CARSON CITY—Newly sworn-in Gov. Joe Lombardo ended his first week in office by signing executive orders that end COVID-19 directives and direct the Department of Administration to make recommendations concerned with state employment.
The first of those executive orders, signed Friday, rescinds all COVID-19 related directives, beginning with former Gov. Steve Sisolak’s emergency declaration on March 12, 2020.
Many of the directives, including the stay at home order, masking and social distancing, haven’t been active in over a year. Sisolak ended the state of emergency on May 20, 2022, a move that “left unclear and uncertain the status of subsequent declarations,” according to Lombardo’s order.
The second executive order directs the Department of Administration to make recommendations related to hiring and retaining state employees in an effort to address “a workplace vacancy rate of approximately 24% of legislatively approved positions,” according to the order.
The report, which is set to include ways to “simplify and otherwise improve” processes for hiring and retaining employees, is required to be submitted to the governor’s office by April 1.
The order also directs the department to develop a plan for state employees to “return to pre-pandemic, normal and customary office conditions” by July 1.
“Starting at the next fiscal year, we expect everyone to be working back at normal hours in a physical office,” Lombardo’s Chief of Staff Ben Kieckhefer said.
In a short briefing with reporters Friday, Kieckhefer said the governor is committed to giving state employees a raise but said more details would be available during Lombardo’s Jan. 23 State of the State address.
He declined to say whether that raise would match Sisolak’s proposed budget, which suggested a 10 percent raise in the first year of the biennium and 5 percent in the following year.
Kieckhefer also said the administration was preparing a budget that would make “unprecedented investments” in K-12 education, the details of which will also be revealed during the governor’s State of the State address.
“Like all things, we’ve taken the previous administration’s recommendations under advisement, but we’ll be making our own decisions about what we think is best for the state,” he said.
One of the administration’s top priorities involves school choice, a policy that allows parents to choose where their children go to school regardless of their residence through a variety of avenues,
which can include vouchers and tax credits. Opponents of the policy argue it can harm the public school system and lead to inequality.
Lombardo made it a feature of his campaign and now of his newly established administration. During his inaugural address Tuesday, he vowed to expand school choice.
Kieckhefer echoed the administration’s commitment to that policy Friday.
“We believe in holistic school choice. That includes choice within the private system, choice within the traditional public system, choice within charters,” he said. “If we listen to our constituents, I think we’re going to be able to find some middle ground to advance that cause.”
When asked whether Lombardo was planning to repeal Sisolak’s executive order that protects out-of-state patients seeking an abortion and the caretakers providing them care, Kieckhefer said it was not in the administration’s immediate plans.
Lombardo previously said he would repeal the order but later backtracked that statement during the campaign.