Lombardo to convene special session to consider failed budget bill
Gov. Joe Lombardo issued a proclamation Tuesday calling on the Legislature to reconvene for a special session to pass a budget bill funding the state’s billion-dollar Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
The decision comes less than a day after lawmakers adjourned the 2023 regular legislative session on Monday night without passing AB521, one of the five major budget bills used to fund state government services and programs over the next two years. The bill includes more than $1.4 billion in executive and legislative branch capital projects, and it reimplements a statewide property tax.
The proclamation, which calls for a session that begins at 8 p.m. Tuesday and concludes by midnight, does not include mention of the Oakland A’s after lawmakers did not move forward Monday night with a proposed public financing package to fund the development of a new stadium the team has sought in Las Vegas, despite Lombardo’s support for the proposal. However, sources granted anonymity to speak freely about the situation said the governor is expected to convene a separate special session focused on the A’s proposal.
Lombardo had expressed support for the team’s relocation to Las Vegas last month, including announcing a tentative agreement on a proposal for up to $380 million in public financing for development of the proposed $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat stadium.
But even if the A’s are on the Republican governor’s special session agenda, Democratic legislative leaders have not signaled any desire to act on an A’s deal during a special session.
“We are not having a policy discussion in a special session,” Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) said during a press conference with Democratic leadership in late May. “We will hear the budget that we have, and if there are issues, I suppose we can talk about those. But we are not passing policy bills in a special session.”
Also missing — and not expected to be addressed via special session this week — is the other sweeping economic deal that died at the end of the session: a proposal to massively expand the state’s film tax credit program.
The budget fracas came after Lombardo had signed another major budget bill, the Appropriations Act (SB511), late Monday that was an identical version of a bill Lombardo vetoed last week. As part of ongoing negotiations with Democrats over the budget, Lombardo held out on signing SB511 and AB521 until the waning hours of the 120-day regular legislative session in a bid to push Democrats to pass a handful of major policy bills, including those on education, crime and state government.
But even as Lombardo appeared ready to sign the CIP bill, Senate Republicans blocked the measure from moving forward, voting it down with Democrats just one seat short in the Senate of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill. Senate Minority Leader Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) said last night that her caucus was seeking funding for charter school teacher pay and capital projects, as well as graduate medical education programs — a combination of requests totaling $75 million.
In the hours since, Cannizzaro told The Nevada Independent that the inability to pass the final budget bill falls squarely on the governor, who failed to uphold his end of a handshake deal.
However, sources close to negotiations on the governor’s side said Lombardo is ready to sign the deal as written whenever it comes across his desk, and that it was not his job as governor to whip Republican Senate votes.
Special legislative sessions are typically limited to no more than 20 days, and are usually limited in scope to focus on one high-profile issue, with very few policy bills up for discussion. That’s in contrast with regular sessions, such as the one that ended Monday, where more than 1,000 bills are introduced.
In recent years, special sessions have centered around responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and bringing the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas and Tesla to Northern Nevada.
Special sessions are typically short, with nine of the 33 held so far lasting only a single day, according to the Legislative Counsel Bureau’s Research Division.
The 34th special session will mark the first in Nevada history to be called because the governor and lawmakers could not come to an agreement on the budget, even though budget vetoes have happened before.
A 2011 veto of the education budget by Gov. Brian Sandoval ended with Sandoval later signing a new, amended version of the education budget when Democratic lawmakers and the Republican governor landed on a budget deal, averting a special session. In 2009, a full budget veto from Gov. Jim Gibbons was overridden by a two-thirds majority of lawmakers during the regular session.
Under the Nevada Constitution, the governor has the authority to dictate “the business for which [lawmakers] have been specially convened.” The constitution also prohibits the Legislature from introducing, considering or passing “any bills except those related to the business for which the Legislature has been specially convened and those necessary to provide for the expenses of the session.”
Though Lombardo can outline the scope of what lawmakers will be allowed to take up during a special session via a proclamation, the speaker and majority leader are generally the only ones who can introduce legislation during the special session under the Legislature’s self-imposed standing rules adopted at the outset of any session.
On Tuesday morning, Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) said the governor indicated to him that the special session will only involve the CIP bill and raising charter school teacher salaries. Yeager said that when asked if there would be anything else included in the special session proclamation, Lombardo did not bring up the potential for a stadium deal for the Oakland A’s or a proposed expansion of the state’s film tax credits.