CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Bills cementing Nevada's $335 million deal to attract an electric carmaker crossed significant hurdles in the Nevada Legislature on Friday, with most lawmakers praising the agreement as a game-changer for southern Nevada's rebounding economy.
The Legislature's work started speeding up on the third day of a special session, after lawmakers, lobbyists and state officials reached agreements on water rights and sorted out who's responsible for paying back bonds if the carmaker, Faraday Future, flops. The Assembly and the Senate passed a bill creating a new workforce training program, while the Senate passed compromises on water service and a major bill authorizing tax incentives and infrastructure improvements near Faraday's proposed home in North Las Vegas.
The area "was the hardest hit during the most recent recession with respect to housing, people losing their jobs," Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman said before supporting the major Senate bill, which passed 17-1. "This one piece of legislation will go a long way in terms of helping to bring life back into the community of North Las Vegas."
Assembly members spent their day working on a bill to revamp Nevada's workforce development programs, which state officials say need improvement to keep Nevada workers competitive. The bill would create the Workforce Innovations for a New Nevada (WINN) program and apply $2.5 million to the account through transfers from Nevada's general fund and the state Office of Science, Innovation and Technology.
State officials would meet with major new businesses moving to Nevada and work with them to develop a customized job training program, said Dale Erquiaga, chief strategy officer for Gov. Brian Sandoval. The WINN account would provide startup money so colleges or other agencies can develop the training, which is modeled after initiatives in Georgia and Louisiana.
Proponents said the bill would create a bridge that allows Nevadans to seize new jobs coming into Nevada, but opponents said the measure favored big companies.
"If I have a tree service, I have to train my employees to cut trees," said Republican Assemblywoman Shelly Shelton, who voted against the measure that passed 37-4. "But if I have billions in investors sitting at the ready to make huge profits, all I have to do is find a state government with no boundaries to make their citizens train my employees."
Touchy water rights issues that slowed down the session were placed in two separate bills and approved by senators late Friday. Republican state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, considered the Senate's water expert, assured colleagues that a bill expediting the allocation of water rights in North Las Vegas' Apex Industrial Park wouldn't cut corners on the process or affect other basins throughout the state.
Some lawmakers raised concerns that the changes originally proposed as part of the Faraday deal would dramatically revise state water law — something they said was inappropriate during a brief special session.
Another bill resolved the matter of which public agency provides water service to Apex. It designates the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Las Vegas Valley Water District as providers rather than the City of North Las Vegas, even though the park is in the city.
The special session, initiated by Gov. Brian Sandoval, began Wednesday evening and was expected to wrap up within a few days. It's called special because the Legislature typically only meets for four months every other spring.
Sandoval wants lawmakers to approve a new category of tax abatements that would authorize $215 million in tax credits and abatements for the Chinese-backed automaker, which hopes to break ground on a 3 million-square-foot facility in North Las Vegas.
He's also asking legislators to tweak laws that allow financing for infrastructure projects. Nevada officials want to publicly finance $120 million in water, rail and road improvements at the Apex Industrial Park.
Faraday Future, based in Gardena, California, has offered few details about its product, but it plans to unveil a concept car ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. The company hopes to bring a vehicle to market as early as 2017, and plans to employ 4,500 people at its plant.
The venture is backed by Jia Yueting, an online video and gadget entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Beijing-based holding company LeTV. He styles himself after Apple's late Steve Jobs.
The agreement is projected to bring state and local governments $760 million in tax revenue — three times the amount of tax abatements and credits the state plans to offer the company.