Governor Brian Sandoval took office in 2011 after a primary and general election campaign that focused almost exclusively on the issues of taxes and the state’s budget shortfall.
Little to no discussion was held about issues important to conservationists, including renewable energy and wildlife policy. As a result, the conservation community was not sure what to expect as the Sandoval administration began. However, he and his staff have been a pleasant surprise. He has an open door to the conservation community, and he was actively engaged in key legislation that improved policy relating to Nevada’s environment.
Much has been said about the Governor’s leadership in the closing days of the legislative session, and we agree that it was a welcome sight to see the two branches working together and reaching a budget agreement. We disagree with the Governor’s inflexible “no new taxes” stance that he maintained throughout most of the 2011 session, and we feel that a truly effective leader would assess the needs of the state and devise a budget plan to meet those needs. In the end though, the Governor’s willingness to work to find solutions was a welcome change.
A strong Governor chooses capable staff and then solicits and acts upon their advice. Governor Sandoval has shown himself to be a capable chief executive, as the Governor’s staff is accessible and hardworking, and his selection of cabinet directors for key environmental agencies have been top-notch. We do lament the fact that the Governor’s budgeting process ignored the key needs that exist in these agencies, and we are certainly concerned about the potential impacts over the next biennium, but it certainly won’t be from inadequate agency leadership.
Soon after the close of the legislative session, the Governor made five appointments to the Board of Wildlife Commissioners that immediately transformed the body from one hostile to sound wildlife management to a reasonable commission that will respect science. In addition, August saw the reappointment of Commissioner Rebecca Wagner to the Public Utilities Commission, ensuring a steady hand that will give renewable energy an equal seat at the table. The Governor will make many other appointments, but he is certainly off to a good start.
Legislative Session B
Governor Sandoval signed every positive piece of legislation featured in this year’s scorecard and deserves praise for that. His staff was also willing to work collaboratively with the conservation community to ensure the passage of key legislation such as AB 167 and AB 307. However, he agreed to support SB 271 despite the strong opposition of the conservation community, and there were other bills that did not make it to his desk due to a perceived veto threat.
Overall, we are pleased with Governor Sandoval’s performance thus far. He has been willing to work with conservationists to get key legislation passed and he has taken an active role in cleaning up some of the problems that existed when he took office. While we would like to see him be more proactive on a few key issues such as conservation funding and the promotion of sustainable development, overall, we are optimistic that as Nevada’s economy improves, the conservation community can continue to work with Governor Sandoval.
We have some big challenges ahead of us: developing the next phase of Nevada’s clean energy economy; addressing future transportation and infrastructure needs; mitigating the impacts of climate change; and protecting our state’s flora and fauna for future generations. These challenges will require leadership from our Governor, and we have hope that he will rise to the challenge.
Final Grade B