New year, new laws for business

The new year will usher in a handful of state laws affecting business.

The laws, all passed during the 2015 session of the Nevada Legislature and going into effect Jan. 1, will have an impact mostly on the edges of a variety of industries.

But a few will touch all businesses in the Silver State.

Senate Bills 231 and 232, for example, cover workers’ compensation. The bills primarily make changes for insurers and healthcare providers, but that should be good for businesses required to carry the insurance, too.

“The bills, in a nutshell, should stem the costs of workers comp,” said Jim Werbeckes, vice president, government and regulatory affairs at Employers Insurance Group in Reno.

Under the new law, the driving-under-the-influence standard of .08 percent blood alcohol level will be used now to determine if intoxication is the cause of a worker injury.

“Currently, there is zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol in the workplace,” said Werbeckes.

The new law removes that rebuttable presumption, meaning the onus has been on the employee to prove alcohol is not the cause of an accident, and replaces it with what Werbeckes calls the bright line of the DUI statute.

The laws also, among other things, require physicians to write prescriptions for more than 15 days of opiates and restricts the use of repackaged drugs.

“Repackages would change the codes on drugs and charge whatever they wanted, sometimes with a 300 to 400 percent markup,” said Werbeckes. “Hopefully this will down costs for employers.”

Another new law allows for 25 percent tax credits for employers matching employee contributions to a qualified Nevada 529 college savings plan for up to $500 per employee.

“That’s something businesses should be aware of and it’s up to The Chamber and others to make sure they know,” said Tray Abney, director of government relations, The Chamber in Reno.

Abney points to another law, probably the most controversial of the recent session: SB 483.

The bill implements the commerce tax and went into effect in 2015, but the first payments on the new tax are due in August 2016, said Abney.

Abney said all businesses will be required to file the tax forms with the Nevada Department of Taxation regardless whether the business meets the threshold of $4 million in gross receipts.

Abney is worried that efforts to repeal the tax through a ballot measure this year could backfire.

If the ballot measure fails, under law, the legislature cannot make any changes to the law for three years and Abney says such an important piece of legislation almost always needs to be cleaned up in subsequent sessions.

“I’m worried it may fail and we won’t be able to fix even minor things on it,” said Abney.

The remaining laws going into effect on Jan. 1 are limited to specific types of businesses.

SB 170, for example, sets out a series of tax abatements that data centers can apply for through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The goal is to give a boost to the recruitment of large data centers to the state.

The first to take advantage is eBay, which is already located in southern Nevada and expanding its operations into a data center in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center east of Reno.

The Campbell, Calif., electronic commerce company is set to receive $30 million in various tax abatements for a $412 million investment in two projects, including $230 million in its data center in Storey County.

“It’s incredibly important in helping the state attract data centers. It creates a near-level playing field,” making Nevada more competitive with surrounding states, said Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO, Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.

Kazmierski said data centers also have a secondary effect, bringing additional technology companies and high-paying jobs to the area.

Another industry-specific bill is SB 254, which cuts in half the percent of payment that can be withheld until a construction project is completed.

In the past, clients could retain 10 percent of the cost of construction until the entire job was completed.

That meant on large projects some subcontractors might wait years before getting fully paid.

“It’s particularly important for subs on excavation or site work,” said Craig Madole, assistant executive director, Nevada Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America in Reno. “They might do a million dollars worth of work but $100,000 would be withheld. The first guy in had to wait for the last guy out to get his money.”

The new law reduces that so-called retainage to 5 percent on private as well as public works contracts and requires the general contractor to pass along the additional payment.


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