Las Vegas board to continue fight against Yucca Mountain

Fighting efforts to open the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and lobbying to continue funding the Brand USA international tourism marketing program will be top federal legislative priorities of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for the rest of 2018.

Elizabeth Gore and Brian Wild of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck told board members Tuesday that they’ll work to slow down efforts to fund and license the proposed nuclear waste facility proposed about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas law firm, which signed a five-year, $1 million representation contract with the LVCVA in December, has a team of 40 bipartisan lobbyists that work on policy matters critical to the city’s tourism industry.

Gore explained that Yucca Mountain lobbying efforts have been focused on defunding the licensing process within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy and to oppose a bill sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill.. The bill would authorize an increased volume of nuclear waste to be stored in Nevada.

The tourism industry has fought efforts to commission the facility since it was formally proposed in 1987 and most of Nevada’s political leaders on both sides of the aisle have fought against opening the facility.

The lobbyists also said they are working to preserve Brand USA, an advertising program developed through the Travel Promotion Act in 2009. The Trump administration has proposed ending the program, which is funded by fees paid by international visitors applying for visa waivers to the United States and matched by the tourism industry.

LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter said Brand USA is in the process of developing a budget for 2020, a critical year for Southern Nevada as a number of new attractions are scheduled to open, including the planned Las Vegas stadium, Resorts World Las Vegas and the Drew. An expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center also is due to open in January 2021.

Gore and Wild said they may also weigh in on the immigration debate, any proposals on funding infrastructure and tweaks to tax reform legislation. Gore explained that the lobbyists’ role in the immigration debate would focus on preventing legislation that could harm international tourists’ efforts to travel to the United States.

Gore and Wild said other issues they’ll monitor will include the funding of transportation infrastructure, particularly improvements to Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and Southern California, and the possible funding of mass transit.

A people-mover transit system is under consideration as part of the $1.4 billion Las Vegas Convention Center expansion and renovation project.

Earlier this year, the lobbyists worked to eliminate language in a House tax reform bill that would have eliminated tax deductibility on municipal bonds funding stadiums as well as eliminate the ability to refund bonds in advance of their term dates.

“We managed to change the date on (the tax reform legislation) to Dec. 31 to allow you to advance refund those bonds and it saved about $13 million for the LVCVA in future debt service,” Gore said. “It was all-hands-on-deck, but really an example of how sometimes we have to scramble for a great success.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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