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Taxes, energy seen as big for business in ‘19 Legislature

Bill O’Driscoll
wodriscoll@nnbw.biz
The Nevada Legislative building in Carson City,
Courtesy |

With the 2017 Legislature in their rearview mirrors, three Washoe County lawmakers say energy and tax issues likely will top the region’s business interests in the 2019 session.

Before then, all three lawmakers — Democratic Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, Republican Assemblywoman Jill Tolles and Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer — all face reelection in 2018.

They spoke before a breakfast meeting of NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association Northern Nevada Chapter.

Before they took the microphones, the meeting focused on this year’s session that was marked more by legislation that failed to make it into law than measures signed by the governor.

Then the three lawmakers took the stage in the Silver Legacy Resort Casino to prognosticate on the potential big issues to go before the next Legislature.

“The thing I’ve heard, there are people who want to repeal the commerce tax,” Benitez-Thompson said the controversial business tax first imposed in 2003 and increased in 2015.

“It will be a very difficult, hard discussion,” said Benitez-Thompson, who served as Assembly Majority Leader for Democrats in 2017.

Kieckhefer touched on another hot topic.

“Energy will be big,” he said, citing the Energy Choice Initiative which Nevada voters overwhelmingly approved in 2016 to deregulate the state’s energy market and open it to competition.

The question must go before voters again in 2018, and, if approved, deregulation would be in place within six years after that.

Before that happens, Kieckhefer said, the matter will require extensive legislative attention to have the structure and regulations in place.

“Everyone expects it will (be approved),” he said of the November 2018 election. “Then it will be incumbent on the Legislature to create the infrastructure. We will have three sessions to do so. There’s a lot of work ahead.”

For her part, Tolles echoed Kieckhefer.

“We have a tremendous opportunity with Nevada’s energy resources,” she said of solar, wind and geothermal development as alternatives to fossil fuel-based sources.

“I’m excited. Power generated by Nevadans for Nevadans,” she said. “This gives Nevada the opportunity to be a national leader.”

Tolles also cited issues that have become biennial concerns for lawmakers who, by law, meet for 120 days every other year. Those issues include health care and economic diversification.

Property taxes, too, are always an issue, others said.

To that end, lawmakers in the 2017 session approved Senate Joint Resolution 14. The measure would revise the state Constitution to allow lawmakers to make changes in property tax law regarding the resetting of rates after the sale of a home.

To change the Constitution, SJR 14 must be approved again by the 2019 Legislature and then by voters statewide in the 2020 general election.