Presentations give hope for Mesquite’s Future

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Tuesday night’s council meeting was filled with information that left little comment from the community and the council.

The sole public comment of the evening was from Kathy Bussman, who spoke on behalf of the Kids For Sports Foundation. Thanking the City and Council for their donation of $150 to the foundation, Bussman stated that as of that time, 59 grants had been given out to local kids for a total of $8,065. “These are kids who may have not been able to play sports,” she said. “We thank you and the community for your generous support of our program.”

Mesquite Regional Business, Southwest Gas and Warren Hardy, of the Hardy Consulting Group, all gave their reports to the council on progress from the past year and results from the Legislative Session. All three reports were accepted unanimously by the council.

George Gault, the Interim President and CEO of MRB began his presentation by sharing the new line up of the MRB Board: Dan Wright, David Bennett, Kathy Bussman, Burton Weast and the newest edition, Roberta Franco. “We have an extraordinary group here that brings something different to the table,” he said.

Gault summarized the progress of several projects that MRB has taken on over the past year as well as where MRB will be heading in the near future. Among those is a $5,000 Challenge Grant from the Eureka Casino & Resort. Within the next four months, the Eureka will match all monies raised by MRB up to $5,000. The money raised will be dedicated to marketing efforts, including a focus on the California region. Gault noted that with Mesquite’s prime land available and California’s economy continuing downward, the positive results of those efforts would likely be more certain.

Debra Gallo, the Director of Public Affairs with Southwest Gas, presented the current policies of natural gas line extensions and the possibilities of rural areas, such as Mesquite, would have in the future for obtaining service. With the help of Senate Bill 151 and advocates like Warren Hardy, of the Hardy Consulting Group, and MRB, moving forward is a possibility.

“It really happened very fast,” said Gallo of the passing of SB 151, which received a unanimous vote in both the Senate and Assembly and then signed by Governor Brian Sandoval on May 13, 2015. Doing so has the Regulatory Commission currently working on rulemaking and guidelines for future proposed projects. SB 151 provides the Commission the “authority to review proposals and the flexibility to consider alternative cost sharing and recovery methodologies based on the facts and circumstances surrounding each individual project.” This would allow for several options in obtaining natural gas in the area without suffering the shocking initial sticker price it would cost to bring it. However, bringing natural gas would allow for Mesquite to cater to a whole different industry of businesses that could spark a rise in the local economy.

Feedback from the council was positive. “This is another good thing for Mesquite,” Mayor Al Litman stated at the end of the presentation. According to Gallo, Southwest Gas will continue working with MRB, the City and the Mesquite Chamber of Commerce going forward to ensure that things keep progressing smoothly.

For the presentation from Warren Hardy, he gave a summary of all of the items that had been addressed in the latest legislative session as directed by the City last year. Among those includes AB 394 which sets up an “advisory committee and a technical committee to develop a plan for reorganizing the [Clark County School] district into five or more separate school precincts.” The committee will need to come up with a plan before the start of the 2018-2019 school year and the Mesquite City Council will have to appoint one of its members to the advisory committee. That motion is expected to be on a near-future agenda for the council. (See below for a full copy of the report from Hardy.

Other business for the night included an adjustment for the yearly contract for the Hardy Consulting Group that the City pays for his firm’s services. For the FY2015-2016, the firm agreed to reduce their fee by $18,000, costing the city just $30,000. Going forward, the contract will be renegotiated as needed during budget reviews.

Council also approved an addendum to the agreement with EDA Land Planning for Phase II of the new Mesquite Cemetery site; a grant of $300,000 that will pay nearly all costs of the update to the Mesquite Airport Master Plan and a contract with Forsgren Associates, Inc. for that project.

 

Official Report from the Hardy Consulting Group given to the Mesquite City Council on July 28, 2015:

“This memo will serve to update the Mesquite City Council and staff on the
recently completed 2015 session of the Nevada Legislature. Special emphasis is
given to the issues contained in the legislative agenda the Council adopted prior
to the session. In addition, it outlines a few of the additional issues the city
engaged on during the session.

