Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo Goes on a Veto Binge

Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo Goes on a Veto Binge

Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo Goes on a Veto Binge

The Republican vetoed 75 bills in a single session, including 43 on the final eligible day alone.


Last November, with the state Democratic Party in disarray, Nevada voters ousted incumbent Governor Steve Sisolak and replaced him with Republican Joe Lombardo. In the year since, despite Nevada’s having a Democrat-controlled state legislature, the governor—who sought election as a pragmatist but has since veered rightward on a number of issues—has made his mark largely by vetoing a startling number of progressive measures. When the legislative session ended earlier this month, Lombardo ended up with 75 vetoes in a single session, including 43 on the final day that he could issue vetoes. It was the most annual vetoes that any Nevada governor has ever issued.

On renter protections, Lombardo vetoed a measure that would have provided renters facing eviction with a two-month cushion if they already had an application in place for renters’ assistance; the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada warned that rejecting the measure could result in thousands being pushed into homelessness. He vetoed a bill against summary evictions, and he vetoed a bill that would have required landlords to return the application fee they charged would-be renters if they ended up renting the home to another applicant. That bill would also have prevented landlords from charging a separate application fee for each child in a family.

The governor vetoed another bill that would have capped the amount by which landlords could jack up the rent on seniors and people with disabilities, calling the proposal an “unreasonable restraint on standard business activity.” Democrats immediately lambasted the veto, saying it was Lombardo’s way of rewarding the wealthy real estate moguls who bankrolled his run for office last year.

These are—or should be—commonsense protections. That the governor still chose to veto them speaks volumes about how little today’s GOP, even in the supposedly moderate incarnation of a figure such as Lombardo, cares for the housing needs of ordinary people.

On the issue of voting rights, Lombardo nixed three bills supported by the Let Nevadans Vote Coalition. These would have increased language services at polling places for non-English speakers, streamlined the ways voters could meet residency requirements if their right to vote were challenged, and required DMV offices in Las Vegas and Reno to be kept open on weekends and outside of 8-5 office hours, to make it easier for residents to get the IDs that allow them to register to vote.

Nevada’s governor also put the kibosh on a bill that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide in the state. He vetoed three gun-control bills, including ones that would have barred 18-to-20-year-olds from owning semiautomatic weapons, and people convicted of violent hate crimes from owning guns. He killed off a bill that would have criminalized the act of participating in a fake electors’ scheme of the sort that Trump’s team engaged in after the 2020 election. He put down legislative efforts to expand the state’s Medicaid program to the undocumented.

Of all the vetoes, however, arguably the most bizarre was that of Assembly Bill 383, codifying the right to contraception in the state. It was, advocates urged, a necessary measure in a post-Dobbs legal landscape in which once-established rights are suddenly seen as vulnerable. The bill passed with bipartisan support, including from Heidi Gansert, the leader of the Republican minority in the state Senate, as well as her deputy, Carrie Buck. More than 7,000 Nevada women wrote letters to the governor in support of the legislation. Lombardo argued that it was unnecessary and vetoed the bill.

Lombardo is way out of step with Nevada’s voting public on this issue, as he is on many of the others on which he’s used his red pen. Roughly 70 percent support broad access to abortion, and, presumably, at least that proportion support guaranteeing the right of access to contraception. Two-thirds support robust rent control policies. More than four in five voters tell pollsters they support medically assisted dying options.

It’s hard to think of a governor who has used his veto power so often and to such destructive effect. Nevada’s legislature is, in many ways, as progressive as those in California, Oregon, and Washington. Yet its efforts to reimagine Nevada’s political priorities are being stymied time after time after time by Lombardo’s uncompromising conservatism and his willingness to use the powers of his office to block popular measures aimed at protecting the rights, and increasing the economic and health care security, of ordinary Nevadans.

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