Thursday, June 1, 2023 | 6:01 a.m.
CARSON CITY — Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo signed a pair of budget bills late Wednesday funding K-12 education and authorizing federal funding through the upcoming biennium after he and top lawmakers struck a deal to advance key pieces of his legislative agenda.
The deal averts threats from Lombardo that he would reject any budget bills until his legislative priorities were considered by the legislature and formally approves more than $12 billion in public education appropriations for the 2023-2025 biennium.
In return, the Senate in a late night floor meeting passed Assembly Bill 330, which was drafted by Lombardo’s office and reforms so-called restorative justice practices. The bill is accompanied by Assembly Bill 285, which puts the burden of developing disciplinary actions to local school districts or charter school principals.
“It’s a bipartisan effort that shows we can work together for the benefit of Nevada and the kids, which is the most important piece,” Lombardo told reporters shortly after midnight, following a ceremonial signing at the capitol building. “The ultimatum that was out there by me and what I wanted to get done, it has nothing to do with being the governor. It has everything to do with doing the right thing.”
Lombardo and other Republicans had criticized “fast-tracked” budget maneuvers that created an additional $318 million in K-12 spending apart from the $2 billion initially sought by the governor — which Democrats contend will increase per-pupil spending by nearly 26%. The bill also increases annual per-pupil spending by $3,159 for fiscal year 2024 and $3,075 for the following year.
“The most important investment we can make in Nevada’s future starts with our students,” Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, said in a statement. “We are sending a clear message that Nevada’s students and education professionals are at the top of our priority list. This historic investment will ensure Nevada’s children, students, teachers, and education professionals are supported and able to achieve their fullest potential.”
Provisions in the bill also allocate $15 million for educator professional development, and $386 million over the next two years for school transportation services.
“These unprecedented investments will help ensure we have a qualified teacher in every classroom and that our children have the resources they need to succeed,” Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzro, D-Las Vegas, said in a statement.
The passage of AB 330 marks a significant win for the Lombardo, a first-term Republican who campaigned on reforming the restorative justice measures signed into law by his predecessor, Democrat Steve Sisolak, in the previous legislative session.
“Was it a hill to die on? Yes,” Lombardo said.
The bill requires that pupil discipline data be reported to a local school district’s superintendent rather than the Nevada Department of Education.
AB330, in conjunction with AB285, also allow schools to suspend, expel or permanently remove students for certain violent offenses and outlines new processes to take when a student may face discipline, including a plan of “progressive discipline,” to consider methods of alternative conflict resolution and interventions based on social or emotional learning.
“I do think the teachers in our state, the students in our state, and the families will really be better off because of the bills that we signed tonight,” said Assemblywoman. Angie Taylor, D-Reno. “When you care a lot, when there’s a lot at state, then you put a lot into it.”
Lombardo has until midnight Thursday to take action on a pair of other budget bills, Assembly Bills 520 and 522, which provide funding for civil governments and provides raises for state employees, respectively. Both items cleared the Senate Friday along a 13-7 party-line vote.
A final budget bill, Assembly Bill 521, has yet to be vote on by the Senate. That measure requires a two-thirds majority because it renews a statewide property tax necessary to fund certain capital improvement projects.
Legislative Republicans have opposed budget bills out of protest to stand in solidarity with Lombardo. Democrats are one vote shy in the Senate to override Lombardo’s vetoes, but do hold a supermajority in the Assembly.
To that, Lombardo Chief of Staff Ben Kieckhefer said the governor maintains further action needs to be taken on his agenda to stave off other budgetary vetoes. Proposals such as Senate Bill 405, which would require voters to show identification before casting a ballot during an election, and Senate Bill 412, which would change various criminal justice statutes, have also stalled in committee.
“I’m not drawing lines in the sand about what gets us to the place where we need to be, and certainly won’t be doing that with the press,” Kieckhefer said. “But we’ll play it by ear tomorrow and see where we get.”