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IndyTalks: Lombardo doesn’t regret housing vetoes, won’t fight abortion ballot measure 

The first-term Republican governor gave himself a “B+” grade after 14 months in office, and previewed an endorsement of Sam Brown for U.S. Senate.
Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels
Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Election 2024GovernmentState Government

In a wide-ranging conversation hosted by The Nevada Independent on Wednesday night at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Gov. Joe Lombardo defended his record-setting 75 vetoes from last session, pledged to make allocating $43 million in leftover COVID-19 relief funds to mental health a “first priority,” predicted with 99 percent certainty that the A’s would relocate to Las Vegas and made the case that a legislative supermajority by any party would be a bad thing.

He also acknowledged that communication problems and his unfamiliarity with state government, rather than bad faith on the part of Democratic legislative leaders, led to the dramatic veto count. And he said he’s enjoying the governor’s job more than he expected because of its wide powers to enact change, giving his performance in his first year in office a B+.

Lombardo said he still supports former President Donald Trump in spite of his indictments, saying more information has come out and Trump is innocent until proven guilty. But asked about his enthusiasm for the likely GOP nominee, the governor didn’t respond, saying, “Next question.”

Here are takeaways from the IndyTalks event, moderated by Nevada Independent Editor and CEO Jon Ralston:


Lombardo said he did not regret vetoing numerous tenant protection bills, asserting that there is overwhelming evidence against the efficacy of rent control and that the heart of Nevada’s housing affordability problem is lack of available land.

“And to me, that's the stopgap associated with it. It isn't because I’m friendly to the landlords versus the tenants,” he said.

Although he said Nevada’s unique law allowing for rapid summary evictions does nothing to address the housing affordability issue — which he said is one of the top two issues that worries him as governor, along with education — he acknowledged that an eviction can affect a tenant’s quality of life.


Lombardo said the question of whether his historic, $2.6 billion K-12 funding increase has led to significant improvement in Nevada’s education system is “still unknown.” 

When he announced the spending boost at his State of the State address last year, he said he expected results in exchange.

“And if we don’t begin seeing results, I’ll be standing here in two years calling for systematic changes to the governance and leadership in K-12 education,” he said at the time. 

What he was clear about on Wednesday night: whether he would have education fixed by next session.

“Oh, God no,” he said.

Lombardo also weighed in on the Clark County Education Association’s effort, via ballot measure, to reverse state law that prohibits teacher strikes. He said educators should not have that right, and instead, their frustrations with negotiations should be addressed.

“I think collective bargaining works,” he said. 


On Republicans now facing charges for submitting a false slate of electors in favor of Donald Trump in 2020, Lombardo acknowledged that he has “a personal angst with what was conducted there. I don’t understand the need to even have it done.”

He reiterated his support for a voter identification requirement, and for guardrails on the practice of ballot harvesting. He said a lack of trust in elections stems from perceptions and facts around the problems inherent to a human-driven system.

“I think you should put every, every available resource or stopgap into place to minimize that perception,” he said.

Lombardo also indicated that he would “more than likely” endorse Republican Sam Brown in his bid for U.S. Senate. The governor issued a formal endorsement of Brown on Thursday after the event. 


Lombardo said that although he would vote against a proposed ballot measure enshrining abortion rights in the Nevada Constitution, he wouldn’t try to defeat it.

He acknowledged that abortion rights, which have majority support in Nevada, pose “a huge problem” for a Republican Party that generally opposes the practice.

“My personal belief is, it's pro-life with exceptions, alright? But I'm not going to wield that hammer onto the people,” he said.

Energy and state climate plan

After taking office, Lombardo’s administration quickly moved to withdraw Nevada from a cohort of states committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Climate agreement and took a state climate strategy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions offline.

That state climate strategy is still offline more than a year later.

Lombardo said he decided to take the strategy offline because he considered it “regressive,” citing recent public outcry over skyrocketing natural gas and electricity bills as evidence that a rapid shift to clean energy would have an even more adverse effect on customer bills.

“Until the green energy space, the wind and solar and those types of energy resources are to the level that they can support the entire system, we're going to have to continue the path we're going on currently,” he said.

Lombardo said he’s pro-clean energy and believes in man-made climate change.

Health care

To meet the state’s needs for mental health resources, Lombardo said mental health is the “first priority” for allocating all $43 million of the state’s unused American Rescue Plan Act funding.

“It's one-shot money. It's not for continuance of operations,” Lombardo said. “But it's the start of what we're trying to achieve in the health care space.”

The governor cited his time as a law enforcement official, saying he has 35 years of experience with mental illness, which he described as a leading cause of homelessness and other societal problems.

He also referenced an October 2022 report from the Department of Justice finding that Nevada does not provide its children with behavioral health disabilities adequate community-based services and unnecessarily institutionalizes children, sometimes out of state.  

“We chose incarceration versus resources and help for the youth,” he said. “We're going to have to make some significant changes as a result of that.”

Lombardo said one bright spot is the expansion of the state’s provider tax. He said the money generated from the tax combined with matching federal funds should allocate $100 million over the biennium for children’s mental health.

Film tax/A’s

The governor said that he had a conversation with A’s owner John Fisher on Tuesday upon the release of renderings for the team’s planned stadium in Las Vegas. He’s convinced there’s a 99 percent chance the relocation — boosted by a $380 million public subsidy signed by Lombardo to help with ballpark construction costs — will go through. 

Lombardo also said there was no special session under consideration right now to consider expanding film tax credits — an effort that fizzled at the end of the 2023 session but that the bill sponsor wants to revive in a pared-back format.

He said that when he’s evaluating tax credits and other economic development incentives, he wants a return on investment. For every dollar the state subsidizes, it should get $40 in return.

“I like economic diversification,” Lombardo said. “But the model has to fit … and it can't be an economic burden on the general fund of the state.”


Legislative Democrats and gun control advocates have pilloried Lombardo for his vetoes of three gun control bills during the 2023 legislative session.

Lombardo said Wednesday that his decision to veto those firearm policies was more based on how litigation in other states has played out than being against gun control.

“They don't pass constitutional muster, and that's a waste of money and everybody's [time],” he said.

Asked what policies would reduce gun violence, Lombardo listed expanded mental health resources, so-called “red flag” laws with judicial review and universal background checks, which he described as “very beneficial.” He reiterated his opposition to constitutional carry, a policy that allows most law-abiding adults to carry a loaded firearm without a permit. 

“It's very troublesome to know that any random citizen, no matter what their mental stability is, can possess a gun,” he said.

“I am pro-firearm,” he continued. “OK, I'm pro-Second Amendment. But I think everything requires a look.”

Open government

Lombardo elaborated on statements from his affiliated PAC that there is a “culture of corruption” in the Legislature, saying the body is not subject to open meeting laws and other public records laws. 

“I, as the executive branch leader who controls the state budget, has no insight into the legislative budget,” he said. “‘Just give it to me, governor, and don't ask any questions.’” 

He threw his support behind a list of bill draft requests proposed by Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama (R-Las Vegas), including ones requiring the Legislature to adhere to the open meeting law and offering the governor line-item budget veto powers.

State government

Lombardo acknowledged he does have some concern about state jobs remaining competitive while he is cracking down on remote work, but said it has not brought the negative consequences critics predicted.

He said the state vacancy rate was hovering around 25 percent when he took office and has dropped 6 percent since raises and other interventions were implemented. The vacancy rate in the Nevada Department of Corrections has fallen 18 percent, he said, and the state police vacancy rate is down 6 percent. 

“The fallacy that if I made them come back to work, they're going to quit — it's not there,” he said.


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