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Water issue likely on tap Friday at special session


Michelle Rindels / AP

The Nevada Senate begins a special legislative session Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Carson City to consider incentives for electric carmaker Faraday Future.

Updated Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015 | 5:50 p.m.

The Nevada Legislature was back in session today.

After a slow, long evening Wednesday, one bill was introduced today into the Assembly and another into the Senate.

The Senate first took up the large omnibus bill that includes the bulk of the components of the Faraday Future deal — tax abatements, transferable tax credits and some measures necessary for infrastructure improvements at Apex Industrial Park, soon to be home to electric car company Faraday Future’s manufacturing $1 billion manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas.

The Assembly started with the workforce training bill, which lays out a program to train workers for high-skill, high-wage jobs to meet workforce demands from companies in the state or looking to come to the state. For Faraday, that means training about 4,000 auto manufacturing workers.

Senate and Assembly adjourn until Friday

Both the Senate and Assembly adjourned at about 5:30 p.m., waiting for amendments to come back on their respective pieces of legislation. The text of the amendments may be available online later tonight. The Senate will reconvene at 9 a.m. Friday and the Assembly at 10 a.m.

Uncertainties over water at Apex

The water issue remained up in the air Thursday afternoon. Water is likely to be the biggest issue discussed this session, since it holds the key to opening up development at Apex, a property long plagued by a lack of water.

Talk of a third bill — to provide the water infrastructure necessary to get water out to Faraday’s site at Apex — continued, though there were no clear details about exactly what the content of that bill would be.

Earlier this afternoon, legislators and lobbyists said that discussions were ongoing about the details of that bill. A couple hours later, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee said that an agreement had been reached on the water situation out at Apex, though he declined to specify the details. He was also optimistic that the entire session would finish by the end of the night tonight. Still, talk of agreements reached and a varying array of guesses over when the session will end have been a consistent feature of the session yesterday and today.

Sen. Pete Goicoechea, whose district includes Apex, said that there had been some discussion about who will oversee the water out at the site, the Southern Nevada Water Authority or the city of North Las Vegas. “I just met with SNWA,” Goicoechea said. “I think it’s coming together.”

While there is enough groundwater out at Apex to sustain Faraday’s operations, it’s only a stop-gap measure. A long-term solution to Apex’s water woes — which would allow further expansion of the site — means building pipeline, a more permanent source of water. However, Goicoechea said that he hadn’t heard any plans to fold a pipeline into the water bill, although he thought that a pipeline would eventually be built.

Lt. Gov Mark Hutchison said this afternoon that he thought the omnibus bill and the workforce program bill would be decided by the end of today, and the water bill wouldn’t be introduced or discussed until tomorrow morning.

Some legislators also expressed concerns today over a portion of the omnibus bill dealing with water, which would allow the state engineer to expedite applications for water rights for major economic development projects. “I think the water issue is, ‘Are we going to amend the water law in the state of Nevada in 24 hours?’” Hardy said.

Steve Hill, the director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said earlier today that the water right provision in SB-1 would be amended before discussion.

Senators ask tough questions on big omnibus bill

Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and Mike Willden, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s chief of staff, answered tough questions from legislators on the specifics of the tax abatements and tax credits that would go to Faraday, should the bill be approved. Legislators had concerns over transparency, accountability and how Faraday’s $1 billion investment would be measured.

Assembly hears testimony about workforce program

This morning, the Assembly heard testimony on the workforce development program, which aims to train high-skill workers both for existing businesses in the state and those seeking to relocate or open up in Nevada. The program was designed to make Nevada more competitive with Georgia and Louisiana in vying for Faraday’s $1 billion electric car factory. Both states have robust workforce development programs, said Cory Hunt, northern Nevada regional director at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The program will be paid for through reallocating money from the Office of Science, Innovation, and Technology and existing transferable tax credit allocations.

At least two amendments to the bill are expected, one to clarify the partnership between the educational institution and the company and another to specify what the plan’s diversity action plan means.

Assemblywoman Robin Titus, R-Wellington, said she wanted to see the results of money already spent on the state’s existing training programs. Others wanted tighter accountability written into the legislation.

Las Vegas Sun reporter Cy Ryan contributed to this report.

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