Western NV Republicans: 2019 Legislature was bad for business
CARSON CITY, Nev. — Five Western Nevada lawmakers, all Republicans, told the monthly Northern Nevada Development Authority meeting July 24 that the 2019 session was anti-business.
And Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer of Gardnerville said the worst thing “wasn’t even a bill. It was an opinion.”
That opinion was the Legislative Counsel’s ruling that the Democratic majority could eliminate the statutory reduction of the Modified Business Tax on a simple majority vote.
He said that opinion — which he and other Republican lawmakers have sued to overturn — allows a simple majority to violate the Nevada Constitution that requires two-thirds of each house to raise or create taxes. That ruling has historically applied to postponing or eliminating statutory sunsets on existing taxes as well as new levies.
Democrats got the approval from the Assembly, where they hold a veto-proof two-thirds majority, but fell one vote short in the Senate where all eight Republicans opposed the extension.
Settelmeyer said if that opinion withstands the challenge, lawmakers could use it to change other tax rates as well, effectively nullifying the constitutional mandate approved by voters.
If the Republicans win that lawsuit, it also cuts $100 million in revenue out of the state budget.
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer of Reno said his nominee for the worst bill signed into law is the one giving collective bargaining rights to state employees. He charged that will drive up the cost of state government and that the state won’t know the impact until the next Legislature.
He said his best efforts were contained in the measures expanding blockchain and other services for financial technology companies including waiving certain regulatory requirements. He said hopefully those measures will bring new entrepreneurs to Nevada.
“The actual tenor of the session, to me, was very, very anti-business,” said Assemblyman Jim Wheeler of Minden.
He along with Assemblywoman Robin Titus of Wellington pointed to measures including reversal of the 2015 changes to prevailing wage laws and passage of the measure raising the minimum wage.
They also expressed concern about the law saying employers can’t refuse to hire someone because they test positive for marijuana use, which is now legal for adults in Nevada.
“If we can’t take at least one house back in the 2021 session, I’m afraid we’re going to move to a very, very anti-business session,” Wheeler said.
But Kieckhefer pointed out that the bill doesn’t prevent businesses from developing rules to keep their workplace drug-free for existing workers.
Titus said the measure raising minimum wage levels over the coming four years to $15 an hour is a problem for education and health care trainees.
Assemblyman Al Kramer of Carson City said one of the worst was the bill that would have declared Nevada’s votes in the electoral college must follow the national popular vote. Thankfully, he said, Gov. Steve Sisolak vetoed it.
Without enough votes to stop much of the legislation they dislike, all five said they were nonetheless pretty successful in winning changes that made bad bills less damaging.
One example was the legislation saying a business can’t refuse to hire someone for a positive marijuana test. Wheeler said at least they got exemptions for jobs where pot use might constitute a danger like truck driving and public safety positions.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.