Gov. Brian Sandoval talks with reporters on June 5, 2016. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Gov. Brian Sandoval said Friday it’s too early to take a position on a major federal health insurance reform proposal backed by Republican Sen. Dean Heller, but he expressed concern about its impact on Nevada.

In an interview, the governor also questioned the necessity of a 2018 ballot question proposed by fellow Republican Michael Roberson banning so-called “sanctuary cities.”

Outside of an unrelated event with JAG students (a state-run dropout prevention program) at Silverado High School in Las Vegas on Friday, the Republican governor detailed his positions to The Nevada Independent on a number of issues ranging from his office’s suggestions on modifying the boundaries of a recently created national monument in Nevada to continuing efforts to replace the federal Affordable Care Act.

Sandoval declined to take a position on a measure backed by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller that would substantially change the federal Medicaid program by keeping most of the Affordable Care Act in place while moving to a block grant system and altering the funding states receive from Medicaid to a per-capita cap.

Although Heller told a conservative talk show host last week that Sandoval — the first Republican governor to expand Medicaid under the ACA and a vocal opponent of efforts to roll back funding for the expanded population —  was on board with the Graham-Cassidy-Heller concept, the governor said it would be “premature” for him to comment until a final version of the bill had been introduced and his staff had a chance to analyze the bill.

“I don’t want to commit to one thing or the other other, but I do have a litmus test, which is that Nevada be held harmless,” he said.

But the governor did say that reports like the one by left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showing Nevada could lose more than $250 million in federal funding under the amendment had concerned him.

“That’s a problem,” he said. “I’ve said all along that I want the state to be held harmless. I want to ensure that those 210,000 people who were the beneficiaries of the opt-in and the newly eligibles are covered.”

Sandoval also said he would be in Las Vegas this weekend and had no plans to attend Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s annual Basque Fry, a fundraising event that’s attracted some of the biggest names in the Republican Party but has yet to attract Sandoval during its three years of existence.

On Laxalt, an expected gubernatorial candidate for 2018, Sandoval played coy and said that he would be happy to talk with any candidate for governor but had not had a direct conversation with Laxalt about running for the office, while noting that it was “no secret” that he and Laxalt had at times clashed over the last three years.

“We’ve had our differences, and we’ll see how it goes,” he said.

Sandoval also said he hasn’t been approached by any candidates — including Sandoval ally and state Sen. Scott Hammond — in the state’s 3rd Congressional District about an endorsement. He said Senate Republican leader Michael Roberson hasn’t asked him for an endorsement in his recently announced run for lieutenant governor, but had nothing but praise for the state senator.

“Senator Roberson was a warrior in terms of getting the Commerce Tax passed, and ensuring that what I introduced in 2015 got done, and I’ve had an opportunity to work with him through the years, so I have a lot of admiration and respect for him,” he said. “I think he will make a great candidate and he certainly has the background to serve as lieutenant governor.”

Sandoval also expressed skepticism toward the idea of a 2018 ballot question focused on so-called “sanctuary cities,” saying he would reserve judgement until seeing the ballot language itself but had spoken with Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April and didn’t think Nevada had that problem to worry about.

“I’m not aware of there being any issues in this state associated with sanctuary cities,” he said. “And so I don’t know if the ballot question is needed.”

Other Nevada Republicans, including Roberson and Laxalt, have made opposition to sanctuary cities a major point in their actual or potential 2018 ambitions. Roberson is chairing a political action committee spearheading the ballot initiative, and Laxalt in June filed a brief supporting an executive order punishing sanctuary cities.

The governor also expanded on his reported conversations with Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke on Wednesday over a federal national monument review, saying that his office had recommended some minor border adjustments in the national park near the town of Mesquite but was unsure if those recommendations made it into the final report.

“There’s some private water that is within the boundary right now that has complicated things for the city of Mesquite, so we wanted to redraw the boundary to take that into consideration,” he said. “At least in terms of the conversation, he was very receptive to that, but he wasn’t committal on what Interior is going to do.”

INDY FAST FACTS Michael Roberson Job: State senate minority leader Party: Republican In current office: 2010-present Senate Republican leader since 2015 Birthdate: June 20, 1970 Education: University of Kansas (B.S.) University of Kansas School of Law (J.D.) Other public offices held: None Total donations: $1,888,972 (5/28/10-5/25/17) Top donors: Las Vegas Sands $55,000 Station Casinos/Zuffa $47,500 Boyd Gaming $35,000 MGM Resorts International $25,000 Wynn Resorts $22,000
INDY FAST FACTS Scott Hammond Job: State senator, District 18 Party: Republican In current office: 2012-present Birthdate:  December 20, 1966 Education: University of Nevada, Las Vegas (B.A., M.A.) Other public offices held: Assemblyman, District 13 (2010-2012) Total donations: $804,734 (2011-2017) Top donors: Las Vegas Sands $30,000 MGM Resorts International $20,000 New Nevada PAC $15,000 Boyd Gaming $14,000 Nevada Subcontractors Assn PAC $12,500 Station Casinos $12,500
INDY FAST FACTS Dean Heller Job: U.S. Senator Party: Republican In current office: 2011-present Birthdate: May 10, 1960 Education: University of Southern California (B.A.) Other public offices held: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Nevada's 2nd Congressional District (2007-2011) Nevada Secretary of State (1995-2007) State Assemblyman (1990-1994) Total donations: $21,463,574 (2005-2018) Top donors: Station Casinos $117,900 Votesane PAC $92,000 MGM Resorts International $74,500 Blackstone Group $48,400 Capital Group $38,800 Credit: Center for Responsive Politics
INDY FAST FACTS Adam Laxalt Job: Nevada State Attorney General Party: Republican In current office: 2015-present Birthdate: August 31, 1978 Education: Georgetown University (B.A.) Georgetown University Law Center (J.D.) Other public offices held: None Total donations: $8,262,050 (1/08/14 - 6/07/18) Top donors: Station Casinos/Zuffa/Fertitta $208,500 Las Vegas Sands $75,000 Marnell Properties LLC $42,500 Starpoint Resort Group/Partners $40,000 MGM Resorts $35,000
INDY FAST FACTS Brian Sandoval Job: Nevada Governor Party: Republican In current office: 2011-present Birthdate: August 5, 1963 Education: University of Nevada, Reno (B.A.) Ohio State University (J.D.) Other public offices held: U.S. District Court Judge (2005-2009) Nevada State Attorney General (2003-2005) Nevada Gaming Commission Chair (1999-2001) Nevada Gaming Commission Member (1998-2001) State Assemblyman, District 25 (1994-1998) Total donations: $4,984,248 (1/07/11 - 7/5/17) Top donors: Caesars Entertainment $245,000 Station Casinos $158,072 MGM Resorts International $160,000 Wynn Resorts $80,000 Marnell Properties LLC $70,000
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