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A’s ballpark funding bill passed by Nevada Senate

Updated June 13, 2023 - 8:46 pm

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Senate voted 13-8 to pass up to $380 million in public funding for the proposed Oakland A’s stadium on Tuesday, advancing the bill to the Assembly.

The vote was bipartisan on both sides: Five Republicans joined eight Democrats to support an amended version of Senate Bill 1, while three Republicans and five Democrats voted against it. And it was a critical step toward the team’s planned relocation to Southern Nevada.

The Assembly is expected to take up the legislation Wednesday.

“We’re happy to see today the amendments that were made to improve the transparency and the accountability and the empowerment of the community benefits part of the program,” said Virginia Valentine, CEO and president of the Nevada Resort Association.

Sen. Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, said the free market should decide whether stadium projects should be built, not taxpayer dollars. He questioned how lawmakers could logically reject a future request from a would-be casino owner for public funds if that person promised millions of dollars in tax revenue to the state.

“It’s not my money,” Hansen said. “We’re using taxpayer dollars to subsidize a private business.”

Meanwhile, the Assembly met during the special session as a committee of the whole and heard hours of information and public testimony — before the bill even arrived in the chamber.

During the hearing, both Democratic and Republican legislators grilled proponents of the bill.

“You keep saying that we’re going to see benefits across the state,” said Assemblywoman Sarah Peters, D-Reno. “And I believe several of my colleagues are having a hard time believing that when you’re asking for a tax incentive that can eat into those social services that the rest of the state do use, right?”

Peters said it is hard to justify passing the bill for her community, when the Oakland A’s stadium, which is about a four-hour drive from Reno, will move even farther away.

“I’m just concerned that that is a placating statement and not a reality,” Peters said.

Amendments

Legislators heard amendments to the bill on Tuesday that specified how the community would benefit from a $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat ballpark, planned for the Tropicana Las Vegas site.

The first amendment would specify that the boundaries of the special tax district, created to fund the bonds issued to build the stadium, will encompass the facility itself “and any surrounding or adjacent properties necessary for the operation of that project.” The amendment specifies that no hotels or gaming establishments will be located inside the district.

The amendment also specifies that Clark County must issue the bonds for a portion of the stadium costs, and that the state isn’t responsible for their repayment. The county may, if necessary, draw upon a state line of credit, with the review and approval of the Interim Finance Committee, a group of lawmakers that handles financial issues when the Legislature is not in session.

The amendment also specifically reserves the right of the Legislature to pass new laws or repeal or amend others regarding the stadium project.

In response to a question from Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, Legislative Counsel Bureau General Counsel Kevin Powers acknowledged that, if revenues fell far short of projections and all other contingencies were exhausted, Clark County taxpayers would be on the hook to pay the stadium bonds. Powers called that the “worst-case scenario,” but said that because the county would be issuing general obligation bonds, there would be a contract with bondholders that the county would have to honor, even if that required a tax increase.

Community benefits

More details of the community benefits program — which many legislators found inadequate last week — were outlined in the first amendment.

During both the construction and operation phases, the workforce is required to be diverse, and must be paid a living wage. Team players must participate in education programs, such as youth baseball, and the team must provide scholarships, mentorships and internships.

It requires minimum community benefits funding from the A’s of $500,000 each year before the opening of the stadium. Once the ballpark is in operation for the start of the 2028 season, that funding increases to either $1.5 million per year or 1 percent of ticket revenues, said Steve Hill, CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The amendment also outlines plans for accountability. A baseball stadium community oversight committee will submit reports detailing the progress and accountability of the community benefits to the governor, the Legislative Counsel Bureau and Clark County officials. A community benefits director will advise the committee and monitor compliance with the agreement.

The governor, Senate majority leader and the speaker of the Assembly will each appoint a person to serve on the oversight committee. The Clark County Commission and the Las Vegas Stadium Authority will appoint two people to serve on the board.

If the committee determines that the A’s failed to comply with the community benefits agreement, the committee will inform the A’s in writing, and the team must respond and describe how and when they will comply.

Changes also were made to the resort corridor homelessness prevention and assistance fund, now called the Clark County Fund. The administration of the fund has been put solely in the hands of Clark County and local governments, rather than include the resort industry and the A’s.

Paid leave, prevailing wages

The second amendment would require businesses with 50 or more employees that receive tax exemptions from the state to provide at least 12 weeks of paid family medical leave to its employees after they’ve been employed for one year, and it requires a pledge that businesses receiving exemptions will not retaliate against any employee who takes advantage of that leave.

It also removes an exemption currently in state law that allows railroads and monorail projects to avoid paying prevailing wages on construction or repairs.

Both provisions were included in legislation passed by the recently concluded regular session, but were vetoed by the governor.

A previous version of this story incorrectly reported vote totals by the Senate Committee of the Whole.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on Twitter. Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.

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