The 79th session of the Nevada Legislature ended this week after 120 days and passage of more than 500 bills.
Now the dust is settling and Nevadans can assess the results.
Among the high-profile legislative actions were: funding a nine-story building in the Las Vegas Medical District to be home to the new UNLV medical school; reviving favorable treatment of rooftop solar systems, and committing an additional $100 million toward the state’s most challenged schools.
A bill that didn't become law that some economic observers are happy to see gone is the minimum wage increase. Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed the bill that would have boosted the state minimum wage to $11 an hour for workers with health insurance through their employers or $12 an hour for those without health insurance.
Economist John Restrepo believes as the economy improves so will job growth and wage growth will naturally follow.
"There is a preference by most economists, even in the middle and even to the left a little bit, to let the economy grow and through economic growth and greater profits for businesses and more demand for labor, wages will go up more organically than with economic engineering," he said.
Brian Bonnenfant with the University of Nevada-Reno Center for Regional Studies agreed.
"I think the minimum wage may be good during times of plateauing of the economy, but right now I don't think you really need that push," Bonnenfant said, especially in Northern Nevada where there is a boom of high-tech companies and jobs.
Mike PeQueen said wage growth is a problem across the country, not just in Nevada. He said in a recovery we should expect to see higher employment and wages go up as more people are employed. However, a new factor in the new economy is more people working as independent contractors.
"We have not seen wage growth and I think that is one of the things we must see in order to see increased prosperity," he said.
Bonnenfant and Restrpo also agreed that the $346 million lawmakers approved for capital improvements both in Northern Nevada and Southern Nevada will help improve the economy. And Restrpo was happy to see a bill that would have restricted development around conservations areas get vetoed by the governor because he felt it would have been a "big impediment" to development in Southern Nevada.
The Metro Chamber of Commerce also watched the session closely. Paul Moradkhan is the head of government of affairs for the chamber, which represents dozens of small and large businesses. Moradkhan said the chamber is happy with a bill that established a fund for small business loans. It is only $1 million right now, but he believes it is a good first step.
"For small businesses access to capital has always been a concern, doesn't matter if you're in Las Vegas, Reno or in Tonopah that is typically the biggest challenge for small businesses," he said.
Another bill the chamber supports is one that not only provides more information to small businesses when they get a business license but it also sets up a way to track data about those businesses. Bonnenfant says that is important when companies are trying to fulfill state requirements for hiring women-owned and minority -owned businesses.
"Now we know who they are, where they're at," he said, "This will improve efficiencies when you mandate there has got to be a certain amount of spending for these types of businesses now we can quickly find them."
He said it is something business leaders in the state had wanted for several years.
John Restrepo, RCG Economics; Mike PeQueen, HighTower Las Vegas managing director; Paul J. Moradkhan, Metro Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs; Brian Bonnenfant, UNR Center for Regional Studies
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