LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Republican lawmakers pleaded for compromise Friday as Democrats used their majority to push through budgets despite Gov. Joe Lombardo’s threat to use his veto powers to get his priorities heard.
On party-line votes in the Senate, two budget bills passed: Assembly Bill 520 and 522, final approval before they go to Lombardo’s desk.
Before the vote on AB520, Republicans made their case to Democratic leaders, but their remarks were rejected. Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) stated clearly that the reasons for Republicans’ “no” votes had nothing to do with the important budget votes. “Those budgets were largely, if not completely, unanimous in the subcommittee. Largely, if not completely, unanimous in the full committee,” she reminded Republicans.
Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Washoe County) delivered the following statement:
“Today I deliver a message to the majority. I rise in opposition to AB520. The governor is asking for what Nevadans want. I’ve been here before in another time in another administration. Political blockades do not always have good outcomes. I understand negotiation tactics and bargaining strategies have a place, but ultimately to put the people’s interests ahead of politics is the right thing to do. My words may fall on some deaf ears, but I’m hoping enough are listening. We are in a place where I’ve been where we have to think about the future, not just the present game of tag. Given where we are today, searching for compromise is always better than not talking at all.
I’ve been in a similar situation before, sitting across the courtyard. Experience is valuable here. I implore the majority to embrace what we have in common. Embrace what we have in common and work to iron out the differences. This is a time for leadership. The governor’s goals are the people’s goals. They’re Nevadans’ goals and have not been adequately addressed. Now is the time to find a healthy compromise. Last election, the people spoke. They wanted balanced government in Carson City. Where we are today is nowhere near balanced. As the minority, we are painted into the corner because of a lack of communication and acknowledgment of this Republican governor’s top priorities, which are the people’s priorities. Speaking from experience, from this point forward, we can. We can and we must find that common place, that central ground to restore balance and deliver the voters what they asked for.”
Republican Sen. Jeff Stone took a different approach. “We have 12 days to go. Right now, I feel like we’re in a stalemate. And a stalemate, to me, is not progress, but it’s failure,” he said.
“Republicans are going to vote no on this budget because we have a governor that has not had his voice being heard, his priorities being addressed. Everyone, whether you’re in the majority or the minority, at least deserves a hearing.”
Cannizzaro listed the departments funded by AB520, and reminded Republicans that they were voting against the budgets for reasons that had nothing to do with all the work that went into crafting the bill. AB520 funds the Judicial Department, Health and Human Services, Department of Corrections, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Public Safety, Parole and Probation, Conservation and Natural Resources, along with public employee benefits.
The window is closing for Democrats to turn their attention to the five priorities that Lombardo’s office listed on Thursday:
- Fiscally responsible budget
- School safety
- School choice and accountability
- Government efficiency
- Crime reduction
The Legislature appears headed for a special session if the budgets aren’t signed.
After Seevers Gansert made her speech, Cannizzaro followed with one of her own to remind Republicans of the tasks at hand.
“What happens in this building are proposals that sometimes we hear, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we agree on, sometimes we don’t. Not everything is contained in one bill — ever,” she began.
“So the idea that somehow anyone is entitled to walk into this building and tell the Legislature — which is a co-equal branch, separate branch of government — that we must do things in a particular fashion, ignores the Constitution, ignores the duty of this body, ignores the individuals who have voted for 21 different representatives to bring 21 different ideas to the table to be able to have discussions,” Cannizzaro said.
“And what I think is important to note is that the pieces of actual things that we are voting on in Assembly Bill 520 were proposals that came from the Governor’s Office that were largely accepted. That where there were things that were not accepted, were completely vetted at length, in depth, by the members of the money committees on both sides of this building, the Senate and the Assembly. That this particular bill contains all of the decisions that many people sitting on this floor and across the way in the Assembly chamber agreed on during those hearings with bipartisan, often unanimous, support to fund very basic governmental functions that our constituents are asking us to do, that we have a duty to do,” she said.
Cannizzaro closed with references to the departments funded by AB520: “So to hold something like kids in foster care, highway patrol, judges, access to justice, welfare and supportive services, Medicaid coverage hostage because other things didn’t happen is a disservice to the people of the state of Nevada.” She urged senators to vote yes, but no Republican joined Democrats in passing the bill.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.