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EDITORIAL: More red tape to help state businesses fight red tape

State economic officials last week were high-fiving over the creation of a new bureaucracy intended to help Nevada job creators cut through the old bureaucracy. Only in the cloistered public sector would this be considered an accomplishment.

On Thursday, the Governor’s Office on Economic Development sent out a news release touting the creation of the Office of Entrepreneurship as part of Assembly Bill 77, which lawmakers approved in June. Nevada has “made history,” the missive states, “by becoming the first state in the nation to sign ‘Right to Start’ legislation” intended to empower “individuals” and spur “young company growth.”

The bill’s sponsor, Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager, a Las Vegas Democrat, called the measure a “game-changer” that “demonstrates our state’s unwavering commitment to removing barriers and empowering individuals to take charge of their entrepreneurial journeys.”

If only that were true.

While the new office will collect potentially helpful data intended to apprise lawmakers on how entrepreneurs fare in Nevada, a primary aim is to become “a point of contact to assist” young businesses “in their interactions with state agencies” while also helping startups tap into lucrative state contracts.

It will do this under the umbrella of the economic development office and has legislative authorization to “employ any necessary personnel” to perform its “functions and duties.” As for accountability, there isn’t any. “The records, files and communications of the Office of Entrepreneurship,” the AB77 summary reads, “are confidential and are not public records.”

That flapping red flag should have doomed this legislation.

Encouraging innovation and creating policies that nurture entrepreneurs will indeed be economically beneficial to the Nevada economy. Yet this legislation is silent on creating a welcoming tax climate for small businesses or thinning a regulatory thicket that too often erects needless hurdles to job creation and enterprise. To his credit, Gov. Joe Lombardo did issue an executive order in January with the intent of minimizing Nevada’s occupational licensing requirements, but to date, nothing has come of it.

Creating a new state bureaucracy — operating outside the purview of open records laws — to help small businesses navigate the maze of red tape imposed by the existing bureaucracy is a timid and misguided approach to promoting entrepreneurialism. If lawmakers were truly interested in smoothing the road for small-business development in Nevada, they’d order a review of the state’s entire administrative code and regulatory apparatus with an eye on shrinking the bureaucracy, not adding to it.

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