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Gov. Brian Sandoval must feel confident that Raiders stadium deal will pass

CARSON CITY — This was never going to be Alabama against Florida Atlantic in college football, never going to generate a unanimous victory for those in favor of a $1.9 billion domed stadium in Las Vegas.

Nor should it.

This has, with apologies to Howie Long, been anything but a no-brainer.

“Welcome to our universe,” state assemblywoman Michele Fiore said.

The show of political force Monday of having names such as casino moguls Steve Wynn and Jim Murren address both houses of a special legislative session to consider public financing for the stadium was followed over the next 24 hours with impassioned public opposition to the idea of allocating $750 million in hotel tax toward a project backed by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson.

Those opposed also made this point, both in an indirect and in-your-face manner: What makes Las Vegas so different from other cities where publicly funded stadiums for major professional sports teams have failed to deliver — in some cases, incredibly so — on their promises for economic growth?

There is no specific answer, no list of evidence those supporting the stadium can offer to guarantee housing an NFL team will deliver on all its vows, financial and otherwise.

Tourism and job creation are powerful cards to hold, but projections and numbers on fancy, colorful brochures are just that.

But by day’s end Tuesday, one point some legislators have stressed the past few days became fairly evident: This session wouldn’t have been called unless Gov. Brian Sandoval believed he had the votes in both houses.

The process of the Oakland Raiders relocating to Las Vegas took another step forward Tuesday when the Nevada Senate voted 16-5 in favor of Senate Bill 1, the stadium-convention center expansion measure whose dependence on public funding has been at the center of opposition.

“The governor is very sharp,” Fiore said. “He would not have called this special session unless he had the numbers. It’s going to pass. I think this is all a show. Politics, campaigns, letting people know you’re working for them. It’s all rhetoric.

“It’s taking longer than anticipated, but it’s a dog-and-pony show. Some of my peers just like talking a lot and hugging each other.”

Fiore and her fellow Assembly members now inherit the bill for consideration, a process that will begin Thursday when the Legislature returns from breaking for the Yom Kippur holiday.

If you thought it took long for SB1 to make its way through the Senate, things could get much tougher in an Assembly with a more libertarian-minded Republican base and nearly 30 lawmakers running for re-election.

Everyone is going to have his or her say.

Stadium supporters probably are not staring at Mount Everest in seeking a two-thirds majority, but it won’t be Mount Charleston, either.

But if Fiore is correct in that enough support already exists, Steve Hill gladly will take more of the back pain he has developed this week.

I’m guessing there has been an aspirin or three involved.

Hill says he has stood and spoken for longer than the five to six hours he addressed the Senate on Monday, but that doesn’t mean he escaped some of the physical aches that came with such a prolonged task.


“We expected (the Senate) would be diligent and really cover the entire range of questions as they looked at the recommendation,” said Hill, chairman of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee that voted unanimously to recommend the stadium proposal. “We made the recommendation and felt strongly about it and think it’s great for Southern Nevada, and we hope the Legislature agrees with us on that. We just have to work this week to hopefully reach that conclusion.”

Hill assuredly also will address the Assembly as the bill and those amendments made by the Senate travels through it, including 15 percent of the construction costs being subcontracted out to small businesses.

The arguments on both sides haven’t changed. This has not been a session lacking in passion.

It will only intensify beginning Thursday.

Sen. Aaron Ford, who voted for SB1: “What this really is, is a public stadium with some philanthropic support associated with it. It’s a publicly owned stadium with some private investment. Putting in some level of public money made perfect sense.”

Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who voted against it: “I stand in strong opposition of a nearly $1 billion handout to a multibillionaire. That sets a bad precedent. I understand Las Vegas is not like any other city …. But how often have other cities been pitched the same false bill of goods?”

You’re going to hear many of the same things as the Assembly takes hold of SB1. It won’t be Alabama-Florida Atlantic there, either, but something tells me Sandoval thinks his side is about as sure a thing as one being coached by Nick Saban.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be a heard on “Seat and Ed” on Fox Sports 1340 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Twitter: @edgraney

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