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Win some, lose some

Judith Harlan

With the bank tax, bank branch taxes, banks had a big stake in this year’s Nevada Legislative session.

And a few smaller stakes too.

And in the end? “Overall,” says Bill Uffelman, president and chief executive officer of the Nevada Bankers Association,”we were pleased with the outcomes.” But there were those big disappointments, too.

The biggest: “We were not able to repeal in its entirety the bank taxes imposed in 2003.” The bank tax created an annual tax on bank branches, as well as a bank payroll tax of 2 percent.

“We got a partial adjustment in the bank branch tax,” says Uffelman.

The legislature reduced the $7,000 per branch tax to a $7,000 tax on one branch, per bank, per county.

The state will still collect about $2.5 million from the bank branch tax over the upcoming year, according to Uffelman’s estimates.

But it’s giving up about a half million.

The argument that won the day reducing the impact on rural banks.

Of course, the effect will be to reduce the impact on all banks, from the largest to the smallest any bank, in fact, that has more than one branch in a county.And the biggest bang for the buck goes to banks that have numerous branches within a county.

Most disappointing, says Uffelman,was that banks were not able to reduce the bank payroll tax.

The tax stands at 2 percent.

“We wanted a reduction of that payroll tax,” says Uffelman.

But it’s not for lack of trying that they didn’t get it.

In addition to lobbying for immediate adjustment down to the level of other businesses, Uffelman says, the group suggested a reduction that would not begin until 2007.

That plan got nibbles, no bites.

And then the session ended.

But the end of the legislative session does not mean that the lobbying has stopped.

One minute after close of the session, says Uffelman,work on the 2007 session began.

“And on potential gubernatorial candidates,” he adds.

Some of the smaller stakes that paid off this year were housekeeping points, minor alterations in existing laws, and updates.

But those are also important, he adds.

One of them imposed rules on payday lenders but also specifically separated the banks out from those lenders.

Banks have some services that mimic payday centers, says Uffelman, but banks are already regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Banks successfully argued that the federal rules should prevail, keeping Nevada banks on a level playing field with out-of-state banks, and taking them out of the payday lender arena.

Other bills that made it through this year’s legislative session had happy outcomes for banks, too, says Uffelman.

Changes in the Uniform Commercial Code modernizing it to include digital images aligned Nevada with other states, including California.

A revision to the Uniform Transfer at Death Securities Registration Act also brings Nevada into line with other states.

It adds to the types of accounts held in banks that do not have to pass through probate, accounts such as checking and savings.

Another bill one that makes Nevada more favorable as a domicile of trusts extended the Rule Against Perpetuity to 365 years.

The law, which affects how long a people can control their estates, reflects the fact that people live longer today, and they want to influence what happens with their interests as future generations,who also will live longer, inherit and carry on.

A bill that adjusted the homestead exemption the amount of residential equity that can be kept out of a personal bankruptcy,was raised from $200,000 to $350,000, and was another bill supported by the association.