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September 26, 2021

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Plan would divvy up $1 million to hybrid buyers

Energy Office would pay first year of registration

Purchasers of hybrid vehicles wouldn’t have to pay their first year’s state registration fee under a plan being pursued by the Office of Energy Conservation.

Energy Office officials want to use $1 million in federal funding to offer the incentive to purchase the fuel-saving cars over the next three years.

Marty Ramirez, a spokesman for the Energy Office, told the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday that he expects the request to be approved by the federal Energy Department.

Under the proposal, the buyer of a hybrid car would receive from the automobile dealer a certificate to present at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV would accept the certificate as payment and bill the Energy Office for the registration fee.

“It will be on a first come, first served basis because there is no way to allocate it out to the dealers,” Ramirez said.

The average cost of the first year of registration for hybrid vehicles is about $500. The program would cover about 20,000 vehicles, Ramirez said.

The state should know by mid-June whether it can implement the program.

•••

The Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees both agreed Wednesday to undo some cuts proposed for the Gaming Control Board’s budget.

Gov. Jim Gibbons had recommended a reduction of $7 million, or 14.7 percent, in the agency’s budget and that 32 positions be eliminated, including 12 in the audit division.

Representatives of the board, which regulates the gaming industry, said eliminating those positions would increase the audit cycle on the largest casinos from two years to nearly three and delay detection and collection of unpaid gaming taxes.

The Senate committee agreed to restore 14 of 32 positions eliminated in the governor’s budget. Six of those positions would be auditors.

That move would add $2.2 million to the budget. The committee also voted to restore more than $700,000 to cover credential pay for accountants, lawyers and those with degrees in engineering or computer science working for the board. For 10 years the state has paid up to $5,000 per employee to cover those costs.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, questioned whether it was essential to continue the credential payments in light of the economy and layoffs among lawyers.

But Dennis Neilander, chairman of the Gaming Control Board, said 90 percent of the money pays credential costs for auditors, who even in this slow economy are “highly sought,” he said.

The Senate committee told Neilander to reexamine the fees the board charges the industry.

The board charges $80 an hour for investigating the background of those applying for a gaming license. And it charges $150 an hour for the examination of new slot machines by its lab.

Outside the hearing, Neilander said he would meet with the industry and compare Nevada’s fees with those of other states.

•••

Here’s the latest installment in the chronicles of Sen. Randolph Townsend, who is serving his final term and suffering fools none too lightly during his last legislative session.

Jim Baak, with Vote Solar, was testifying Wednesday before the Senate Energy, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, going through a study showing the economic benefits of solar projects. Townsend interrupted.

“This is about the fourth time we’ve heard this presentation. Even I think I get it by now,” he said.

Mike Alastuey, with Applied Analysis, was on deck to present his own study. Townsend turned to him.

“I’m not trying to take away from you guys,” he said. “I know you have to bill your clients.”

Townsend added later, “The only thing missing was the roof pulling back and the sun shining in on us.”

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