Government Affairs – March, 2017

Greetings from soggy Carson City!

The 79th Nevada Legislative Session convened on February 6, 2017, and amid the biennial pageantry and promises of bipartisan cooperation in doing “the people’s work” while school children sang “Home Means Nevada”, pre-filed bills began to drop and lawmakers and lobbyists alike were off and running in the hallways of the legislative building.  Bill introductions on the floor, committee agendas, legislator meetings, the first committee hearings; watching Carson City come alive every two years never gets old.

From the fall of the gavel, NAIOP has been tracking numerous pieces of legislation which may affect Nevada’s commercial real estate and development market.  While certain of these bills may prove to be simply interesting fodder for discussion over cocktails or the answer to a trivia question, others will profoundly affect Nevada’s citizens and businesses – both those located within Nevada and those considering Nevada as a home.  To that end, we want to bring you up to speed on certain bills introduced during the first 2 weeks of the Legislative Session.

Registration of Vacant Properties
Sponsored by the Nevada League of Cities and Municipalities, SB 24 seeks to impose upon owners of vacant land and improved properties a requirement to register the vacant properties with local government, and impose a fee. Although the fees may be waived or reduced in the event the property owner can demonstrate development activity, the waiver is permissive, and the bill provides permitting may be denied until such fees are paid. Intended to identify and spur development of vacant properties, SB 24 is problematic in its practical application, in that it could further imperil distressed properties, and creates a public record of vacant properties, which gives rise to adverse implications on the owners, increased criminal activity, including squatting, break-ins, etc. Existing laws and ordinances may be used to promote development and aesthetic improvement. To that end, and aside of the practical concerns, SB 24 appears cumulative and unnecessary.

Minimum Wage
Two bills have been introduced which seek to increase the minimum wage.  The first, an Assembly Bill sponsored by freshman Assemblyman William McCurdy II, among others, seeks to raise minimum wage by $1.25 each year until it reaches $15/hr. for employers which do not offer health insurance, and $14/hr. for those which do offer insurance.  A second bill proposing to increase minimum wage has been introduced in the Senate.  Sponsored as a “committee bill” (a bill without a legislator-sponsor, which has instead been introduced by a legislative committee), the Senate bill seeks to raise minimum wage by $.75 each year until it reaches $12/hr. for employers not offering health insurance, and $11/hr. for those employers which do.  The Senate bill was presented by freshman Senator Yvanna Cancella, and Majority Leader Aaron Ford.

Real Property Tax Abatements
Although only one bill has been introduced addressing this issue, freshman Senator Julia Ratti and Assemblywoman Dina Neal have convened a Joint Committee of the Senate Committee on Revenue and Economic Development and Assembly Committee on Taxation to listen to presentations and discuss the statutory abatements to real property taxes in Nevada, resulting financial impact, and potential alternatives to the existing real property tax structure.  Additional legislation addressing these issues is expected.  That said, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson has publicly criticized any modification to the real property tax structure which results in increased taxes and vowed to oppose any such measures.  This issue promises to be one of the most hotly debated of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Economic Development
Economic development continues its popularity among legislators and the Governor, alike.  The 79th Legislative Session is merely 3 weeks old, and several bills have already surfaced regarding certain economic development issues including accountability and reporting, and addressing the economic ripple effects certain large-scale projects have on adjacent cities, counties and school districts.  Although we do not anticipate a shift in paradigm, much less a roll-back of any existing programs, sure as the sun comes up every morning, each of these bills will be met with the traditional skepticism surrounding economic development, its utility, necessity, and measure of overall benefits such investments bring to the state.

Odds & Ends
Levity keeps us grounded and puts things into perspective.  Nowhere is this more true and necessary than in Carson City, and given our Legislature only meets every 2 years, we need to take full advantage.  To that end, we will be sure to include in our monthly updates a little bit of “fun”.  In this edition, we bring to your attention BDR 19-459 seeking to designate the square dance the official dance of the State of Nevada.  More fun – this is a reprisal of AB 123 from the 2015 Legislative Session, which passed out of the Assembly, but died in the Senate Committee on Government Affairs without even a hearing.  Perhaps merengue would have garnered more attention?

As always, should you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact Jon Leleu or Kerrie Kramer at any time.

Jonathan P. Leleu
Shareholder
leleuj@gtlaw.com

Kerrie Kramer
Assistant Director
kramerk@gtlaw.com

Greenberg Traurig, LLP | Suite 400 North
3773 Howard Hughes Parkway | Las Vegas, Nevada 89169
Tel 702.938-6917 | Fax 702.925.2316 | www.gtlaw.com