(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Three Republican state senators, all members of the Legislative Commission, have asked Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, to call a meeting of the panel as soon as possible to vote on the feasibility of the incorporation of Laughlin.
In a letter dated Feb. 28, Sens. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, and James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, asked Horsford to allow a vote of the commission on whether the residents of Laughlin should be able to vote in June on whether to become Nevada’s newest city.
Consideration of the determination of feasibility of incorporation for Laughlin had been scheduled for a Feb. 15 meeting of the commission, but Horsford, who is also serving as chairman of the 12-member panel, tabled the issue. The commission is comprised of six state senators, three of each party, and six members of the Assembly, again divided equally between Republicans and Democrats.
A favorable vote from the commission would pave the way for a vote by Laughlin residents on their future.
“The Senate Republicans on the Legislative Commission request a meeting of the Legislative Commission be scheduled, to vote on the City of Laughlin issue,” the letter said. “Recently the Clark County commissioners voted to not put the city of Laughlin incorporation on the ballot.
“Since the Legislative Commission failed to take action on this matter at the last meeting this would mean that the citizens of the city of Laughlin will not be able to weigh in on this matter in the upcoming election. A meeting should be scheduled as soon as possible so the citizens are not denied that right.
“Furthermore section 4 of Senate Bill 262 (Chapter 481, Statutes of Nevada 2011) states that the Legislative Commission shall review the report and make a determination. The commission has failed in that respect and is in violation of the Statutes of Nevada,” the brief letter said in conclusion.
The vote needs to come within about two weeks or Laughlin residents will not have the chance to vote on the incorporation question this year.
The Legislative Commission is scheduled to meet March 15 but an agenda has not yet been finalized for the meeting.
Concerns have been raised by at least one Republican lawmaker that the Laughlin incorporation issue has been held up by Democrats as part of a deal to get a separate regulation sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller approved. Miller, a Democrat, has been thwarted in his efforts to get a regulation approved that would allow his office to collect a $200 business license fee from companies that claim they are exempt from the assessment.
Republicans have opposed the regulation, arguing the issue should be considered by the full Legislature in 2013.
The Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Review Regulations is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider the business license fee collection regulation. The subcommittee is comprised of four Democrats and only two Republicans. If the regulation is approved at the subcommittee meeting, it will take effect without needing a vote from the full commission.
Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, who sought the bill in the 2011 legislative session allowing for Laughlin to vote on incorporation, suggested a link between the two distinct issues in a story published Feb. 26 in the Mohave Daily News. Hardy was quoted as saying Democrats wanted GOP support for Miller’s regulation in exchange for a vote on the Laughlin incorporation issue.
Hardy said today there is a perception by some lawmakers that the two issues are linked.
“I think they were emotionally linked, if nothing else,” he said. “And the legislative process is certainly not a bland process.”
An individual close to the Senate Democrat Caucus rejected the notion that the two issues are linked, saying Hardy’s comments are conjecture only. The individual, who spoke on background, said the claim is “absolutely false.”
When the Legislative Commission did not vote on the incorporation issue, it went to the Clark County Commission, comprised of all Democrats, who voted unanimously Feb. 21 that incorporation was not feasible for the community 100 miles south of Las Vegas.
Dave Floodman, president of the nonprofit Laughlin Economic Development Corporation, said today that there was bipartisan support in the Nevada Legislature in 2011 to allow consideration of the incorporation question. SB262 passed unanimously in the Assembly and by a 16-5 vote in the Senate.
While a feasibility study of the incorporation prepared by the Nevada Department of Taxation found incorporation was not feasible, a separate study by a reputable California company and commissioned by his group found that it would be feasible, he said.
The two reviews differed on the cost of providing police and fire protection, Floodman said.
“Our position is that the two different scenarios should be decided by the people in Laughlin,” he said.
Hardy said he believes incorporation is viable and that Laughlin residents should have the chance to vote on their future.
“Myself, I think it is fiscally feasible and I think that the citizens of Laughlin deserve to have the right to have that presented to them in such a way that they say, ‘we want to have this level of service and pay this much money in taxes’ and present it that way and say, OK, we want it or we don’t,” he said. “And that is what this is about.”