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Bill to support Boulder City bypass toll road gets approval

Updated Tuesday, June 7, 2011 | 1:14 a.m.

Monday at the Legislature

Nevada Assembly Democrats, from left, Speaker John Oceguera, Debbie Smith, Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Marcus Conklin, talk on the Assembly floor Monday, June 6, 2011, at the Legislature in Carson City. Launch slideshow »

CARSON CITY – In a wild finish, the Nevada Assembly reversed itself twice in the last hour of the 2011 Legislature to approve a bill to open the door for a $400 million bypass around Boulder City.

The Assembly first approved the measure, then reconsidered and the bill lost on a 21-21 tie. Within minutes, the Assembly did an about-face and passed the bill by a 29-13 margin.

The Senate had earlier voted 21-0 in favor of the bill.

Senate Bill 506 would require the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada to join with a company or individual who wants to finance the project and establish what would be the state's only toll road.

A previous bill ran into opposition from organized labor, which complained that out-of-state workers would be brought in for the project, aimed at relieving the traffic bottleneck in Boulder City created by the opening of the Hoover Dam bypass bridge.

The bill would require at least 50 percent of workers and designers to have a Nevada drivers’ license.

The state Transportation Department said it already had spent $40 million in federal funds on the project, which prevented a preference for hiring Nevada workers.

That irritated Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, who said 86,000 construction workers were unemployed in Southern Nevada. The bill was overhauled to permit a preference for Nevada workers and suppliers.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, had pushed the project and said it would bring thousands of jobs to the region. He said he has had two offers from private companies to finance the job.

The bill also would allow school districts to lower the reserve account they must keep to avoid a default in issuing construction bonds. The measure says Clark and Washoe counties would be required to keep 25 percent in reserve to cover principal and interest payments for a year. Smaller school districts would be required to keep a 50 percent reserve.

The law now says districts must keep in reserve enough money to cover a full year of bond payments.

Horsford said lowering the reserve account would help Washoe County and smaller counties to finance more school construction projects.

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