Highlighting Lombardo’s Top Vetoes, and Why They Matter

Marcos Lopez

(This is the first in a two-part series analyzing the best vetoes issued by Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo during the 2023 legislative session.)

One of the most powerful tools at a governor’s disposal is the veto pen. It is a weapon that can shape the direction of a state, safeguard individual liberties and preserve the principles of limited government.

Gov. Joe Lombardo’s first session was marked by a record-breaking 75 vetoes, making it clear that he was committed to fulfilling his duty as a check on Nevada’s legislature.

These vetoes stood as a resolute defense against misguided policies, thwarting the ambitions of far-left radicals and their relentless pursuit of a government-centric agenda. In this final piece highlighting the 82nd Legislative Session, we will explore the top 10 vetoes that protected Nevadans.

Assembly Bill 224 – Collective Bargaining for Nevada System of Higher Education

Introduced by: Assemblywoman Sarah Peters

Co-Sponsors: Assemblymen Howard Watts, Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, Natha Anderson, Selena La Rue Hatch, Tracy Brown-May, Max Carter, Lesley Cohen, Venicia Considine, Reuben D’Silva, Bea Duran, Cecelia González, Michelle Gorelow, Brian Hibbetts, Sandra Jauregui, Gregory Koenig, Elaine Marzola, Brittney Miller, Cameron Miller, Daniele Monroe-Moreno, Duy Nguyen, David Orentlicher, Shondra Summers-Armstrong, Angie Taylor, Clara Thomas, Selena Torres, Steve Yeager; Senators Rochelle Nguyen, Fabian Doñate, Julie Pazina

Summary: AB224 would have extended collective bargaining rights to Nevada’s System of Higher Education, defining these entities and detailing the processes for negotiation, representation and dispute resolution. It sought to empower the Government Employee-Management Relations Board to oversee related disputes and outline the rights of professional employees to join, or abstain from, professional organizations. The bill stipulated negotiation timelines, agreement-ratification procedures and prohibited practices in collective bargaining. It also sought to address funding mechanisms, including fees assessed on state professional employers, and would have designated the board of regents with authority over collective bargaining within the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Final Vote: Assembly 31-11; Senate 13-8

Veto Override Eligible in 2025: Yes

One of the worst consequences of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s tenure was the expansion of collective bargaining to state employees in 2019 through Senate Bill 135, turning over many state decisions relating to employee matters to unions.

Assembly Bill 224 of this session was the logical next step in this effort to expand collective bargaining to the only group still missing it, Nevada’s Higher Education System.

Much has been written in our pages about the problems with unions and the negative effect of the policies they pursue that lead to higher taxes and spending levels. While it has been argued that unions are important to balance power in the free market system, as a proponent of AB224 quoted Adam Smith doing just that, the reality is that private sector unions are not the same as their public counterparts.

In the private sector, unions can play a positive role acting as a check to abuses but all demands are ultimately limited by the profitability of a company and its ability to remain competitive. Thus, workers have an incentive to ensure their employer remains profitable to protect their livelihoods.

In contrast, government has no profits; and all “revenues” are first taken from the productive sectors of the economy, and elected officials who determine public worker compensation aren’t personally burdened with the costs. This means there are no market-based incentives in government that could prompt unions to moderate their demands.

It should surprise no one that essentially the entire Assembly Democratic Caucus signed on to this bill. Political incentives shaped by the formidable electioneering promised from unions encouraged elected officials to push for generous benefit packages and, accordingly, tax increases to fund them.

Unions were the largest donors during the 2022 election cycle, with nearly 96 percent of those funds (more than $1.4 million) going to back Democratic lawmakers. Does anyone really believe Democrats would have objective negotiations on behalf of taxpayers with the very unions who own them?

Before collective bargaining was implemented in 2019, this had already resulted in Nevada state workers receiving compensation packages that significantly exceeded market rates.

For instance, once adjusted for state-specific price differences, Nevada’s state workers emerge as the fifth-most generously compensated nationwide. When you compare these figures against private sector compensation in Nevada, they ranked second highest in the U.S., thanks to 29 percent wage disparity favoring Nevada’s state workers over their private-sector peers.

By vetoing AB224, Lombardo decisively checked the momentum of government unions, which had been riding a wave of successes at the cost of Nevada taxpayers during the past four years.

While completely repealing SB135 (2019) would be a more sweeping measure, at the very least Nevada must introduce transparency into the collective bargaining process. It’s imperative that these negotiations are conducted in an open environment, accessible to the public and adhering to open records laws.

