthy families to send their kids to private schools. At about $5,100 per student, ESAs wouldn’t provide enough to fully fund a private school education, meaning it wouldn’t do much good for lower-income families.

What’s clear is that Sandoval is going to the mat on the issue.

“I look forward to building a bipartisan solution to get this done,” he said. “It’s time to give Nevada families more choice."

Tesla expansion

Sandoval announced that Tesla had maxed out its current production facility in California and planned to build motors and gearboxes for its Model 3 vehicle at its massive facility in Northern Nevada. The move will generate an additional $350 million in investment and 550 skilled jobs for the Nevada economy, Sandoval said.

Not here, not now, not ever

Sandoval drew strong applause by announcing that he wasn’t open to discussion on resurrecting the Yucca Mountain high-level nuclear waste storage facility.

“For the remainder of my term, i will vigorously fight the storage of high-level nuclear waste in the state of Nevada,” he said. “Any attempts to resurrect the ill-conceived Yucca Mountain project will be met with relentless opposition and maximum resources. Let’s face it, continuing down a path that seeks to force this unsafe and unwanted project on Nevada is a waste of time and money and only gets the country farther away from solving its nuclear waste problem.”

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