It was Republican state Sen. Scott Hammond of Las Vegas who broke with his party and cast the deciding vote needed to pass the state’s Capital Improvement Program with the constitutionally required two-thirds vote. Ironically, Hammond is probably best known for his policy work on private school vouchers and charter schools — the very issues his colleagues cited as reasons for opposing the budget bill.
But Hammond is one of only two Senate Republicans who is termed out and unable to run for reelection next year.
Hammond did not make floor statements before casting either of his votes on the budget bill. But after adjournment of the special session, he acknowledged to reporters that he made a deal to change his vote to support.
“I think I’ve proved myself to be somebody who champions school choice,” he said, “but this had to be done. We needed to end this.”
“I’ve been here many, many years,” he also said, referencing his 11 years in the Legislature. “Sometimes, you know, it’s worth holding out for. Sometimes there’s something there. And other times it’s just not there.”
The CIP bill appropriates $1.189 billion for maintenance and construction of public projects, including $18 million for a forensic mental health facility in Southern Nevada, $105 million for a new DMV facility in the Silverado Ranch area, and $15.3 million for North Las Vegas Veterans Home.
Senate Republicans voted as a bloc in the final hour of the regular session. Senate Minority Leader Heidi Seevers Gansert in a floor statement said they were taking a stand primarily over the exclusion of charter schools in a teacher pay raise bill passed by Democrats on the final day of the regular session.
Republicans on Tuesday put the price tag of their ask at $32 million.
Democrats did not amend the budget bill, and the governor’s proclamation, which sets the topics that can be considered within a special session, did not include anything other than the CIP bill.
Lombardo made “school choice” a central platform of his gubernatorial campaign, and groups have been pushing for him to deliver on those promises. As part of an earlier deal struck with Democrats, Lombardo secured some funding for charter school transportation and expanded charter school authorization to cities and municipalities. But Democrats held firm against Nevada’s Opportunity Scholarships, a quasi private school voucher program. They gave to Lombardo nothing of what he wanted, which was a massive expansion of the program both in funding level and increased eligibility for families.
With the budget now wrestled to the ground, the Legislature’s attention is immediately shifting to a second 2023 special session.
Shortly after adjournment of the budget special session, Lombardo issued a new proclamation convening another special session on Wednesday to consider approving a $380 million public assistance package for the Oakland A’s — the worst baseball team in Major League Baseball, which wants to build a stadium on the Las Vegas Strip where the Tropicana is currently.
That deal was rumored to have fallen apart on the final day of the regular session, but will now be the sole focus of a special session.
The proposed deal involves $180 million in transferable tax credits and $120 million in county bonds, among other incentives.
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.