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Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo: 'I could support' abortion bill in legislature

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo announces his candidacy for governor in June.
John Locher/Associated Press
Joe Lombardo

Joe Lombardo just went through his first two weeks as governor during a legislative session.

Before the session, he outlined his goals in his state of the state address. He wants to be known as the “education governor."

Some of his ideas have resonated with Democrats, but Democrats have already declared some of them as non-starters.

Then again, there’s a lot of time between now and the end of the session in three and a half months. And if you follow our legislature every two years, you know just about anything can happen.

Lombardo joined State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann on Thursday to discuss his start as Nevada's 31st governor.


You are known as somebody who likes to base decisions on statistical information, you want to have the data. You're dealing now with politicians … they might say or do whatever they think the voters like just to get reelected. I wonder how you think your way of management might change things in the state?

Quite often in politics, it's based on whether they perceive a reelection in the horizon, or how the voters will perceive their decision or their process. And, more importantly, one thing I have learned over time, Joe, is a lot of people make their decisions based on reelection in that piece. And not for the right reasons, or even for the right thing to do. And I think I'm more inclined to do it for the right reasons. And the right thing to do, when I make decisions, I want to reelection way in the back of my mind. For me, I'm more involved in the initial processes and how we can function, the state moving forward for the next four years. And if reelection happens as a result of my decisions, that's even better. But if it doesn't, I still gotta hold true to what I believe in.

You are a Republican governor walking into a legislative session with a near Democratic supermajority. Have you spoken to or had any meetings with Democratic leadership yet?

It's going, it's an ongoing process. And I've had several meetings with the leadership. And as we speak, I'm individually meeting with all the legislators in the next two weeks, two to three weeks, just to say hello, meet and greet, shake their hands and remind them of my priorities, and to listen to their priorities. So I think what I've said in the past and publicly is for us to be successful because of that majority on one side, and then the governor on the other side is we're going to have to have a robust communication and ensure that we're meeting the middle somewhere for it, because it all boils down to the benefit of the state of Nevada, and quite often, the politics gets in the way of that, we have to realize that.

Let's talk about some of your priorities: schools. What do you want to do with schools? You want to put an additional $2 billion into our schools? Why did that become your priority?

I think everything revolves around education at the foundation of society and quality of life and what we're trying to achieve. And currently, we have a void of workforce occupation. And what I mean by that is, there's two jobs for every unemployed person currently in the state of Nevada. But a lot of those jobs require a certain level of qualifications to occupy that space, because we're trying to expand past your traditional service jobs and more diversification in the economy. So you have some, you know, more qualifications associated with occupying job space, you know, engineers and in different labor positions in the trades to building trades. And education is the foundation of that, and we've seen a void of our direction in the education space in the battle over the last couple of decades, and I'm a direct product of it. I went to a public high school in Nevada, and there was trade development in all the schools, and then they centralized it down to a certain number of schools. And then, you know, we thought computer science was gonna solve all the world's woes and we've all suffered as a result of that. And that's across the board, not just state of Nevada, it's across the country, you know, so here we are reaching out to different companies to put roots into the state of Nevada, but they don't have the labor force. And that's been their biggest issue, educating the workforce or labor force, or bringing in people into the labor force, because there's a void of it in the state of Nevada.

So education, all that boils down to education, diversify in the economy, public safety, education, education breeds opportunities, and vision. With the lack of it, you know, people resort to drastic measures to provide for their families. And that, you know, quite often relates to criminal activity. So it all comes together with that salient point. And so in the last decades, we keep hearing the proverbial rating of the education system in Nevada is, you know, 49, 50, 48, whatever it may be, it's detrimental. And we have to concentrate on making it a priority. We have to identify the failures and some processes and programs for success, and put all our efforts into that. And that's subsequently why … I'm running off the backbone of education.

We've talked with the teachers union about school choice, with the former head of the PTA for Nevada about this, both of them have said, we'll talk about it. But we've talked to Democrats who say they don't think taking away any money away from the taxpayers of public schools is the way to go. I wonder if you have something that you think you'll be able to compromise with on that point?

Not necessarily taking away money. It's all based off the pupil-centered funding formula, so whatever that amount is in my proposal, I believe the first amount was $12,300. That is intended to follow the students. So it doesn't take away from anybody. And I understand what they're saying, but that system has failed us. Okay, so you got to open yourself up to other options and to see it. You mentioned it earlier, I appreciate data. I like science, or I like all the data points that goes towards programs whether, you know, you can't determine whether it's successful unless you can measure it. Yeah, look across the nation in similar situated school systems where there are is choice. They've had better success. So in our current system, we keep talking about it. We're not seeing any change in numbers.

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro submitted a proposal this week to prevent state agencies from cooperating with other states that want to prosecute somebody from getting reproductive care or an abortion in Nevada. Abortion was a major issue during this campaign, would you support Cannizzaro?

Yes, I would [support it]. But with that being said, as long as [it’s a] clean bill, it says exactly what you just said. You know, what happens in government, when bills are presented, quite often amendments are thrown on ‘em, because people want to get their projects involved in the bill and because they see success as the backbone of the bill. And I want to be sure that doesn't happen. Because changes in totality of the abortion question needs to be a vote of the people. But this particular item involving abortions, I could support if it stands on its own.

RJ: Cannizzaro bill would protect women seeking abortions in Nevada

Do you think the state's efforts on gun control are adequate? Do you support what's been done?

I support what's been done. Obviously, that's a continual question and technology changes in that space. And so you constantly have to evaluate it. And I was presented this question here recently. And what I've always said from the very beginning is, we would be a lot more successful in that space. If the prosecution of the individuals or the utilize guns to commit harm is robust. There's a lot of laws on the books that address guns and the use of guns and in nefarious acts associated with guns. And if we would do that, I think it would change the mental attitude of people out there intending to commit harm across the board. You know, the bigger question is on gun control on the other aspects that you presented red flags and ghost guns, and all that's more discussion that needs to be had. But in the front end, if we enforce the laws that are on the books, I think we'd be more successful in society.

Guest: Joe Lombardo, governor, Nevada

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Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.
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