It’s noteworthy that more than half the states with collective bargaining permit the public to observe these vital negotiations. Nevada should follow this majority precedent, ensuring its citizens have insight into decisions that shape their state’s fiscal landscape.

Assembly Bill 359 – Gas Tax Extension

Introduced by: Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, Assemblyman Howard Watts

Assemblywoman Clara Thomas, Assemblyman Cameron Miller

Summary: Instead of requiring the approval of a majority of the voters in the county to continue to provide for the annual increases on and after Jan. 1, 2027, on motor vehicle fuels and special fuels used in motor vehicles, this bill would have authorized the continued imposition of additional increases in these taxes if the board of county commissioners, on or before Dec. 31, 2026, had adopted an ordinance authorizing the effectuation of such annual increases. Had it not been vetoed, this bill would have provided that, if the board of county commissioners does not adopt such an ordinance on or before Dec. 31, 2026, the board would have been prohibited from imposing any additional annual increases in those taxes.

Final Vote: Assembly 32-10; Senate 15-5-1

Veto Override Eligible in 2025: No

A favorite pastime of Nevada’s Legislature is dreaming up new ways to circumvent the Gibbons Tax Restraint Rule, which constitutionally requires supermajority votes in favor from both chambers for any bill that “creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form.”

The best strategy tax-hikers currently have is to delegate that power to local government and normally that would be enough to draw the ire of anti-taxers (as it should), but Assembly Bill 359 was particularly brazen since it would deny the Clark County voters the opportunity to voice their consent via ballot measure on the continuation of annual tax increases to their already exorbitant burden.

As we noted last year, Nevada has the second-highest gas taxes in the nation. There is little doubt the Democrat-controlled Clark County Commission would have exercised this power in favor of continuing to punish Nevadans at the pump.

While the rate of inflation increase has cooled off a bit, Las Vegans are still grappling with high living costs, which an ever-increasing gas tax would only add to their woes, particularly those from lower-income backgrounds.

It’s a shame seven Republicans crossed the aisle, almost all of them from the rurals and northern Nevada, in support of higher taxes for southern Nevadans but it has occurred before.

It’s been observed before that there exists legislative Republicans who might never vote for a tax increase on their own communities but who are more than willing to vote for tax increases on others.

From a public choice perspective, it makes perfect sense. A politician can horse trade their support on a tax bill that won’t affect their own constituents in exchange for something else that might be politically desirable (a vote, hearing, etc.).

Lombardo’s veto of AB 359 was nothing short of a lifeline for the citizens of Clark County, protecting them from all but certain tax increases, and was significant because it showed that bi-partisan support alone would not allow bad policy to escape his veto pen. So, get ready; as of right now, there will likely be a scheduled gas tax fight in Clark County coming up in 2027. Don’t worry, we will remind you as we get closer.

Assembly Bill 298 – Rent Control Trojan Horse Bill

Introduced by: Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui

Summary: AB 298 would have required rental agreements to include an appendix detailing all possible fees and their purposes, how each fee is calculated, whether variable or fixed and prohibited the charging fees not listed in the appendix; required another separate appendix elucidating tenants’ rights under federal, state and local laws; required landlords must refund fees if they did not conduct the related activity or rent to a different prospective tenant; prohibited charging application fees for minors in a tenant’s household; and implemented rent control from July 1, 2023, to Dec. 31, 2024, on tenants aged 62 or older, or those reliant on federal Social Security Act payments at a ceiling of 10 percent.

Final Vote: Assembly 36-6; Senate 12-8

Veto Override Eligible in 2025: No

The “bipartisan” Assembly Bill 298 was not the worst rent control measure introduced this session, but it was the most likely to cross the finish line. Tucked in the last section of an otherwise decent bill that would have brought some transparency to renters was a rent control measure that would harm young growing families and senior citizens.

It’s a struggle to find something about rent control that has not already been said in the past 100 years. It is an economically unsound proposal that always works counter to what it seeks to remedy, making rents higher by reducing an already constrained housing supply and destroying the quality of the available housing supply through the reduction of investment and maintenance it triggers.

Housing and rental costs are pressing issues in Nevada. However, evidence indicates that rental increases have primarily been driven by a lack of supply. The University of Nevada Center for Regional Studies found that new housing unit construction did not keep pace with population growth following the 2007-09 recession. This led to an average rise of 19 percent in rental prices across the state between 2015 and 2020, according to Census data reported by the Nevada Housing Division. We made this case to the Senate Republican Caucus in a memo we shared on May 19, 2023, after a shocking vote in the Assembly revealed a majority of Assembly Republican Caucus voted yea on AB298.

