Construction defect, wage reform top business items

The 2015 Nevada Legislature convenes today and the state’s business community is guardedly optimistic it may get what it wants out of the session.

The reason: a Republican governor and Republican majorities in both the Assembly and Senate.

“The world’s changed,” says Tray Abney, director of government relations for The Chamber in Reno. “Now things are very doable.”

Topping the list is construction defect reform, a battle the state’s building industry has been fighting ever since the laws were amended a dozen years ago.

“The loose definition of what is a construction defect and entitlement to attorney fees regardless of the scope of defect led to defects being claimed in almost any situation,” says Josh Hicks, shareholder, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, who is spearheading the industry’s representation at the legislature. “The industry was very excited to hear the governor call it out in his State of the State address.”

The construction industry and others would also like to see the state’s prevailing wage laws changed. Currently, prevailing wages are required on public works projects and one idea that is to make an exception for education projects.

The industry would also like to see the highway trust fund restored, says Craig Madole, assistant executive director, Nevada chapter of the Associated General Contractors. For years, money meant for the fund has been diverted to the state’s general fund, says Madole.

Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO, Economic Development Authority, is working withto change taxes now charged on aviation parts and components, levies not charged by surrounding states, which could stymie growth in Nevada’s young unmanned aerial vehicle industry.

The state’s independent insurance agents are working to get on the board of directors for Nevada Healthlink, the state’s insurance exchange. The law setting up the exchange excluded insurance industry representatives due to a perceived conflict of interest.

“We want to change the makeup of the board to include at least two members from the industry,” says Susan Bauman, an agent with Western Risk Insurance in Las Vegas and chairman of the Nevada Independent Insurance Agents legislative committee. “It seems they may be more receptive since (last year’s) enrollment.”

Bauman and others, however, are less confident and more worried about calls to raise revenue, the biggest issue facing the legislature.

Most agree education funding should be boosted and the state’s tax structure overhauled, but they’re waiting to hear about all the tax proposals.

Gov. Sandoval proposed modifying the existing business license fee. The governor late last week was supposed to unveil details of the plan, which was expected to charge varying fees based on 30 business categories.

But other ideas such as a sales tax on services and a change to property taxes as well as many suggestions for spending cuts will be debated before the session is done.

“We did raise taxes in ‘03 and ‘09 and education did not get better,” says The Chambers Abney. “That’s what is going to be the governor’s struggle, showing that this revenue enhancement will be better. It’s going to be a big fight.”


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