Lombardo vetoes debt collection, mental health bills despite bipartisan support

Additional vetoes expected as session enters waning days

By: - May 31, 2023 6:01 am
Lombardo's veto face

Just how heavy-handed the governor will be with his vetoes remains to be seen, but if the last legislative session during a divided government is any indication, a significant number of bills are likely to die on his desk in the coming week. (Photo: Richard Bednarski)

Near unanimous bipartisan support didn’t deter Gov. Joe Lombardo from vetoing two bills that passed largely unnoticed through the Nevada State Legislature.

The Republican governor on Monday vetoed Assembly Bill 265 and Assembly Bill 223 which dealt with mental health and debt collection, respectively. The Legislature is not expected to reconsider either bill in an attempt to override the veto, despite both bills having originally passed with a constitutional majority.

In Nevada, the Legislature can override a governor with a two-thirds vote. Democrats have that supermajority in the Assembly but are one shy in the Senate, so they would need one Republican’s support.

AB 265 and AB 223 mark the fourth and fifth veto of this year’s legislative session, which as of late Tuesday has seen 100 bills signed by the governor.

The first three bills Lombardo vetoed were all related to gun control and passed on party lines. All five vetoed bills have been referred to the chief clerk’s desk, which essentially serves as a legislative hospice for doomed bills.

Additional vetoes are expected this legislative session, which is scheduled to end on June 5. As of late Tuesday, just over 100 bills were listed as in the governor’s office awaiting action. They include the state budget bills, which Lombardo has threatened to veto.

Lombardo has said his priorities are a fiscally responsible budget, school safety, school choice and accountability, government efficiency and crime reduction.

Just how heavy-handed Lombardo will be with his vetoes remains to be seen, but if the last legislative session held by a divided government is any indication, a significant number of bills are likely to die on his desk in the coming week.

Across two legislative sessions, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in 2019 and 2021 vetoed just seven bills sent to him by a Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Similarly, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval in 2015 vetoed seven bills sent to him by a Republican-controlled Legislature. But two years later, after Democrats regained control of the Legislature, Sandoval vetoed 41 bills — the second highest veto total in Nevada history.

None of Sandoval’s vetoes in 2017 were overridden. That year, the Democrats controlled both houses but not by a supermajority.

The honor of bestowing upon the legislature the most vetoes during a single session belongs to Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons, who in 2009 vetoed 49 bills. About half of those were overridden by the Legislature.

Statewide consortium canned

AB 265 would have created a statewide children’s mental health consortium that would have brought together Nevada’s three existing regional consortia. The bill received unanimous support in both chambers. It passed the Assembly 42-0 on May 22 and the Senate 20-0 on April 25. Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro was excused from her chamber’s vote.

According to his veto letter, Lombardo took issue with the bill’s lack of a fiscal note. He pointed to a similar bill considered during the 2021 session that included a fiscal note submitted by the Division of Child and Family Services within the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.

At that time, DCFS estimated they would need approximately $200,000 over a biennium to implement the bill. Most of that cost would have gone toward hiring one full time health program specialist.

Dan Musgrove, the past chair of the Clark County Children’s Mental Health Consortium who helped present the bill with sponsor Democratic Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow, said in a March hearing for SB 265 that the 2021 fiscal note is what led to that year’s bill not moving forward.

Lombardo in his veto letter also said the statewide consortium would add “an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.”

The “primary issue plaguing our mental health crisis,” the letter concluded, is that “we do not have enough beds to adequately serve those struggling with mental illness.”

Debt collection bill canceled

AB 223 would have strengthened consumer protections for people with debt held by collection agencies.

The bill would have required the agencies to provide, upon request of the debtor, a letter explaining what is owed, including a breakdown of the principal balance, the amount of interest and fees being assessed, and how the interest and fees were calculated. Collection agencies would also have been required to provide a letter stating that a debt has been satisfactorily paid.

Under the provisions of the bill, a debtor could file a civil lawsuit against an agency that failed to provide a payoff or satisfaction letter.

AB 225 was approved by the Senate on May 22 in a 20-0 vote, with Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro excused. In the Assembly, it passed 38-2, with Republican Assemblywomen Jill Dickman and Danielle Gallant opposed and Democrats Cecilia Gonzalez and Clara Thomas were excused.

In his veto letter, Lombardo called the bill “well intended” but took issue with the provision allowing a debtor to take civil action against a debt collection agency. He contended that established claims processes through the Financial Institutions Division and the Department of Business Industry “are less expensive and more streamlined than traditional litigation.”

Democratic Assembly members Max Carter and Natha Anderson sponsored AB 223. Eleven other lawmakers signed on as cosponsors, including Republican Assemblyman Gregory Koenig.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.