Sandoval to sign gas, sales tax bills

CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval said Tuesday that he will sign the two bills that will allow the Clark County Commission to raise gas and sales taxes.

But he has not yet decided whether to sign Sen. Tick Segerblom’s bill to create medical marijuana dispensaries and grow farms. The governor said he intends to discuss the costs of implementing the program with Taxation Director Chris Nielsen before deciding whether to sign Senate Bill 374.

The biggest surprise Tuesday was Sandoval’s announcement that he will sign Assembly Bill 413, a proposal to allow the County Commission to raise gas taxes by about 3 cents a gallon for at least the next three years, in addition to signing AB 496, the so-called More Cops bill.

Sandoval’s approval of the gas tax bill was in question. The Regional Transportation Commission wants to use the revenue to build highways, possibly even floating an $800 million road bond issue that would be paid by the higher gas tax.

Sandoval has said repeatedly he would back the More Cops bill, changed to SB 1 in the one-hour special session June 4.

He called the special session primarily because the bill failed at the regular 2013 session deadline.

The More Cops bill will let Clark County commissioners raise the sales tax rate, now 8.1 percent, to 8.25 percent.

About $30 million a year would be available for police departments throughout the county to hire and maintain their forces.

It was unclear whether the measures had enough support on the commission to reach the legally required threshold of two-thirds support to pass, or five of seven commissioners. Commissioners who have commented publicly on both measures have given mixed opinions.

Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak has said he is reluctant to support either tax increase and would need a strong case to do so.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said she supports the fuel tax, noting it puts people to work while investing in road improvements. She said she was undecided about whether to support the tax increase for more cops and was keeping an open mind.

Commissioners Tom Collins and Larry Brown have said they support both tax increases as necessary for critical needs.

Other commissioners are a tossup.

Commissioner Susan Brager said she wasn’t sold yet on either potential tax increase.

With the fuel tax indexing, she said, she would need to hear feedback from residents in town hall meetings before making a decision. She said she would need to be assured that the funding would be equitably distributed throughout the county, including her district.

With the More Cops legislation, Brager said she needed more clarification before making a decision and to be positive about where the money is going. She stressed she values public safety.

Commissioner Lawrence Weekly hasn’t responded to requests for comment on either potential tax increase.

The governor repeated his declaration to veto SB 221, the proposal by Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, to require universal gun background checks, including for purchases at gun shows and through private parties.

Sandoval said his office on Monday received 44,000 calls about the gun bill, with three-fourths of the calls asking him to veto it.

He would not say when that veto is coming. People can call the governor’s office at 775-684-5670 to have their views on the bill recorded.

Sandoval signed into law 44 bills on Tuesday, including the following:

■ Senate Bill 165 offers $20 million a year in credits to companies that produce films and other forms of entertainment in Nevada. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, and drew support from actor Nicolas Cage, who testified in hearings and visited with Sandoval and legislators. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman also said that with just a little incentive, far more movies would be filmed in Nevada.

However, several studies given to legislators showed that movie tax credits did not produce positive results in states such as Louisiana, but supporters stipulated the credits will be offered only for four years to determine whether they bring economic benefits to the state.

■ Senate Bill 123 requires NV Energy to get rid of 800 megawatts of coal-generated electric power by the end of 2019 and replace it with 350 megawatts of renewable energy and 550 megawatts of power from sources other than coal. The company has announced its intentions to close the Reid Gardner coal-fired plant near the Moapa Indian Reservation.

Critics contended the bill took some regulatory control away from the Public Utilities Commission and might lead to higher rates. But the new law specifies the utilities commission can make modifications to NV Energy plans that the utility must accept or else withdraw its plans.

■ Senate Bill 410 allows state agencies, medical organizations and nonprofit groups to establish programs for the safe distribution and disposal of hypodermic needles for drug users. The bill by Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, drew just two opponents.

■ Assembly Bill 288 eliminates the high school proficiency exam that students now must pass before receiving a full-fledged diploma. New end-of- course examinations will be developed that test students on what they were taught. Many students failed the high school proficiency examination’s math test even though they received passing grades in courses. The bill was sponsored by Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas. She contended the proficiency exams included materials that students never were taught.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.