By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Democratic legislative leaders today announced they will pursue legislation to ensure Nevadans are employed on state or local government public works projects.
The lawmakers plan to introduce a bill implementing that requirement, along with provisions for some materials purchases to be made in state, and the registration of some vehicles to be done in Nevada, in the Assembly on Friday for a hearing Monday in the Government Affairs Committee.
Called “Nevada Jobs First,” the measure would establish a bidding preference for companies using Nevada workers when they bid on government construction projects.
The preference would require a bidder to employ Nevadans for 50 percent of its workforce on a project, require vehicles used in a project to be registered in Nevada, and require 25 percent of materials used for a project to be purchased in state, among other provisions.
“This piece of legislation will give priority on bidding on state and local public works projects in Nevada with Nevada businesses that employ Nevada workers,” said Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas. “It is something we can do right away.”
The preference concept is legally defensible, he said.
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, announced another jobs initiative he called the “Nevada Jobs Fund” to put construction industry employees back to work.
“The Nevada Jobs Fund would be an infrastructure capital fund,” he said. “Revenues going into this fund would be used to finance bond issues dedicated strictly to infrastructure projects. Now we’re still finalizing potential sources for the fund, and that will be part of what the committee takes up on the initiative.”
Legislative Democrats were joined by Heidi Gansert, chief of staff to GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval for the announcement, but she did not immediately endorse either proposal, saying they would have to be reviewed first.
Gansert said she was at the event to talk about “Silver State Works,” a component of Sandoval’s economic development plan that would direct $10 million to the employment initiative aimed at training veterans, unemployment benefit recipients, public assistance recipients and ex-offenders for jobs.
Sandoval’s proposal has been endorsed by Democrats, including Horsford.
Sandoval and lawmakers agree job creation is the top priority in the session. There may not be agreement on how to accomplish the objective.
Sandoval is opposed to any tax increases, so the jobs fund described by Horsford would have to find existing revenues to overcome that hurdle.
Horsford’s capital construction fund is similar to a jobs proposal pushed by a coalition of construction industry groups that was discussed Wednesday at a Senate hearing. Several of the more than 100 unemployed construction workers testified at the hearing that too many of Nevada’s public works projects are won by out-of-state companies who do not employ Nevadans.
Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Sandoval, today took issue with a statement made at the hearing by Steve Holloway, executive vice president of the Associated General Contractors of Las Vegas. Holloway said Sandoval’s plan to use $425 million in excess school bond reserve funds to help fund school district operating budgets would result in the loss of 5,000 more private sector jobs.
Erquiaga said that statement is incorrect. Sandoval’s plan would not touch the actual monies used in school construction, only the debt reserve account. Those monies cannot be used for construction, he said.
“The construction accounts are kept whole,” he said.
Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said three other states have imposed bidder preference requirements being considered by the Nevada Legislature, including Idaho and California. Several other states have some types of preference requirements, she said.
Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says the bidder preference proposal would put Nevadans to work:
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford says the Nevada Jobs Fund would help the hard-hit construction industry: