Lombardo signs 2 of Democrats’ budget bills as they advance 2 of his education bills
Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo on Wednesday signed two key budget bills passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature. The budget bills include the funding for K-12 public education and are two of the five bills that comprise Nevada’s budget.
The bill signing, which happened less than an hour before midnight, came after legislative Democrats advanced two education bills sponsored by the governor. One of the two policy bills revises restorative justice laws established by Democrats two sessions ago that put restrictions on suspension and expulsion. It was amended and sailed through the legislature and signed by the governor Wednesday.
Democrats also amended a related school safety bill sponsored by one of their assembly members. Lombardo signed that bill as well.
Lombardo has threatened to veto the budget bills unless his ”priorities are addressed.” School safety was one of those priorities.
As of late Wednesday, the governor had vetoed eight bills, including three gun control bills and two bills that saw widespread bipartisan support.
The second Lombardo bill the Democrats took action on was AB400, his omnibus education bill. An amendment adopted Wednesday removed key provisions related to expanding private school vouchers and charter school authorization, and left intact less contentious issues, such as early childhood literacy and building the teacher workforce pipeline. Additional amendments to that bill are expected.
In separate statements issued after the bill signings, both the governor and Democratic legislative leaders praised the “historic” education funding bills, and ignored the recently contentious atmosphere that included the governor’s veto threats and Democratic counter-threats to not advance film tax credit and baseball stadium bills.
The Nevada State Democratic Party, however, acknowledged Lombardo’s veto threats in its statement. “After multiple temper tantrums and threats to veto a balanced budget, Joe Lombardo finally realized there’s three co-equal branches of government and he doesn’t control legislators”
The budget bills
Senate Bill 503 appropriates nearly $12 billion to K-12 over the upcoming biennium, including more than $2 billion in new funding.
Both Lombardo and Democrats have attempted to take credit for the boost in funding. The governor’s office has highlighted his inclusion of the additional $2 billion within his recommended budget, while Democrats characterize the $2 billion as “a direct result” of the pupil-centered funding formula they passed during the 2019 session. The majority party has also highlighted that their budget is roughly $300 million higher than the governor’s recommended budget.
Base per pupil funding levels are expected to be $12,863 in fiscal year 2024 and $13,368 in fiscal year 2025.
The additional funding allows for “weights” — that is, additional per student funding for targeted populations — to be fully funded, said the governor’s office, and translates to increases of $4,035 for English language learners, $3,137 for at-risk students, and $1,075 for gifted and talented students.
Senate Bill 504 appropriates to various state agencies money that does not come from the state general fund or state highway fund.That pot of money includes federal funds, which significantly fund programs like Nevada Medicaid.
Two of the three remaining budget bills must be signed or vetoed by the governor by the end of day Thursday or else they automatically become law. Those bills cover state employee pay and other state government appropriations.
The fifth bill, which covers capital improvements, must be passed by a two-thirds vote because it involves renewing an existing tax. It has not yet been voted on in the Senate.
Assembly Bill 330 changes parts of a 2019 restorative justice law that essentially made it more difficult for schools to suspend or expel children. Once AB 330 goes into effect, school administrators will more easily be able to suspend or expel, but there are still requirements tied to those actions.
The bill also establishes procedures for appeal and requires districts to report on their use.
The Democratic caucus-backed Assembly Bill 285, sponsored by Assemblywoman Angie Taylor and passed and signed in tandem with AB 330, also tackles restorative justice.
Both amended bills passed the Senate Wednesday with a vote of 20-1. State Sen. James Ohrenshall cast the lone vote in opposition.