“The Hardy Consulting group wishes to acknowledge the consistent support we
received during the session from the offices of the City Manager and the City
Attorney. Their input was critical to our efforts this session. We also coordinated
our efforts and worked very closely with representatives of the Nevada League of
Cities and Municipalities, other local governments and various law enforcement
and public safety agencies.

“In addition to this memo, we will be providing the city manager and attorney with
the complete tracking list we used this session to track over 200 bills on behalf of
the city. We advise that this tracking list be utilized to conduct a legal analysis of
all legislation for its potential impact on the City of Mesquite.

“City Legislative Agenda Priorities
Prevailing Wage: The council asked that we participate in helping reform
prevailing wage on public works construction in an effort to reduce the cost of
public construction. There were a number of measures introduced regarding
prevailing wage. Proposals ranged from eliminating prevailing wage altogether
to eliminating the payment of prevailing wage on the construction of education
facilities to raising the threshold on prevailing wage to $1 million.
We focused our efforts in working with members of the Republican Assembly and
Senate on a more comprehensive, across the board, reform of prevailing wage.

“SB 392 was the bill containing the comprehensive reform we sought. In its
amended form the bill increased the prevailing wage threshold to $1 million,
amend the current wage determination survey to eliminate the current statute
that causes the rate to automatically default to the collectively bargained wage if
40% of the surveys are submitted by contractor’s signatory to the unions. It
further specifically defined the benefits that can be counted as part of prevailing
wage. Finally, the bill required that any worker who files a wage complaint must
actually be a party to the complaint so that organized labor cannot simply file a
complaint on someone’s behalf.

“This bill received support from certain sectors of the construction industry and
broad support from Republican members of both houses. However, organized
labor unions and the Democratic members of the legislature in both houses
vigorously opposed it. In the end, undoing the changes we had negotiated to
prevailing wage became the top priority of Democrats in their “endgame”
negotiations with the Governor and the Republican leadership.

“The final changes to the state’s prevailing wage laws came in the form of AB172
which increases the threshold before prevailing wage must be paid to $250,000
and imposes an across the board 10% reduction in the prevailing wage for
school construction and eliminated the necessity to pay prevailing wage on
charter school construction.

“Open Meeting Law Due Process: Assemblywoman Robin Titus introduced a
bill draft on behalf of the city to require the Attorney General to adopt regulations
allowing any entity that is subject to an open meeting law complaint to provide a
briefing to the AG’s office outlining their position.

“As we were working with the Legislative Counsel Bureau to prepare the bill, we
scheduled a meeting with Attorney General Adam Laxalt to discuss the matter.

“We were assured that the new Attorney General agreed with our concerns in this
regard and we received a commitment that his office would take steps to insure
that it was the process they would adhere to going forward.

“The Attorney General asked for the opportunity to resolve this as a matter of
policy without being compelled to do so by the legislature. In light of these
assurances, we requested that Assemblywoman Titus withdraw the bill for this
session and allow the AG’s office to proceed with this issue internally.

“The Attorney General’s office is currently holding public meetings to seek input
on this and other transparency issues. We will be participating in those hearings
and discussions.

“Resolution to Congress Regarding Public Lands: On this issue, we met prior
to the legislative session with legislative leadership and with Lt. Governor Mark
Hutchison, who had expressed particular interest in this matter. We were told at
that time that there would be a number of resolutions coming forward on this
issue and the council decided to support an existing resolution instead of coming
forward with a separate proposal. SJR1 was the vehicle chosen by the
legislature to address this matter. SJR 1 proposed, as a first step, to encourage
the federal government to release into state custody, all lands that they currently
have slated for disposal. We were a bit surprised by the level of opposition SJR1
received at its initial hearing. Mesquite submitted a letter of support for the
resolution and we worked individually with legislators to insure its passage.