By vetoing Assembly Bill 298, Lombardo stopped the door from being wedged open to further disastrous rent control measures that would have dumped gasoline into the housing market dumpster fire. This decision revealed Lombardo is willing to veto poor policy, even if it is wrapped in appealing packaging.

Assembly Bill 250 – Prescription Drug Price Controls

Introduced by: Assemblywoman Venicia Considine & Assemblywoman Natha Anderson

Summary: Implements state price controls on prescription drugs tethered to the federal medicate rate.

Final Vote: Assembly 27-15; Senate 13-7-1

Veto Override Eligible in 2025: Yes

Assembly Bill 250, like the previous entry, represented an attempt based in either deep-rooted economic hubris or illiteracy. Well-intentioned at its core, price controls on prescription drugs have predictable consequences that will inadvertently stifle innovation and limit patient access to novel and life-saving therapies. By enforcing a “maximum fair price,” AB250 would have reduced incentives for pharmaceutical companies to invest in research and development of new treatments, particularly for rare or complex conditions. Additionally, the price controls could have led to unintended consequences such as drug shortages as manufacturers could have prioritized distribution to regions with more favorable pricing structures.

The only “fair price” is the market price, and it plays a crucial role. By acting as signals, prices help market economies by efficiently allocating resources, incentivizing production, reflecting consumer preferences, rationing scarce goods and encouraging innovation. They serve as information carriers that guide producers to create products aligned with consumer needs, while promoting innovation and growth. Essentially, price signals facilitate the optimal functioning of markets by enabling the effective flow of information and resource distribution.

When governments try to usurp the law of supply and demand, everyone is reminded that some things can never be controlled by force. The natural ebb and flow of markets, like the tides of the ocean, cannot be constrained or manipulated without unintended consequences.

The failure of past experiments with price controls, rationing and central planning serves as a stark reminder that trying to subdue the powerful forces of supply and demand is an exercise in futility.

Instead of achieving the desired outcomes, such interventions often lead to scarcity, black markets and inefficiencies that harm the very people they were meant to protect. Attempts to subvert the law of supply and demand may create temporary illusions of control, but in the end, the market will assert its authority.

Senate Bill 275 – Rent Control Expansion for Manufactured Home Parks

Introduced by: Senator Skip Daly

Co-Sponsors: Senators Fabian Doñate, Marilyn Dondero Loop, Edgar Flores, Dallas Harris, Roberta Lange, Dina Neal, James Ohrenschall, Melanie Scheible, Pat Spearman

Summary:  SB275 implements rent control to manufactured home parks which engage in monthly tenancy (not long-term lease) and limits rent increases to a max annual rent increase percentage determined by the Housing Division of the Department of Business and Industry. Landlords can seek exemptions from the rent-increase limit if park-operating costs surpass potential earnings from the rent increase. Exemption applications need sufficient proof, including a CPA-prepared report showing the need. The division is tasked with annually calculating and publishing the max annual rent increase percentage online.

Final Vote: Assembly 28-14; Senate 13-8

Veto Override Eligible in 2025: Yes

Senate Bill 275 has many of the same follies from our previous two entries but this time the target was manufactured home parks. Once again, we found ourselves – to no avail – talking to the same individuals about the pitfalls of rent control and how it was an economically unsound, counterproductive solution to address housing affordability.

Despite our efforts to engage in constructive dialogue and raise awareness about the pitfalls of such policies, it seemed as though our words fell on deaf ears.

Of course, no one wishes people to be priced out of their homes due to rising rents but the way to reduce rents is to expand the supply.

Manufactured homes often serve as a vital, more affordable housing option for many families. Implementing rent control in this sector might not only distort the market dynamics but could also deter potential park developers and investors, further constricting housing options.

While the intent might be to protect vulnerable residents, such measures often end up doing more harm than good. It’s disheartening to witness firsthand the dismissal of economic evidence in favor of politically driven decisions, especially when it could directly impact the lives of those the policy purports to support.

Learn more about this year’s legislative session by downloading the FREE Legislative Scorecard and Report.

Marcos Lopez

Marcos Lopez

Policy Fellow

Marcos Lopez serves as a Policy Fellow for Nevada Policy. For over a decade, Marcos has fought to advance free-market principles, limited government, and secure individual rights through electioneering, lobbying, and grassroots mobilization at all levels of government across nine states and Washington D.C.

Originally from Miami, Marcos moved to Nevada in 2015 and has lived in Reno and Las Vegas, where he currently resides. His main areas of focus include economic opportunity, criminal justice reform, and school choice. Marcos’ work and efforts have been recognized and featured in The New York Times, The Las Vegas Review Journal, The Nevada Independent, This is Reno, and The Nevada Current.