By Jim Hartman, Nevada Appeal, April 15, 2023
After Gov. Joe Lombardo’s first 100 days in office observers will use the occasion to evaluate his job performance.
For many, Lombardo gets an “A” grade simply in comparison to former Gov. Steve Sisolak.
During COVID, Sisolak governed as an authoritarian whose oppressive shutdown orders shuttered 95,000 Nevada small businesses that never reopened.
The state’s unemployment rate reached 30.5% in March 2020, exceeding Great Depression levels. High unemployment persisted during Sisolak’s entire term, with Nevada having the highest unemployment rate in the nation when he left office.
Sisolak’s executive orders were often arbitrary, capricious and found to discriminate against religious assemblies.
His greatest policy blunder was the closedown of in-person learning for an entire academic year. That had a devastating effect on Nevada’s children.
Not surprisingly, Sisolak was the only incumbent governor in the country to be defeated last November.
Lombardo came to the governorship having been Clark County sheriff for eight years responsible for 5,700 Las Vegas Metro police personnel and administering an annual budget of $700 million. He’s an experienced manager.
Lombardo named Ben Kieckhefer as his chief of staff. Kieckhefer served in the Nevada Senate from 2011 to 2021 and knows the Legislature and state government.
Lombardo is not a gifted public speaker. No one will confuse his rhetorical skills with those of Reagan or Kennedy.
Lombardo is straightforward and plain-spoken.
When asked after his Jan. 23 State of the State address what he was looking forward to over the next four years, the governor replied: “Getting sh-t done.”
That’s just what he’s attempting to do – but Lombardo faces a legislature dominated by far-left Democrats.
As a result of Democrats enacting an extreme partisan gerrymander in 2021, they won a supermajority in the Assembly (28-14) and fell one vote short of a supermajority (13-8) in the Senate last November.
In his State of the State, Lombardo said it was time to confront “stubborn facts” in education where Nevada remains bottom-ranked.
The governor took a balanced approach to fixing the problem. He proposes to boost public school spending ($2,000 per pupil); create the Office of School Choice; and, increase Opportunity Scholarship funding from $50 million to $500 million.
Lombardo would reinstate the Read by Grade 3 law championed by Gov. Brian Sandoval requiring children failing grade three reading proficiency be held back. It was removed as a requirement in 2019.
In 2019, Democrats also enacted AB 168 “the public-school restorative justice law.” The law has led to disruptive and dangerous behavior in classrooms.
Lombardo proposes legislation, supported by all 17 school superintendents and teacher unions, to restore a teacher’s ability to remove a student from their classroom. It permits school administrators to use suspension and expulsion in aggravated cases of battery, drug dealing or firearm possession.
The governor proposes a “crime reduction act” to make possession of fentanyl a Category B felony; hold habitual offenders accountable; toughen penalties in residential burglary cases; and lower the felony theft threshold.
On election integrity, the governor would continue making it easy to vote – mail, two weeks of early voting, and Election Day – but harder to cheat.
That includes requiring a photo ID, provided to anyone who can’t afford one, mailing ballots only to people who actually request them, and requiring that mail-in ballots be returned in time to be counted on Election Day.
He would end unregulated “ballot harvesting,” limiting their number to 30.
Even with a budget surplus, far-left legislative Democrats are eying new taxes – a “digital” sales tax and a “wealth tax” – which Lombardo would certainly veto.
The governor’s agenda should appeal to Republicans, a majority of decline-to-state voters and many “old school” Democrats.
Lombardo earns a preliminary “A” for a solid performance in his first 100 days.
His first great challenge lies ahead – from now until the Legislature’s adjournment on June 5.