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August 3, 2015

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Rival bill would create hurdle for proposed Las Vegas Strip arena

CARSON CITY – The Legislature earlier this month rejected a plan by Caesars Entertainment to build a $500 million sports arena on the Las Vegas Strip.

Now, the Senate Revenue Committee has introduced a bill that could put another roadblock in Caesars' plans.

Caesars gathered more than 220,000 signatures to ask voters next year to approve a 0.9 percent increase in a special tax district, which would fund the arena. MGM Resorts International has opposed the plan.

Senate Bill 495, introduced Monday, would prohibit a special tax district or the creation of an area in which the sales tax was higher than other parts of the county.

Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, chairwoman of the committee, said if approved by the Legislature, the bill would go on the ballot as a competing measure to Caesars' proposal.

She said the proposal that received the most votes in the 2012 election would win, but if neither received 50 percent of the vote, both would be rejected.

Caesars pushed an initiative petition that required 97,002 signatures to gain a spot on the ballot. It could have avoided being put on the 2012 ballot with the Legislature's approval, but both the Senate and Assembly voted it down, sending it to voters.

There also are upcoming legal battles regarding whether many of the 220,000 signatures are invalid, as critics argue there aren't enough legitimate signers to surpass the required 97,002. A district court hearing is set for next month on the legality of the petition.

An appeal was filed with the Nevada Supreme Court on whether the petition was legally drawn.

In other action, the committee sponsored a bill to allow the Clark County Commission to raise the tax on gasoline to keep pace with inflation.

Leslie said the 2009 Legislature authorized Washoe County to increase its gas tax to keep pace with inflation. She said Senate Bill 490 would permit Clark County to do the same thing, with money going to build roads and highways.

The committee also introduced a bill to make taxes raised by the 2009 Legislature permanent. They currently are due to expire June 30.

Fifteen bills have been introduced in the Assembly to raise a variety of taxes. One of those bills, Assembly Bill 399, would impose a fee of 5 cents each on the sale of fast-food items containing 500 calories or more.

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