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November 22, 2014

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Politics:

Assembly Republicans pursue money-saving measures

Assembly Republicans are pursuing legislation to reform the public employee retirement system and make changes to prevailing wage rules on public works projects throughout the state.

Both proposals are similar to efforts that have been rejected by Democratic majorities in past sessions.

But Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said Thursday he is confident the measures will at least receive a fair hearing under new Democratic leadership this year.

"I think the current speaker of this house wants these discussions to be made not only in open, but based on the policy themselves," Hickey said. "We are here to present what we think are reasonable cost-saving measures that would help the state."

Bills on the various policy measures have yet to be drafted — a slow down Hickey said has been attributed to the fact legislative staff has been consumed with dealing with whether troubled Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-North Las Vegas, can be allowed to serve.

In a press conference Thursday, Republican lawmakers generally outlined their ideas, which they say would begin saving the state money immediately.

Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, has proposed moving away from the state's "defined benefit" pension program for public employees to a "hybrid" plan that would include both a smaller pension and a "defined contribution" 401k-type retirement plan for new government employees. He argued the change would save both the employee and the government money, as well as begin to take the burden off of the current pension system.

Kirner said government could save $30 million in the first year under his proposal.

Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Las Vegas, wants to change the way the prevailing wage is calculated for public works projects. He also wants to exempt school districts and the higher education system from having to pay the wage. Public works projects costing less than $1.5 million also would be exempt. Currently, only projects costing under $100,000 are exempt.

Such changes could save government between 25 percent and 40 percent on construction costs, Hardy said.

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