(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – The Legislative Commission voted [March 29] to let the residents of Laughlin decide in June on whether they will become Nevada’s next incorporated city.
The 10-2 vote by the panel imposed several conditions, however, including a review by the 2013 Legislature that could delay any incorporation from the July 1, 2013 target date or overrule a favorable vote entirely if it determines it is not financially feasible. Two studies have presented conflicting data on whether it would be financially feasible for the town of about 7,500 on the Colorado River to become a city.
Laughlin is much larger in population than Mesquite, the last city to incorporate in Nevada, in 1984. Mesquite had about 1,200 residents when it incorporated.
The vote for moving the process forward was 10-2, with Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, voting no.
The additional conditions were included to ensure there would be enough votes on the 12-member commission, comprised of six Republicans and six Democrats, to support moving the incorporation process forward.
Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said during a discussion of the issue that it was the only way she would support a vote in Laughlin on incorporation.
“I don’t know why for once we can’t do something in a bipartisan manner to help the process move along but yet have a fallback so that we can put that horse back in the gate,” she said.
Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, who heard the Laughlin incorporation bill in his Government Affairs Committee in the 2011 session and supports giving residents the chance to vote on the issue, said the additional protections would allow the vote to go forward. He presented them to the commission as a way to gain support for a vote by Laughlin residents.
“I think it’s going to be one of the more remarkable pieces of legislation for the whole state of Nevada,” he said in testifying before the panel. “But if it doesn’t work this will fall under its own weight, and it’s just the way it’s going to be. And you and I will decertify this community.”
The commission also wants voters to know that there is the potential for their taxes to rise if incorporation moves forward, and so sought to have the pro and con arguments that will be published with the ballot language include that information. The ballot information would also be published in the newspaper to ensure transparency.
Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said Laughlin residents are likely already aware of the potential tax implications of incorporation.
“I get the idea, although I don’t necessarily agree with it; I understand the concerns that we need to publish so that the folks in Laughlin understand this may require a tax increase,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, who also serves as chairman of the commission, said the panel has a fiduciary duty to ensure incorporation is feasible because if a city fails, the financial consequences could be borne by the state as a whole.
The conditions will tighten the process and provide greater guarantees to the public and the state, he said.