CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons’ veto-mania has given the Legislature an unusual slate of end-of-session business.
The state Senate and Assembly are busy working to override many of Gibbons’ 41 vetoes, an all-time state record.
So far, four vetoes have been overridden outright, while just two have been sustained. Another four have been overridden in the Senate but have not yet been voted on by the Assembly, while 10 have received Assembly overrides and await Senate consideration.
It seems likely that Gibbons will set another record this session: most overridden governor.
The previous record of 10 overrides is held by the state’s first governor, Henry Blasdel, who also set the mark for vetoes with 33 in the legislative session of 1864-65. The record previously was thought to be 30, but legislative researchers combing the century-old record discovered more vetoes in that session.
Before this session, the Legislature had not overridden a gubernatorial veto since 1989.
State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said lawmakers knew from the start Gibbons planned to veto their plan to raise taxes, but the flurry of vetoes on unrelated bills has come as a surprise.
"We have different branches of government for a reason," he said. "We represent the people who elected us for the purpose of enacting laws."
Horsford and other legislators and observers say the near-total lack of a working relationship between the governor and most lawmakers of either party has meant the veto stamp is Gibbons’ only input into most legislation. In previous sessions, governors have worked with legislative leaders of both parties to shape legislation so that it is acceptable by the time it reaches the chief executive’s desk.
Gibbons, in an interview with the Review-Journal editorial board last week, said he had reasons for all his vetoes and that he was standing on principle. But he also expressed a dim view of the legislative branch, noting that he was a member of the Assembly and the U.S. Congress before his 2006 election as governor.
"I was a legislator all those years," he said. "I was involved in negotiations and deals on bills in the House of Representatives. I used to think I was doing good work and there was a purpose to it. Now, as I’m governor, I don’t think I had the right viewpoint. Your position turns 180 degrees on what they do over there."
Some Republicans said they did not blame Gibbons alone for his sour relations with the Legislature.
"Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much of a relationship," said state Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas. "It would have been better across the board if we could have worked together, but members of the majority party have been very critical of the governor and his budget."
Hardy said that with one party, the Democrats, in control of both houses for the first time since 1991, it was perhaps understandable that the executive of the other party would serve as more of a check on the legislative branch.
And, he noted, "We’re fairly willing to override on things we think make sense."
Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature have worked together to an extraordinary extent this session, brought together by fiscal crisis and by opposition to Gibbons’ proposed budget.
Buckley expressed puzzlement at some of Gibbons’ vetoes, such as that of her proposal for a rainy day fund for education. The governor’s veto message said all state agencies ought to have such a fund, not just one. But a stabilization fund for all of state government was passed in another bill that became law without Gibbons’ signature earlier last week.
"It really doesn’t make much sense," she said. "He is acting in a very petulant manner."
Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball @reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.