Special session looms after GOP blocks budget bill; A’s stadium, film tax credits quietly stall
Legislators deciding things in a hallway Monday night. (Photo: April Corbin Girnus)
The stroke of midnight arrived without the stroke of Gov. Joe Lombardo’s pen signing a key state budget bill. Now, the Legislature will be forced to hold a special session, possibly as early as Tuesday, in order to pass a balanced state budget as constitutionally required.
And two high profile proposals – one to subsidize a baseball stadium for the A’s, and another to subsidize film production companies – both failed to advance.
By the mandatory sine die adjournment at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Assembly Bill 521 (known as the Capital Improvements Program) had not even made it to the governor’s desk. Instead, it died in the Legislature’s upper chamber after being voted down by Senate Republicans roughly half an hour before the deadline.
The CIP bill requires a two-thirds majority to pass because it involves renewing existing taxes.
“My colleagues and I are taking a stand,” said Senate Minority Leader Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) in a floor statement before announcing that the caucus would not vote for the bill. “We are resolved. We are doubly resolved to stay here as long as necessary…”
Seevers Gansert said the minority party was growing “weary and frustrated” after being “ignored” by Democratic legislative leaders. She announced she had given the Democrats a list of priorities, including “three important issues” — capital funding for charter schools, more graduate medical education, and “pay equity” for charter school teachers and support staff.
The charter school teacher pay equity issue stems from Democratic-backed legislation like Senate Bill 231, which creates a $250 million matching state fund which school districts can tap to fund teacher and support staff pay raises. The majority of the state’s charter schools would not be eligible as they are not part of a formal school district. SB 231 over the weekend passed both houses with widespread bipartisan support — only Assemblyman Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas) voted against it — but Republicans noted their concern about the exclusion of charter schools. The bill was listed as procedurally in transit to the governor’s desk, as of early Tuesday.
Republicans have long been proponents of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed schools. Charter schools do not receive dedicated funds for their buildings and pay for their rent or leases through the per-pupil dollars they receive from the state’s K-12 education fund.
“Our request is reasonable,” said Seevers Gansert. “Their answer can be very, very easy.”
Lombardo in a statement released shortly after the end of the regular legislative session, said he was conferring with legislative leadership: “I anticipate calling a special legislative session in the morning. I will issue a proclamation to outline agenda items for the special session when finalized.”
The governor in his proclamation for a special session must outline what issues are to be addressed, and the Legislature is limited to acting only on those issues. Most special sessions are limited to 20 days, though most are considerably shorter.
The imminent special session will be the state’s 34th.
Previous sessions have ranged from one day (in 2013, most recently) to 27 days (in 2003).
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said her Republican colleagues “chose politics” over people and accused them of “wasting time and taxpayer dollars to relitigate partisan disputes instead of working with us in the best interests of Nevadans.”
She continued, “It’s disappointing, but we won’t back down from fighting for ordinary people who deserve a state government that works for them.”
Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager canceled a press conference he’d previously scheduled for after sine die. His staff told members of the media the speaker had “matters” to attend to. Yeager later told 8NewsNow he’d spoken to Lombardo and the special session would only address the CIP and charter school teacher pay.
Where some key bills wound up after the regular session wrapped
The constitutionally mandated state budget wasn’t the only thing Nevada state lawmakers failed to get past the finish line on Monday.
The $380 million public assistance package for the construction of a new baseball stadium to house the Oakland’s A’s fell apart behind closed doors Monday. Senate Bill 509 was never voted out of committee.
A proposal to commit upwards of $4 billion in public assistance over two decades to film companies like Sony Entertainment that invested in building out production studios in Southern Nevada also unceremoniously died Monday. Senate Bill 496 was never voted out of committee.
Here’s a quick rundown of some key legislation and where it wound up:
- APPROPRIATIONS SQUEAKS BY: Lombardo vetoed a budget bill known as the Appropriations Act on Thursday, but after Democrats made a series of amendments and concessions on issues like charter schools, criminal justice and the state’s Rainy Day Fund, he signed an identical Appropriations Act late Monday.
- HOMELESSNESS CAMPUS: The gaming industry-backed proposal to create a $100 matching fund to support the development of a regional homelessness campus serving Southern Nevada was fast-tracked through the Legislature. Assembly Bill 528 received widespread support from lawmakers, with only Republican Assemblyman Rich DeLong and state Sens. Ira Hansen and Robin Titus opposing. Democratic Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno was excused from the vote. The bill is headed to Lombardo for approval or veto, though comments at earlier hearings suggest the governor is already on board with the proposal.
- LOOPHOLE CLOSED: In one of the stranger moments of the final legislative day, Senate Republicans first voted against a bill to close a loophole in the state’s real property transfer tax, then quickly rescinded the vote, called for a revote and then supported it. Assembly Bill 448 passed the Legislature unanimously and is now headed to the governor’s desk.
- WINDSOR PARK PLAN: Democratic state Sen. Dina Neal’s bill to establish a program for the relocation of people within the Windsor Park community of North Las Vegas passed. Senate Bill 450 is now headed toward the governor’s desk.
- MEDICAL AID IN DYING: Lombardo vetoed Senate Bill 239, which would have legalized the prescription of end-of-life medication for terminally ill patients with less than six months left to live. Lombardo said he was “not comfortable” signing the bill. He wrote that “expansions in palliative care services and continued improvements in advanced pain management make the end-of-life provisions in SB 239 unnecessary.” No governor in the U.S. has ever vetoed an end-of-life options bill, according to Compassion and Choices, a national advocacy group that worked on the bill with state Sen. Edgar Flores (D-Las Vegas).
- PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: Lombardo vetoed Assembly Bill 250, which would have built upon lower drug prices negotiated through the federal Inflation Reduction Act and extended those price caps to all Nevadans, even those not on Medicare. In his veto letter, Lombardo took issue with numerous aspects of the bill, ultimately concluding that the bill would “ultimately lead to higher costs and less accountability to certain forms of care.”
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.