Lawmakers scrambling to pass mining tax deal on session’s last day

By: - May 31, 2021 8:06 am

Questions continue to surround education funding, including the role, if any, of additional tax revenue. Signs in front of the legislative building call for a mining tax constitutional amendment. (Photo: MIchael Lyle).

A parade of strange political bedfellows in support. One lone native tribe in opposition. And a notable lack of questions from lawmakers.

The optics during the first — and quite likely the only — public hearing on a long-awaited mining tax compromise deal alluded to just how orchestrated efforts have been behind the scenes in the waning days of the legislative session.

Assembly Bill 495 would create a new excise tax on gold and silver mining companies with more than $20 million in gross revenue annually, but attached to it are numerous unrelated provisions clearly meant to entice Republicans into voting with Democrats on the revenue bill. At stake is the fate of five potential ballot questions and millions of dedicated dollars for the state’s beleaguered K-12 education system.

AB495 was introduced late Saturday.

On Sunday, the penultimate day of the 120-day session, the bill received a hearing in a joint finance committee and was passed out of its Assembly committee on a party-line vote. It now has less than 24 hours to clear the full Assembly and the Senate before the session ends.

While presenting the bill, Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) called AB496 “a monumental compromise” that represented a collaboration between Gov. Steve Sisolak, legislative leadership, a teachers union, the gaming and mining industries, progressive advocates and other unnamed “stakeholders.”

Representatives from the Nevada Mining Association and Clark County Education Association presented the bill alongside Frierson. Several progressive groups, as well as several advocates from the ‘school choice’ world also did.

The lone person testifying in opposition was a member of the Shoshone-Piaute Tribe, who criticized lawmakers for not including tribal communities within the conversation.

Behind the scenes, negotiators for the bill were working to secure Republican votes for the bill. Democrats need four Republicans — two in each chamber — to vote with them in order to pass the bill to raise new revenue.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and two mutts.