“More Cops: The only major piece of legislation dealing with MORE Cops was a
bill sponsored by Senator Parks to expand the use of the funds from the tax to
other governmental uses. Along with other local governments in the state we
expressed our concerns with the proposal. Senator Parks ultimately withdraw
that bill.

“We took the lead in working with legislative leadership to draft a special
emergency measure that would have revisited the method of approving the next
installment of the More Cops increase to include the other impacted local
governments and not leave the entire matter in the hands of the County
Commission. We received support from some of the other local government
entities and the Speaker of the Assembly authorized the emergency measure.
However, in the rush to finalize the session, we were not able to get a vote from
the Assembly Taxation Committee and the measure failed. This issue is again
being considered by the Clark County Commission. We are working closely with
other stakeholders on this effort.

“Natural Gas Service: Mesquite was a strong supporter of SB 151, which
requires the Public Utilities Commission to develop regulations allowing a
provider of natural gas to expand into underserved areas. Mesquite was a
primary driver behind this bill and we worked actively with Southwest Gas to
advance the bill. The bill was approved and discussion with Southwest Gas and
the Public Utilities Commission are ongoing.

“Collective Bargaining Reform: There were six bills this session that proposed
to reform local government collective bargaining. AB 182 was the most
comprehensive and the most controversial. The bill proposed to end binding
arbitration in the public employee labor agreement process as well as end the
use of evergreen clauses in contracts. It also prohibited local government from
paying union officials to conduct union business as part of their local government
contracts.

“In the end a compromise was reached and the legislature adopted 58241. In its
final version the bill makes several changes to collective bargaining practices for
education, including allowing school districts to more easily fire principals of
poorly performing schools that don’t improve. In addition, school
administrators who earn more than $120,000 a year cannot belong to a
union.

“With regarding to it’s broader impact on local government entities; SB241
provides that government agencies must post copies of proposed
collective bargaining on their websites three days before making a final
vote, as opposed to simply listing the item on the meeting agenda. In
addition, unions must either reimburse government agencies when
government employees do union-related work, or make concessions in
negotiations that are financially equal. The bill also ends the use of socalled
“evergreen” clauses in collective bargaining agreements.

“Another important bill for the City of Mesquite is 58168 which allows local
governments to re-open agreements during times of severe fiscal emergency.

“Under its provisions 25 percent of the total budgeted expenditures, less capital
outlay, is not subject to negotiation and cannot be considered by a fact finder or
arbitrator in determining ability to pay.

“Additional Local Government Issues
In addition to the issues on Mesquite’s priority agenda, there were a number of
bills that were tracked due to their impact on the city. A few of those bills are
listed here:

“Administration
SB70 Makes various changes to the administration of Nevada’s Open Meeting
Law. It clarifies that, for purposes of the OML, a quorum consists of a simple
majority of the members of the public body unless a different number is
prescribed in law. The bill further defines “working days” for purposes of
complying with time requirements associated with posting and minutes. SB70
also expands the kinds of administrative functions that are subject to the open
meeting law. Finally, it provides that the public body must produce minutes with
45 days and clarifies the statute with regard to filing open meeting law complaints
with the Attorney General’s office.

“SB481 prohibits a county, incorporated city or regional transportation
commission, respectively, from creating, maintaining or displaying a
comprehensive model or map of the location of all or a substantial portion of the
facilities of a public utility, public water system or video service provider. The bill
does not change the requirement for public utilities to provide information
regarding this information to a local entity upon request.

“SB311 authorizes the board of directors of an irrigation district that has entered
into a contract with the United States for the purpose of complying with the
Reclamation Safety of Dams Act of 1978, to incur an indebtedness not exceeding
in the aggregate the sum of $6,000,000. The bill also provides that for the
purpose of calculating assessments to pay the indebtedness of the district,
fractional acres may be rounded up to the nearest whole acre.

