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April 27, 2015

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Kirkpatrick’s second attempt at entertainment tax stalls

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, tried to take the fun out of her fun tax. But even that doesn't appear to have worked.

An hour-long hearing Sunday on her second attempt to clean up the live entertainment tax left some lawmakers questioning why the time was spent on a bill that the Legislature has no appetite to pass. Even Kirkpatrick acknowledged that likelihood, vowing to bring the effort back next session.

"What my chances are, I don't know," she said during the hearing, adding that she would file a bill draft request on Tuesday to revive it for next session.

After an outpouring of opposition from constituents and lawmakers alike, Kirkpatrick retreated from her effort to tax virtually every form of recreation in the state, including movies, gym memberships and golf.

She then introduced a second bill to clean up the existing live entertainment tax, proposing a flat 8 percent tax on tickets to both indoor and outdoor concerts and closing a bevy of loopholes in the tax. Under the new bill, tour guides and escorts also would be taxed, as would nightclubs and other venues with a disc jockey.

Such events as Burning Man and the Electric Daisy Carnival would be taxed. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway would continue to enjoy an exemption, but only if it would draw a second NASCAR race.

But lawmakers don't appear willing to go even that far.

"We just spent an hour rehearing a bill that everyone in this room knows is going nowhere," complained Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, after the hearing on Assembly Bill 508.

That earned an angry retort from Kirkpatrick.

"Last time I checked, we were elected for 120 days," she said. "Whether this passes this session is no matter to me, but I take a little bit of offense. I don't feel we wasted an hour of time. If that was the case, there's probably 500 bills that we wasted time on that didn't need to be passed."

Kirkpatrick's new bill did earn support from the Nevada Resort Association, Nevada Retail Association and Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. Burning Man and the Las Vegas Speedway opposed the bill.

Democrats also introduced a bill that would create an interim committee to study the creation of a "commerce tax." Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis backed the measure, likening it to the interim working committee that came up with a new formula for divvying up local tax dollars. That committee resulted in a bill that easily passed early this session.

But the measure earned a fair amount of criticism from legislative observers who have noted the state has been studying the weakness of its tax structure for decades.

"This state needs another study like I need another hat," quipped Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, who is well-known for her colorful hats.

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