On February 23, Briana Johnson and Dave Dawley, two County Assessors, gave a high-level presentation on property tax to the Senate Committee on Revenue and Economic Development. Following the presentation, Committee members asked many clarifying questions related to the impact of the 2020 economic crisis on property value.
The DMV proposed their budget requests to the legislature on Wednesday. To meet budget recommendations, there are a lot of positions being eliminated. There was concern from legislators that as we reopen there may be an increase in demand that will amplify current backlogs if all these positions are removed. The director’s position is that heavy investments into technology and shifting a lot of services to the online platform will help mitigate this situation. Current backlog for titling and renewal by mail is up to 30 days response time versus the pre-Covid response time of about 10 days. The agency receives over 4000 emails/day and has an average call center wait time of 19 minutes.
NV Energy CEO, Doug Cannon opened his presentation by noting the differences between Nevada and Texas’s energy strategy. He emphasized the importance of having a single utility that was well managed, with oversight and continual investments to upgrading infrastructure. The organization currently has 56 renewable energy projects proposed for across the state, and are on track to comply with the 50% by 2030 mandate from SB358. Currently, the organization is waiting for plan approval from the Public Utilities Commission to continue their Greenlink project which will connect different areas of the state to create a more reliable grid. NV Energy projects no rate increases to Nevadans before the 2025 completion date. After the completion, rate increases will be offset by the additional renewable resources now connected and contributing to the grid. He encouraged everyone to get on the list for a home energy assessment to help find ways you can reduce your energy use.
Southwest Gas was thankful for SB151 and SB154 from last session to help expand the use of natural gas and renewable natural gas in the state. There has been approximately 30,000 miles of piping built across the state, while still reducing the leak rate by 500%. Direct to consumer use is much more efficient than trying to convert it into electricity to power consumers and 91% of Nevada customers surveyed prefer to use natural gas as their energy choice. In fact, 100% of Elko Summit Estates residents have signed up to convert to natural gas after their expansion into the Spring Creek area.
Clark County has spent $275M of the $295M that was allocated to them in the first round of CARES Act funding. Most of that goes to serving the members of the community through housing assistance, shelters, and support for distance learning. With an additional $162M allocated to them to help with rental assistance. They anticipate helping about 40k households in the Las Vegas area with rental assistance. They are also facing a 64% decrease in room tax revenues due to the pandemic, and emphasized that if they weren’t able to use those for paying off bonds, the county would still be paying for those likely through an increase in property taxes, if reserves were depleted.
Bills of Interest
AB86, a bill that would make adjustments to existing statute on the recovery of expenses from local governments extinguishing wildfires, was heard by the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs. Committee members were concerned that, if the current language remains so broad, individuals who did not purposefully start a fire could be held responsible. Those in support stated that this bill would act as a tool for municipalities in both combating cost recovery and deterring wildfires from starting.
AB81, a bill that would remove the requirement that a healthcare provider must have been working continuously for 3 years in order to volunteer in remote medical programs, was heard by the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor. Committee members expressed concerns over this policy change because it could potentially endanger those receiving services. Those in support believe this is a necessary and vital policy that would allow for more volunteers to serve medically underserved communities.
AB101, a bill that would allow for veterinary practitioners to suggest to pet owners the benefits of using CBD or hemp products for pet care, was heard by the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor. Committee members asked questions relating to where the practitioners would receive the products to ensure that it is safe to use. A practicing veterinarian made attempts to testify in support but was unable to connect.
AB7, a bill that would make changes to current statute relating to inter-casino linked systems, was heard by the Assembly Committee on Judiciary. Committee members asked clarifying questions on what an inter-casino linked system was and clarified what this bill would be addressing directly. There was public testimony in the neutral position with the individual stating they wanted to continue working with the Board on forthcoming amendments.
AB129, a bill that would make multiple adjustments to existing statute on campaign finance, was heard by the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections. This bill received public testimony in opposition, with people stating that this could lead to donors of groups being targeted for making a contribution to a certain organization. People also believed that this would limit the freedom of speech by encouraging citizens to stop donating out of fear of harassment.
AB61, a bill that is intended to provide the Bureau of Protection with tools to protect against cases of fraud during emergencies, was heard by the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor. Committee members expressed concerns over this first draft being too broad in various areas. Those in support believed that a misdemeanor offense was not strong enough for fraudsters who have committed theft. Those in opposition believe that the changes made in the legislation are too strong and must be removed before this bill is passed.
SB63, a bill that would clarify the requirements of hemp investigation and regulation while also updating procedure for these programs from the Department of Agriculture, was heard by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources. Committee members were interested in the process of determining whether a product was legally considered hemp or marijuana. Those who testified in neutral to the bill were believed there should be language adjusting the process for growing the crop in Nevada.
This bill is an update to the Revised Uniform Athlete Agents Act from 2015. After corruption claims regarding empty promises to high school and college basketball players were revealed, the NCAA changed their bylaws to protect an athlete’s ability to continue competing at a higher level. A certified sports agent, or someone acting on their behalf, may not give anything of value to an athlete that could potentially impact their eligibility to compete unless they notify the school where the athlete plays, and the athlete or their guardian acknowledges on record that it can affect the students eligibility to play.
SB66 was originally intended to create the Nevada K-16 Connectivity and Innovation Advisory Commission. After speaking with the Governor’s Office of Science Innovation and Technology (OSIT) they have agreed to take on the proposed responsibilities regarding a K-12 student’s access to the internet and devices with adequate connectivity. OSIT will complete a gap analysis using school district data and prepare an annual report with recommendations to the legislature, governor and board of education. This will be used to address access inequality for students without stable internet connections throughout the state and guide digital education decisions to help those in need.
Governor’s Innovation Zone Roundtable
Friday afternoon, Governor Sisolak held a roundtable to discuss the State’s Innovation Zone proposal, first unveiled by during his 2021 State of the State address. Innovation Zones will create an opportunity for companies who commit to a significant investment into Nevada the ability to develop new industries in the State centered around groundbreaking technologies. Innovation Zones will be done without tax abatements or financial incentives. The full discussion can be seen HERE.
Special thanks to Morgan Sollano and Emily Espinoza for their contributions to the G3Wire