“Campaign and Elections
AB60 Makes various changes to Nevada Ethics law including providing a time
frame for the Ethics Commission to determine whether it has jurisdiction over a
case. It also provides new confidentiality requirements and guidelines on the
“safe harbor” provisions of the law.

“SB104 Amends the law regarding political campaigns to exempt articles of
clothing and other campaign items costing less tat $5 per item from having
certain political disclosures printed on them.

“SB293 Makes various changes regarding unspent campaign contributions,
requiring a candidate to spend any contribution in excess of $100.00 within four
years. Exceptions are provided for candidates seeking other office.

“SB301 Makes changes to the requirements of lobbyists and public officials to
disclose travel for “educational purposes” that has been paid for by a third party.

Additionally, it provides specific definition of key terms, including gifts, and
provides additional prohibitions.

“Finances and Bonding
AB170 Makes changes in law regarding general obligation bonds by providing
additional restrictions and transparency measures on the use of municipal bonds

“AB345 would have changed the statute regarding acceptable types of bonds for
construction contracts. Current law requires corporate surety bonds. AB345
would have changed the law to allow less traditional and less secure bonds.
ABC felt that this had the potential to open the industry to contractors that are not
financially secure. This bill did not pass.

“AB497 (Emergency Measure for The City of North Las Vegas) Provides that a
portion of the sales and use taxes imposed within certain tax increment areas
and the excise tax imposed on financial institutions and employers (the “modified
business tax”) located in certain tax increment areas may be allocated to pay the
debt incurred by the municipality to finance or refinance the undertaking if the
undertaking is a water project, the estimated cost of which exceeds $50,000,000.

“Human Resources
AB304 would have provided significant new rights to employees in the filing of
discrimination claims against employees and would have provided penalties for
employers who discussed the salaries of their employees. While ABC believes
all employees should be treated fairly and equitably, this bill tipped the scale too
far in the direction of employees. This bill failed to gain passage.

“AB306 would have imposed requirements on businesses to provide a separate
location for breast-feeding by employees. The bill created requirements in excess
of what is currently required by federal law. While we support the concept and
worked on a compromise, in the end we felt the federal guidelines were
sufficient. AB306 failed to pass the deadline for first house passage.

“SB160 removes the burden of liability from a business for an injury to a person
who is on their premises without invitation, permission or license. The bill brings
Nevada into conformity with 42 other states in this regard.

“SB190 would have added a significant number of offenses to those considered
discriminatory against employees. This bill failed to gain passage.

“SB193, In its original form this bill would have removed the 8-hour workday for
Nevada and returned the state to the federal 40-hour overtime standard.
Unfortunately, during the hearing on the bill in the Senate, an amendment was
adopted to increase the state minimum wage for those not providing insurance to
$9.00 per hour. The Assembly adopted an amendment returning the bill to its
original draft.

“However, the Senate refused to accept that amendment sending the bill to
conference committee for final consideration. In the end the conference
committee adopted an amendment that reinstated the $9 minimum wage while
changing the daily overtime requirement from 8 to 10 hours per day. Ultimately
the Assembly, by a single vote, refused to adopt the conference committee
report, which caused the bill to fail on the final night of the session.

“SB224 Provides a clear definition of the term “independent contractor” and, more
importantly, limits the period in which an employee can recover unpaid wages
without written notice.

“SB231 Limits the amount of a controlled substance that healthcare providers
may dispense to an injured employee and revises the time that an insurer has to
pay a bill submitted by a healthcare provider. It further changes the rights of
injured employees who were injured while intoxicated or under the influence of a
controlled substance.

“SB232 Revises various provisions of the Nevada Industrial Insurance Act, which
provides for the payment of compensation to employees who are injured or
disabled as the result of an occupational injury. Changes were made to the right
to re-open claims and to how compensation is provided in permanent partial
disability claims.

