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With 31 vetoes, a look at what the governor opposed

Updated Friday, May 29, 2009 | 4:11 p.m.

CARSON CITY ­-- Gov. Jim Gibbons is close to breaking the the record among Nevada governors for the most bills vetoed, at 31 and counting.

He vetoed 20 bills Thursday, bringing his total to 31 for the 2009 Legislature, which ends June 1.

New research by the state Archives shows Henry Blasdel, Nevada's first governor, rejected 33 bills during the 1864-1865 Legislature. Archivists initially reported that Blasdel had 30 vetoes but after further research found he had nixed 33 measures. He had nine of his vetoes overturned in the Legislature, the first session after Nevada became a state.

Gibbons, besides vetoing the Legislature’s tax increase and budget bills, also nixed bills to expand benefits to those injured on the job, increase the cost of renting a car and allow the tax rolls to be published on the Internet instead of in newspapers.

Gibbons also nixed one of Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley’s favorite bills to establish a fund to support public schools during tough economic times.

Gibbons said Buckley’s Assembly Bill 458 was a “laudable goal,” but there should be similar funds for other areas of state government. The governor said he proposed a similar bill that would have set these stabilization funds for other areas of state government but it never got passed.

The governor also turned down another of Buckley’s bill, ­ this one to change the way the state budget is prepared every two years. Buckley is considering challenging Gibbons in the 2010 election.

Buckley’s Assembly Bill 446 would have required the budget to include a summary of the long-term performance in such areas as the public schools, the university system, human services, public safety and health. It would have required an explanation if the budget was meeting these goals.

Gibbons, in his veto message, said the budget process needs improvement, but the Legislature ignored the fiscal note that it would cost $347,000 to start the process and require an annual $141,000. Without that money, the governor said the Department of Administration could not perform the tasks outlined in the bill.

The governor turned down Senate Bill 195, which would have allowed more benefits for workers injured on the job. The governor said the bill included new factors in considering industrial insurance benefits when there is already a scientifically advanced guide in evaluating permanent disability claims.

“Senate Bill 195 also allows for the consideration of stress as a factor when evaluating a person for a permanent partial disability. I do not believe it’s appropriate to consider such a subjective and transitive factor as stress when making a determination of permanency.”

Also disapproved was Senate Bill 363, which would have allowed the spouse of a worker killed on the job to receive lifetime benefits, even if the spouse remarried. The governor said the death benefit was to ensure the surviving spouse was able to sustain his or her livelihood. Getting married “marks a significant change in lifestyle” and the death benefits should not continue, Gibbons said.

The governor turned down Senate Bill 234 that would have permitted rental car agencies to charge an additional fee. A lobbyist for the industry said it would amount to $1 to $2.

“This is a fee increase that I will not support because it will impact not only Nevadans but businessmen and women and tourists who visit our state,” said the governor.

Gibbons said he liked the intent of Assembly Bill 146 that would establish a state business portal in the Secretary of State’s Office. It would “facilitate transactions between government and private business.” But the bill would double the annual licensing fee the state charges businesses and also create a new license fee for each additional physical location of a business. The governor vetoed the bill because of the fee increases.

Newspapers currently publish the property tax rolls. Assembly Bill 307 would have permitted that information to be moved to the Internet to save money. In vetoing the bill, the governor said access to the Internet in large portions of rural Nevada is not available or available only in dial-up form. “This would make it particularly difficult for citizens in these areas to access this information,” the governor said in his veto message.

Assembly Bill 493 would require the state Public Employees Board to identify where it has investments in companies that do business or have ties to Iran. The bill said it is in the best interest of the system to “use reason and prudence” in investing millions of dollars in these public corporations.

Gibbons said “this study is not necessary.” He said the voters in 1996 approved a constitutional amendment that prohibits the retirement board “from basing its investment decisions on social policies, no matter how admirable.”

Another bill outside the budget and tax bills that was vetoed was Assembly Bill 267 that requests certain golf courses assessed as open-space under zoning ordinances. Gibbons said this bill apparently singles out a single golf course, which is bad public policy.

Senate Bill 378 would require the state Department of Education to develop guidelines and standards for preschool classes for children. Gibbons said early childhood education is “critical for mental and emotional development and school preparedness.”

But he added this is an area traditionally left to the parents and it should stay there.

The governor rejected Assembly Bill 246, which would allow creation of a “Dream Tag” program for big game hunters. The nonprofit Community Foundation of Western Nevada would buy big game tags from the state Board of Wildlife Commission and then raffle them off. Any extra money made by the community foundation would go to preserving and protecting the habitat and wildlife.

Gibbons said the state board should handle that program.

Gibbons also vetoed Assembly Bill 491 in which a certain amount of money held in a bank is not subject to a writ of execution or garnishment. The governor said the bill “would put additional barriers to small businesses collecting debts legitimately owed to them. Nevada’s law already provides strong protections for debtors, and the average rate of debt collection in Nevada is about 20 percent.

“Making the wildcard exemption of $1,000 automatic instead of requiring the debtor to file for the exemption will make it even more burdensome for businesses to collect what is rightfully theirs.”

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