By Jacob Solis, The Nevada Independent, May 19th, 2023
Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo’s office announced late Friday that his major school discipline bill would remain alive past a key bill deadline, while also vowing to veto a similar Democrat-backed bill without “significant changes.”
Democrats signaled on Tuesday that they would advance only one of the two bills, AB285, through the Senate Education Committee this week.
The bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Angie Taylor (D-Reno) would repeal and replace the state’s restorative justice school discipline law, a bipartisan 2019 effort that sought to address the state’s “school-to-prison pipeline” predominantly affecting students of color.
Separately, Lombardo sponsored AB330, a bill that also seeks to repeal the restorative justice law, but with additional legal language on precisely how and when school administrators would be able to discipline students with suspension or expulsion. It comes after Lombardo — who called the original 2019 law “a disaster” — made school safety one of his top campaign pledges.
Both bills passed out of the Assembly with bipartisan support, and have been extensively debated and amended by lawmakers, including a recent amendment to Taylor’s bill that increased the lower age limit on permanent expulsions from 6 years old to 11 years old amid internal criticisms from fellow Democrats.
In a statement, Lombardo Chief of Staff Ben Kieckhefer said that Taylor’s bill did not go far enough.
“Gov. Lombardo will not sign legislation that allows a student to commit battery against a teacher and have the only mandatory punishment be a meeting with their parents,” Kieckhefer said. “This is not good enough. We need to do better for our teachers and children.”
Though AB330 did not receive either a hearing or passage out of the Senate Education Committee before the Legislature’s second house committee passage deadline on Friday, Democratic Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) confirmed to The Nevada Independent that the bill would be given a retroactive waiver Monday.
“The waiver allows important discussions around school safety to continue with Gov. Lombardo for the remaining 17 days of session,” Yeager said in a statement.
The Senate Education voted unanimously to advance AB285 on Friday, though Sen. Robin Titus (R-Wellington), said ahead of the vote that she was “disappointed” that the governor’s bill had not received the same time in committee as Taylor’s bill.
Lawmakers have come under increasing pressure from educators and school administrators to repeal the law amid a severe uptick in violent and disruptive behavior and several high-profile incidents of classroom violence.
But the feud over the governor’s school safety bill comes as just the latest flash point in an escalating series of legislative conflicts between his office and the majority-Democratic Legislature.
All five of the governor’s policy bills have stalled in legislative committees. Of those bills, just three have received hearings, with the two remaining left untouched or deemed “dead on arrival” by Democrats.
With his first vetoes of the session, Lombardo vetoed three major gun control bills backed by Democrats on Wednesday. Kieckhefer later told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the governor was prepared to veto the state budget if his bills didn’t pass.
Reporter Tabitha Mueller contributed to this report.