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Freshman lawmaker thinks twice, guts own bill

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By Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau: Lobbyists, legislators and journalists expected to hear about a bill that would increase energy bills for Nevadans when they arrived at a legislative hearing.

Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, sat down before the committee, ready to present his bill that would levy a fee on anyone paying an electric bill. That fee would help new businesses pay their energy bills. He designed the bill to attract manufacturing businesses to Nevada with reduced energy costs.

But when he addressed the committee, he did so with Democratic lawmaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick of North Las Vegas, who was not listed as a sponsor.

Something was not right.

The two legislators then introduced a “conceptual amendment” to the bill that struck all provisions about ratepayers. Residents and businesses were off the hook. They did not mention any new fee in their amendment.

Kirner, a retired business executive, later said he had wanted to find an incentive to attract manufacturing businesses to Nevada. But when he received the language of his bill, he kept looking at the fee.

“I didn’t feel good about that because that puts on citizens a fee,” Kirner said. “I was never comfortable with that.”

So he tapped his Democratic colleague for her knowledge of energy-related policy.

The bill they concocted would give new manufacturing businesses a one-year property tax break of 35 percent in exchange for manufacturers retrofitting old buildings to LEED energy efficiency standards.

Ideally, the bill would provide short-term construction jobs, fill vacancies of old buildings and bring new manufacturing jobs to the state. The business would also benefit from reduced energy bills after completing the retrofits.

If this sounds nothing like assessing a fee on ratepayers to pay the energy bills of new manufacturing businesses, that is because it is not.

The amendment sweeps most sections of the original bill.

It retains a requirement that a new manufacturing business would have to employ at least 25 Nevadans in order to benefit from the tax break.

Since the committee heard nothing more than Kirner and Kirkpatrick’s testimony, the chairman of the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee held the bill for further review

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