“SB241 Largely addresses the collective bargaining rights of educational
personnel. However, it also makes changes to the general collective bargaining
laws including the elimination of so-called “evergreen” clauses in collective
bargaining agreements.

“SB259 would have mandated sick leave for employees under certain
circumstances. SB259 failed to pass the deadline for committee passage.

“SJR8 – This resolution proposed to take a ballot question to the voters to raise
the minimum wage to $15 per hour. This bill failed to gain passage.

“Public Works
AB106 Eliminates the authority of a public body to include in a contract with
certain design professionals a provision requiring that the design professional
defend the public body in any lawsuit alleging negligence, errors or omissions,
recklessness or intentional misconduct on the part of the design professional or
his or her employees or agents which are based upon or arising out of the
professional services of the design professional.

“AB125 represents the most sweeping construction defect reform in the United
States. The new provisions of the bill amended the definition of construction
defects to include only a defect which presents an unreasonable risk of injury to a
person or property; or which is not completed in a good and workmanlike manner
and proximately causes physical damage to the residence or appurtenance.

“The bill also addressed indemnification issues in a way favorable to contractors
not involved in the actual defect. The bill further removes the provision of
existing law that provides that a claimant may recover reasonable attorney’s fees
as part of the claimant’s damages in a cause of action for constructional defects.

“Also of significant importance is the fact that the bill reduces the statute of
limitations to six years from the 10 years in current law and disallows homeowner
association boards from filing a defect suit on behalf of homes within their
communities.

“AB137 makes various enhancements regarding the requirement that contractors
be licensed before performing work in this state. It adds the omission of certain
information to the prohibition against providing false information.

“AB159 Prohibits the use of Project Labor Agreements in most public works
projects. An opportunity exists to exempt certain water infrastructure, airport or
public safety projects from the prohibition.

“AB332 prohibits any public body which sponsors or finances a public work from
entering into a contract for a public work which provides that any construction
materials or goods to be used on the public work be purchased or otherwise
supplied by the public body. This is designed to stop agencies from using their
tax-exempt status on construction projects since that status was authorized by
the legislature for the purchase of supplies and equipment only.

“SB223 limits the circumstances under which a primary contractor is liable for
labor and other costs accrued by a subcontractor.
58233 -This bill requires that a new employee for a construction company
obtain an OSHA 10 card within 15 days of hiring, and requires supervisory
employee to obtain an OSHA 30 card within 15 days of the hiring date. It
removed OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 renewal requirements. This legislation took
effect June 10, 2015.

“SB254 Changes the law regarding retainage in both public and private
construction in a way that creates equity for contractors while protecting the
interests of project owners. This bill passed and was signed into law.

“SB340 required that any contractor that has been debarred from doing projects
for the federal government is also barred from doing public works projects in
Nevada. ABC proposed an amendment to narrow the scope of this legislation.
While not all of ABC’s changes were accepted, the bill was narrowed significantly
from its original version.

“SB 371 proposed to require that 1 0% of the workers on every public works project
in the state be part of a registered apprenticeship program in the state. ABC
requested and was given an amendment to exempt any contractor that did not
have access to a program. In spite of the amendment, ABC continued to
express concerns with the bill and ultimately it failed to pass.

“School District Deconsolidation
AB 394 Sets up an advisory committee and a technical committee to develop a
plan for reorganizing the district into five or more separate school precincts.
The committee is charged with developing a plan to implement deconsolidation
before the 2018-19 school year. Mesquite will need to make an appointment to
the advisory committee.

“Home Rule
Mesquite worked hard to gain passage of SB11, a bill that was designed to grant
home rule to Nevada counties and clarify home rule for Nevada’s charter and
general law cities. Unfortunately, the original draft of the bill had the potential of
undoing the current clear statutory language that grants home rule to Nevada’s
General Law or Chapter 266 cities (Like Mesquite).

