New legislation would give Nevada contractors advantage

CARSON CITY — Nevada contractors would get a bidding advantage on public works jobs on local and state projects under a bill approved Friday by the Assembly.

Assembly Bill 144, the Nevada Jobs First bill, passed 39- 1, with Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, voting against the measure.

Under the bill, which still needs Senate approval, contractors who employ a certain percentage of in-state workers and meet certain other criteria would get a 5 percent advantage in bidding public works projects.

The bill is the first in a series of legislation Democrats in both chambers say will help dig Nevada out of a historic recession that has driven the unemployment rate to 14.5 percent, the highest in the nation.

“This will give our contractors a leg up,” said Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, one of the bill’s main sponsors.

Smith highlighted the criteria for contractors to tap into the bidding preference: they must hire from Nevada at least 50 percent of the project work force, they must buy at least 25 percent of materials from Nevada, and vehicles used on jobs must be registered in Nevada.

The bill is among the least controversial items in the Democrats’ jobs agenda. Another measure, which is yet to be voted on, seeks to free up about $425 million in school construction bond reserves for use on school repairs. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval is seeking to use that money to help balance the general fund budget.

Most Republicans have agreed to support the Nevada Jobs First measure, although some have grumbled it probably will not produce any additional hiring and could result in contractors who already qualify padding their bids by 5 percent to take advantage of the legislation.

AB144 was the most high-profile piece of legislation on the floor in either chamber Friday, an abbreviated work day in the Legislature in large part because of a storm that dumped several inches of snow since Wednesday. More bad weather was in the forecast, threatening to hinder transportation out of town in advance of the weekend.

Morning committees conducted regular business and the Assembly conducted its floor vote on the jobs bill.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at or 702-477-3861.

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