- Associated Press - Friday, August 28, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - Nevada education officials have tapped an Arizona lawmaker to run a new anti-bullying program championed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

State Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, said Friday he’ll leave the Legislature next month to run the Nevada Department of Education’s Office for a Safe and Respectful Learning Environment. The vacancy created by the Tempe lawmaker’s resignation will be filled by Maricopa County supervisors from a list created by Democrats in his district.

The anti-bullying office was created by Nevada lawmakers this year after a push by Sandoval, a Republican. The program will be implemented throughout state schools and impose discipline on teachers and administrators who don’t do enough to report or prevent bullying.

“This position is brand new. There’s nothing like this in the nation that elevates the epidemic of bullying to such a level,” Ableser said. “It’s to me a sign of what’s to come in public education. And to be on the forefront and leading edge of such drastic and needed changes to protect students across Nevada from bullying, at the same time getting my kids and wife closer to family, we have no family here, it’s a win-win and something that I could not say no to.”

Ableser, 37, has served in the Legislature since 2006, when he was appointed to a Senate seat. He served in the House of Representatives from 2007-2012, then ran for Senate.

Republicans control both chambers of the Arizona Legislature, limiting Ableser’s ability to move legislation. But he cited his work on the 2013 expansion of Medicaid championed by former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer as a key accomplishment.

“Medicaid expansion, in order to make that work, the governor relied on three key players over here in the Senate, and I was lucky to be one of those,” Ableser said. “I look back at that opportunity, and I cherish that as a major victory for the state that I had a hand in.”

Ableser runs a private school counseling firm in Tempe and holds a doctorate in justice and social inquiry from Arizona State University, where he also earned a master’s degree in counseling and a bachelor’s degree in political science and Chinese.

Ableser and his wife, Hilary, have a son, 2, and a daughter, 4, and he will be based in Carson City. His wife is the daughter of U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

“It is not an easy decision to leave Tempe and our great state of Arizona, but the opportunity to enter the world of education in a position to help so many children have a learning environment free of fear, while also being closer to family, is one I cannot pass up,” said Ableser said in a statement.

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