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Lombardo aims to fulfill promises with bills on election, school choice

Updated March 29, 2023 - 6:05 pm

CARSON CITY — Gov. Joe Lombardo doubled down on campaign promises to fund school choice and make changes to Nevada’s election law this week, highlighting a handful of bills with a little more than two months until the end of Nevada’s legislative session.

The Republican introduced Senate Bill 405 Monday, which would make wide-ranging changes to Nevada’s election process. The bill, which would require voters to show an ID to vote and would stop the practice of sending a mail ballot to every active registered voter, was slammed by Nevada Democrats. Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Daniele Monroe-Moreno accused the governor of “rolling back voter rights” in a statement Monday.

Lombardo’s chief of staff Ben Kieckhefer said Wednesday that a large majority of voters agree with the governor, according to polling.

“If Democrats want to ignore three-quarters of voters and say that their opinions are not valuable, they’re free to do so,” he said. “We believe this is good public policy for the state.”

The legislation was mentioned during Lombardo’s State of the State address in late January. Following the speech, Assembly Speaker Yeager, D-Las Vegas, joined by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, said any legislation changing election policies would be “a non-starter.”

Despite Democrat’s early warning against the legislation, Kieckhefer said he’s “confident” the administration can continue to work with Democrats.

Asked why the governor would end universal mail ballots if his bill also included stricter voter ID, Kieckhefer cited the cost of printing and mailing ballots to voters who did not request them. (Under the bill, anyone could still request to receive a mail ballot.)

School choice

Kieckhefer also discussed another set of bills in line with Lombardo’s past promises. Assembly Bill 400, introduced on Mar. 24, would create the Office of School Choice, increase Opportunity Scholarship funding from $50 million to $500 million and would reinstate the Read by Grade 3 program, all promises made during his State of the State speech.

The bill would aim to address the teacher pipeline by creating additional scholarships and would require the Commission on School Funding to review the academic progress of students at schools receiving public money. The provision is part of holding the education system accountable, Kieckhefer said.

On the education front, the governor also introduced Assembly Bill 330 earlier this month. The bill, which was presented by the governor himself during a meeting of the Assembly Education Committee last week, would repeal legislation from 2019 that requires public schools create a restorative justice plan prior to removing a disruptive student from the school or classroom.

Fighting crime

Kieckhefer also spoke on Senate Bill 412, known as the Crime Reduction Act, which he said would contain “adjustments” to a 2019 omnibus criminal justice reform bill signed into law by former Gov. Steve Sisolak that aimed at reducing prison recidivism.

Lombardo’s bill, introduced Monday, would make several changes to laws on crime, including increasing penalties for fentanyl possession and DUIs causing death or substantial bodily harm and lowering the felony theft threshold, among other provisions.

A handful of bills have been introduced in the Senate relating to fentanyl already, but Kieckhefer said AB 412 is the governor’s offer to address fentanyl possession.

Lombardo’s office also introduced bills relating to the Nevada State Infrastructure Bank and the Government Modernization and Efficiency Act, which makes sweeping changes to the state executive branch in effort to make it function more efficiently.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on Twitter.

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