For: Immediate Use 

Date:  April 15, 2019

From:   Laughlin Economic Development Corporation

Media Contact:

County lobbyists kill bill to save Laughlin gas pump customers money 

Flip-flop overnight keeps Laughlin in major financial disadvantage to be competitive with out-of-state gas stations 

CARSON CITY – Clark County lobbyists pulled an overnight switch -- from support to opposition – that killed a Laughlin-friendly bill before the Senate Finance and Economic Development Committee on April 4. 

Since all bills had to clear their original committees by April 12, and SB-281 was not reconsidered by then, it thus died. Its companion, Assembly Bill 283, also died. The next session of the Nevada Legislature will begin in February 2021.

Clark County led off when opponents were called to testify, with Alex Ortiz, of the Administrative Services Department who oversees Laughlin, the very first to speak. The day before the County had sent sponsor Senator Dr. Joe Hardy, who represents Laughlin, a friendly amendment, then notified him shortly before the hearing that the County had changed its mind. 

Other opposition was from groups that had supported a voter-approved annual inflation increase in the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada gas taxes. Those fuel taxes are used in the Las Vegas Valley for freeway, highway, and major street projects through leveraged bonds. Ortiz said it is unconstitutional to change the funding base for those bonds, and thus the bill could not be considered. 

Proponents said after the meeting that one of the first things they did was to check with bonding attorneys and were assured that the proposed reimbursement to either the stations’ owners or their wholesalers would not affect the bonds. As presented SB-281 could have benefited stations in Nevada on the Arizona and Utah borders. 

The proposed friendly amendment would have shifted the burden of collections and reimbursement from the County to State, which does this for other types of taxes. 

Along with proponents, those against the proposed law pointed out that several definitions needed to be made specific. This normally is done at either the initial hearing or a workshop conducted as a second hearing specifically for the purpose of fixing up a bill so that it can be sent to the floor for approval, further amendments, or rejection.  

Martin Knauss, President of the Laughlin Economic Development Corporation, and Bob Bilbray, its Strategic Development Advisor, testified for the group. James “Jim” Maniaci testified as an individual; he also is on the LEDC Board and the Laughlin Town Advisory Board. Those from Laughlin testified the difference often can be 80 cents a gallon, although on the day of the hearing it was about half that due to the driving seasons changing. 

The LEDC has been working for almost a decade to lift Laughlin’s economy by fighting market leakage and to attract businesses and industries the community now lacks so that more of the community’s 11,000 residents can shop locally, thus keeping their tax dollars in Nevada. LEDC President Martin Knauss said, “The LEDC is disappointed that the Clark County Staff Management would come out against a proposal that could so greatly benefit the residents of Laughlin, which they oversee.”

Residents often look at their gas gauges to determine if they will cross the Colorado River to shop and thus leave their tax dollars in another state. Cutting the difference – mostly the combination of state and county taxes, since the federal gas taxes are the same – would be a major contributor to increasing business in Laughlin.