Government Affairs – May, 2017

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

Obi-Wan Kenobi

The first committee and first house passage deadlines have come and gone, and for two weeks in mid-April, the marathon turned into a sprint as legislators and lobbyists rushed to move bills in which they were interested out of committee, and then out of their house of origin.  Bills failing to meet the deadlines, which were not lucky enough to receive a coveted exemption from the rules, perished at the stroke of midnight.  Nights were late, tensions were high, voices raised, fitbit steps tripled.  As in life, despite best efforts, the clock continued to tick and the two most significant legislative deadlines aside of sine die passed, and with them, 272 bills – about 30% – met their demise.  Whether a bill’s death is premature is obviously in the eye of the beholder, however, there is something reassuring about waking up the morning following a deadline knowing the issues have significantly narrowed.  Putting aside the end-of-session stress of chasing down and killing “zombie bills” (legislation which dies and somehow returns), tracking changes to the biennial “Christmas Tree” (a bill which is adorned with endless amendments, invariably containing parts of deceased legislation), and leadership’s reserved “emergency” bills which spring up like a jack-in-the-box at the end of Session, there is no denying the end is right around the corner, and that is all the motivation we need to make the final push to sine die.

In all, 12 of the bills NAIOP was tracking failed to meet the legislative deadlines and died.  Among the deceased were the following:

AB 43 – The NACO real property tax bill was heard, and NAIOP – while publicly supporting real property tax reform – opposed the bill as an incomplete solution. This bill never made it out of committee.

AB 153 – The economic development impact fees bill was quickly dubbed the “Screw Storey” bill, and died following a hearing where the Chair of the committee made plain the bill was not well-taken.  The bill never received a committee vote.

SB 24 – The vacant property registry bill was highly controversial, and opposed by NAIOP.  This bill never received a hearing.

SB 67 – One of the City of Las Vegas’ chief policy bills, this bill sought to increase the statutory definition of “high-rise” from 55’ to 75’.  NAIOP publicly supported this bill, and worked closely with City lobbyists to push the bill over the finish line, but it was killed by adverse interests before it could be voted out of committee.

SB 423 – This bill advocated for the implementation of lien rights for design professionals.  Offensive to development and construction lending from the start, this bill had little chance, and did not receive a hearing.  NAIOP was opposed, though did not need to make a public statement.

Remaining bills NAIOP is supporting as a priority include:

AB 399 / SB 517 – The transportation / utility infrastructure bank bills are a legislative priority for NAIOP.  Although land is plentiful in Nevada, the vast majority of the land will not support development due to scarcity of surrounding infrastructure.  Accordingly, projects on this land will not pencil.  These bills allow municipalities to borrow capital for use in constructing utility and transportation infrastructure for purposes of making the land “shovel ready”.  Both bills have wide support, and are exempt from all deadlines.

SJR 14 – The Nevada Constitution (Article 10, Section 1) requires the Legislature to provide a uniform and equal rate of assessment and taxation.  This Resolution seeks to amend the Nevada Constitution to remove an impediment currently interpreted to prevent real property tax assessments from “resetting on sale” (real property tax assessments are capped until the property is sold, at which time, the property is re-assessed)  The Resolution does not establish rates or assessments; it simply removes the constitutional impediment such that the Legislature may consider the concept of “reset on sale” among the other suggested methods of real property tax reform, should it choose to do so.  The process to legislatively amend the Nevada Constitution is as follows:

  • Either house may propose an amendment to the Nevada Constitution.
  • The proposed amendment passes if it obtains a majority in both houses.
  • The proposed amendment is then introduced in the next legislative session.
  • If the amendment passes in the 2nd legislative session, the amendment is placed on the ballot for a vote.
  • Should a majority of voters approve the amendment, the Nevada Constitution is amended.

Suffice it to say, amending the Nevada Constitution takes a long, long time.  In addition, that the Legislature must then weigh the policy concept of “reset on sale” and, if approved, the agencies must then establish regulations to assess the tax, cannot be ignored.  Simply put, implementation of “reset on sale” on real property taxes is a long way off.  That said, NAIOP is publicly supportive of reforming Nevada’s real property tax structure, and supports passage of SJR 14 to begin the process.

Finally, bills NAIOP is currently opposing, and hopes to amend or put down (gently – we’re humane!) are:

AB 154 – Sponsored by Assemblyman Chris Brooks, this bill contains a provision removing the exemption of charter schools from prevailing wage.  While NAIOP members are generally not involved in school construction, the concept of requiring prevailing wage on projects financed with purely private dollars is why NAIOP publicly opposed this bill.

AB 277 – Assemblyman Steve Yeager’s “Save Red Rock” bill moved out of the Assembly, but was substantially amended following NAIOP’s public opposition.  Notably, the radius surrounding National Conservation Areas wherein the development restrictions would be applied was reduced from 5 miles to 1/2 mile.  That said, NAIOP remains concerned with the framing and breadth of appeal rights on parties deemed to be aggrieved following a municipal approval/denial of a land-use application for property located within the radius.  Assemblyman Yeager has remained available and responsive to NAIOP’s suggestions, and we believe these technical issues will be quickly resolved.

SB 106 – Senators Ford and Cancela’s bill to raise minimum wage to $12/hr. if the employer does not offer health insurance / $11/hr. if the employer offers insurance continues to make its way through the Legislature.  While NAIOP is supportive of paying fair, living wages, NAIOP is nevertheless concerned the impact raising minimum wage will have on business will be adverse.  We expect this bill to be part of “end game” bargaining.

SB 173 – Senator Yvanna Cancela’s bill seeking to apply prevailing wage to schools made a part of the Achievement School District passed the Senate, and was heard by the Assembly Committee on Education.  For reasons similar to AB 154, NAIOP public opposed this bill as written.  Although public dollars were spent to build the public school, upon its transfer to charter school status, the school – by function of statute – loses facilities funding from the state for maintenance and expansion construction projects; these projects must be financed by private dollars from the achievement charter school.  Accordingly, NAIOP remained consistent and opposed that portion of the bill.  To the extent the bill is amended to remove the prevailing wage requirement for maintenance and expansion projects, NAIOP will likely become neutral.  Discussions remain ongoing.

Odds and Ends:  AB 158 Sleeps With The Fishes

Nevada is among 9 other states which have banned the practice of “fish pedicures”, a process where the customer places his/her feet into a fish tank, and allows the fish to eat dead skin off the customer’s feet.  Although popular in Asia, the practice has met resistance in the west, with many state boards of cosmetology holding the practice as unsanitary, as there is no way to sterilize the tank between customer uses.  More, the fish themselves cannot be sanitized, and given the nature of the treatment, the net result is obviously the creation of waste in the tank where the customers willingly dip their feet.  Mercifully, this bill perished without a vote in the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor.

Jonathan P. Leleu
Shareholder
Greenberg Traurig, LLP | Suite 400 North
3773 Howard Hughes Parkway | Las Vegas, Nevada 89169
Tel 702.599.8070 | Fax 702.925.2316 | Cell 702.541.1500
leleuj@gtlaw.com | www.gtlaw.com