Las Vegas Sun

November 25, 2015

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Nevada Territory

Bill allowing arena tax districts introduced in Legislature

Senator protests impromptu committee meeting

Sun Coverage

A bill that would allow special tax districts to finance arenas in Clark and Washoe counties was introduced Monday night in a sudden "behind the bar" meeting of a committee.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford told a gathering of fellow Revenue Committee members that Senate Bill 501 related to competing arenas proposed at UNLV, a proposal by developer Chris Milam at a site behind Mandalay Bay and a proposal in downtown Las Vegas.

The bill would allow a developer to use a wide array of taxes generated on the arena site, including payroll, sales and property taxes, to pay for the arena.

This is the murky way some policy gets made in the final days at the Legislature: No agenda, no formal meeting on the bill. The "fiscal notes" meant to tell lawmakers and taxpayers the potential cost of a bill to the public were not available. Instead, lawmakers gathered to the side of the Senate Chambers - "behind the bar" - as press and lobbyists tried to listen in.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, and Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, voted against introducing the bill.

"I have no idea what it means," Kieckhefer said. "I've had six different lobbyists tell me it means six different things."

"And now we'll hear what it means," said Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, noting the meeting just introduced the bill.

The competing arena proposals say public financing is necessary to build an arena. Caesars Entertainment has proposed an initiative petition to raise the sales tax on the Strip to finance its arena proposal, which other casino companies, including MGM Resorts International, have opposed.

The bill creates an "Event Facility District Law," which allows increases in taxes on the site to be pledged to build a project.

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