Lawmakers protest prevailing wage requirement

Rules to implement a 2011 law change creating economic development opportunities for small businesses in Nevada were held up Thursday after Republican state lawmakers on the Legislative Commission objected to a prevailing wage requirement in the rules that wasn’t part of the original bill.The 2011 law change set up a board to use interest earned on money in the state’s permanent school fund to invest in private businesses. The bill was supported by the governor’s office as well as a majority of lawmakers as a tool to spur economic development.Objecting to the prevailing wage requirement at the Legislative Commission meeting, Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, said nothing in the original bill required companies that get the funds to pay prevailing wages — a mandate that would be a costly burden for some small businesses. Hansen described the requirement in the implementing rules as “a classic case of getting something done through regulation that isn’t in the legislation.” Hansen, who owns a plumbing company, said the going wage for plumbers is about $20 an hour but the prevailing wage would require plumbers be paid about $45 an hour.He was backed by other Republicans on the Legislative Commission, including Assemblyman Pete Livermore of Carson City who said the original program “was about economic development, not about jobs and unions.”Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-Las Vegas, whose committee processed the legislation in 2011, said she sees his point. “It was our way of seeing if we can invest in businesses to help them grow,” she said. “We didn’t specifically talk about prevailing wage. That didn’t come up.”Chief Deputy Treasurer Mark Mathers said that in certain trades and industries prevailing wage would not apply. He also said he doubts that many of the companies getting the funds would be construction firms.Kirkpatrick said she was worried that rejecting the regulation at this late stage would seriously damage the whole program.Mathers agreed, saying if the regulation dies, it does away with the whole program. He added that he anticipated making the first investments in small companies early this coming year.“It’s an incredibly important bill for our office and the state,” he said.Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Las Vegas, asked whether Mathers could state for the record that a company can’t be precluded from getting the investment money for not paying prevailing wages. Mathers said that would be up to the treasurer and the appointed board managing the program but added, “I don’t anticipate hard-and-fast prevailing wage standards.”Kirkpatrick moved and the commission agreed to defer action on the regulation until the issue can be resolved.


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