“While we were unable to find compromise language in time for SB11 to survive
the deadlines imposed by the legislature, an emergency measure was adopted
late in the session that clarified and strengthened the home rule standing of both
Chapter 266 and 288 cities.

“Recreational Marijuana
At least one major piece of legislation was introduced to expand the use of
marijuana into the area of recreational use. However, no bill gained passage this
session.

Budget and Taxes
“The 2015 Session of the Nevada Legislature was very much about achieving the
reforms and spending enhancements that the governor outlined in his State of
the State address in Mid-January, particularly the reforms and increased funding
for education. Very early in the process a consensus began to emerge among
legislators and interest groups that the governors budget should be funded as he
requested. Many pundits observed that there seemed to be less contention over
the Executive Budget than at anytime in recent memory. We would agree with
that analysis.

“In the end the legislative “money committees” put their own spin on the budget
and advanced their own priorities but the debate did not causing a great deal of
contention in the halls of the legislature and the final budget emerged largely as
the governor had intended.

“More controversial however was how that budget would be funded once it was
finalized. The Governor consistently “doubled down” on his suggested method to
fund his budget through a business license scheme based on a company’s gross
receipts. Specifically, he offered SB252, which proposed increased business
license fees using a tiered method that was similar to what many local
governments utilize to calculate their business license fees. Under the bill the
minimum rate for state business licenses would double from the current flat
$200.00 to $400.00 with the top rate capped at $4 million.

“While the Senate was able to get sufficient votes to pass the measure out of that
house (Four Republicans voted against the measure), it was never able to gain
traction in the State Assembly where the Republican leadership had offered an
alternative to the governor’s plan. Specifically Assemblyman Derek Armstrong,
who chairs the Assembly Committee on Taxation and Assembly Majority Leader
Paul Anderson introduced AB 464. The Assembly proposal proposed a modest
increase in the business license fee but the primary source of revenue was an
increase in the current Modified Business Tax (MBT) or payroll tax. The bill also
lowered the threshold under which businesses are exempt from the payment of
the tax. As a preferred alternative to the governor’s plan many business groups
began to voice support this proposal.

“Several other proposals came forward including a proposal by Democratic
Senator Pat Spearman, to eliminate the payroll tax for all businesses except
banking and mining and instead impose a tax of gross receipts of all businesses.
Throughout the session, the so-called Gross Receipts Tax was a “non-starter” for
most Republicans so Senator Spearman’s proposal never got much
consideration.

“In the end the Legislature adopted a Hybrid plan that included a so-called
“Commerce Tax” designed to meet the governor’s objective of broadening the tax
base in Nevada. Under the final plan, named the Nevada Revenue Plan, the
business license fee for corporation’s increases from the existing $200 a year to
$500, while the fee for all other business entities will remain at $200.

“The existing modified business tax increases from 1.17 percent to 1.4 75 percent
of wages and it reduces the current exemption to the first $200,000 in payroll a
company pays out each year. The tax remains at 2 percent for the mining
industry and financial institutions. Companies will also still get to deduct health
care premiums for employees.

“The new commerce tax will apply to businesses with more than $4 million in state
revenue each year. Businesses can count 50 percent of their commerce tax bill
as a credit against their modified business tax bill. The intent of the commerce
tax is to capture revenue from businesses that do business in Nevada but aren’t
based in the state.

“The plan also includes a complex provision that will lower the modified business
tax rate if revenues from the new commerce tax and MBT rate bring in more
revenue than projected. Finally, more than $500 million of overall tax increase
comes removing the sunset on expiring payroll and sales taxes. The bill also
raises the tax on cigarette by $1 per pack.

“In addition to the Nevada Revenue Plan the legislature made adjustments to the
Live Entertainment Tax “LET” including clarifying that the tax is only applicable at
events where patrons are charged for admission and that it does not apply to
food and beverage.

“*This document is intended to be informational only. The Hardy Consulting
Group recommends your city attorney determine how this new legislation will
impact or alter the business practices of the city.”

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