Who says the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce hates taxes?
The group may not have been thrilled with the final version of Senate Bill 483 — which cemented some temporary taxes and created a new levy on business revenue of more than $4 million per year — but lawmakers who backed the bill aren’t suffering.
The Chamber released its primary endorsements Friday: 22 Assembly members and four state senators who voted “aye” on SB 483 got the Chamber’s nod. One member of the Assembly who voted against the tax bill — Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas — was endorsed. Ditto state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka.
It must be said that the Chamber itself endorsed the tax bill at the end of the 2015 session, although Chamber President Kristin McMillan testified during one hearing that her group was opposed to the provisions creating the new commerce tax on business. But the group eventually ended up supporting the bill in its entirety.
So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that tax-supporting lawmakers got the Chamber’s nod, something that likely would not have happened in the past. (The Chamber was a key opponent, for example, of a 2003 proposal to impose a gross receipts tax, and the group’s opposition helped kill the idea.)
But there are a couple of interesting twists in the endorsement list.
For example, the Chamber opted to endorse Assemblyman Erv Nelson, R-Las Vegas — who voted for the tax bill — instead of Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman, R-Las Vegas, who voted against it. (Both lawmakers are giving up their seats to run for state Senate District 6 in Las Vegas, and the controversial tax vote has become a key campaign issue. Seaman has pounded Nelson on the issue at forums and in TV interviews, while Nelson has made himself scarce when reporters come calling.)
The Chamber also chose to back Republican primary challenger Tiffany Jones in Assembly District 35 instead of incumbent Assemblyman Brent Jones, R-Las Vegas, a conservative who voted against the tax bill. And it backed Democrat Chris Brooks in Assembly District 10 instead of GOP incumbent Shelly Shelton, who voted no on taxes.
Overall, Democrats did slightly better with the Chamber’s government affairs committee — the group that makes endorsement recommendations — than did Republicans. The Chamber endorsed 22 legislative Democrats and 18 legislative Republicans overall.
But they’re not done just yet. The group is still mulling endorsements in several other races, including Senate District 1 (in which incumbent Patricia Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, enjoys a healthy voter-registration advantage over her lone Republican foe); Senate District 13, a seat left open after the death of Debbie Smith, D-Sparks; and Assembly District 41, where incumbent Assemblywoman Vicky Dooling, R-Henderson, isn’t seeking re-election. Chamber spokeswoman Cara Roberts said the government affairs committee is still conducting interviews in some races and still deciding on endorsements in others.
Interestingly, that list of pending endorsements also includes Senate District 5, where Democratic incumbent Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, faces a tough race that could determine control of the state Senate for the 2017 session. (Woodhouse faces a primary challenger and, if she wins, Republican Carrie Buck in the general election.)
Not only that, but the Chamber also skipped an announcement in Assembly District 9, where incumbent David Gardner, R-Las Vegas, faces a primary challenge from two other Republicans, including Republican National Committeewoman Diana Orrock.
The Chamber advertises itself as the voice of business. But this time around, that voice won’t be raised against lawmakers who backed taxes hitting some of the Chamber’s larger members.
Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and co-host of the show “PoliticsNOW,” airing at 5:30 p.m. Sundays on 8NewsNow. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.