CARSON CITY (CBS SF/AP) — A bill to raise hotel taxes to fund an NFL stadium and a convention center expansion has crossed its first hurdle in the Nevada Legislature.
The Nevada Senate voted 16-5 on Tuesday to approve the measure. Democratic opponents have said they oppose putting public funds to a project backed by billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, while Republican opponents oppose raising taxes.
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Lawmakers tweaked the bill since Monday. They added a provision to ensure small local firms get at least 15 percent of the work on the project.
The bill would raise hotel taxes by up to 1.4 percentage points in the Las Vegas area. It would yield $750 million for the stadium and $420 million for the convention center.
Earlier Tuesday, critics had a chance to weigh in on the Nevada Legislature’s effort to put $750 million in public funds toward an NFL stadium in Las Vegas, a day after lawmakers spent an afternoon watching a promotional video about the project and taking testimony from heavy-hitting proponents in the casino industry.
Opponents complain that lawmakers are willing to meet in a rushed special session and potentially raise taxes for a project partly funded by Adelson, while they don’t do the same to address education budget shortfalls and mental health funding problems.
They also dislike that the convention center plan is being bundled in the same bill as the stadium deal, so people who support convention jobs but oppose the stadium have to vote down the whole thing.
“There’s something very, very flawed in this,” said Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who’s been a vocal opponent of the stadium deal. “Have the courage to vote it down and take the time to do it right.”
Critics of the deal say they’re getting second-class treatment, pointing out that lawmakers clapped after speeches from proponents on Monday but Democratic state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who opposes the deal, was asked to stop when he applauded for a critic.
The morning featured a stir between Republican Senate leader Michael Roberson and Democratic former state Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, who testified from Las Vegas via video conference. Flores took the stand when stadium proponents were supposed to speak, and the two talked over each other while she urged him to allow more opposition comment and told him she was ashamed of the Legislature’s process.
Eventually, the Senate called a break and Flores continued talking during the recess until the audio feed from Las Vegas was cut. They ultimately resumed and allowed for two more hours of discussion.
Amid a long line of public commenters were proponents — many of them laborers who stand to get one of the estimated 25,000 construction jobs from the projects — sharing emotional personal stories about how they wanted to put food on the table for their families.
Unions are divided on the stadium deal. The Laborers Union supports it and parked a fire truck decorated with Raiders paraphernalia outside the legislative building, while the Culinary Union, representing hospitality workers, criticizes it as a handout to a billionaire.
Two-thirds of each Republican-controlled chamber of the legislature must approve any tax increase. The proposed deal would increase the hotel tax on the Las Vegas Strip by 0.88 percentage points for the stadium and 0.5 percentage points for the convention center. Tourists pay a 12 percent hotel room tax. They would pay about $1.50 more per night at the average Strip hotel if both proposals pass.
NFL owners would have to vote by a three-fourths majority to allow the Raiders to move from Oakland to Las Vegas. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said he prefers to keep the team in the Bay Area, while the team’s owner, Mark Davis, said he’s serious about moving the team.
The measure now heads to the Assembly for consideration.