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Nevada Assemblyman Hafen offers view of first session

With the first House passage deadline of the 2019 legislative session in our rearview mirror, I can’t help but reflect on the past few months. There are hundreds of bills still pending on issues ranging from education to economic development.

Unfortunately, many of the bills from the majority party reflect a national agenda that does not echo Nevada’s unique values or needs. Among their priorities, the most resounding theme is one that unfairly targets businesses.

In the Assembly, we saw legislation that targeted our booming construction industry by proposing to roll back measures that curbed frivolous construction defect litigation which led to more affordable family homes being built. We saw policies that would increase the costs of school and public works projects that will end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars and keep small cities from making needed infrastructure updates. In one instance, a Las Vegas school saw a 33 percent increase amounting to $900,000 in costs because of prevailing wage requirements.

We also learned of some interesting bills that targeted businesses. One that stood out was Assembly Bill 394 that would have forced employers to pay unemployment benefits on kiosk machines. If the bill had been implemented, it would have hurt business with high turnover and disincentivize companies from creating new and innovative technologies and sales strategies.

Similarly, Democrats continue to push for a minimum wage increase that will fail to stimulate growth and crowd out some of our most vulnerable employees. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017 there were approximately 12,000 workers (1.4 percent of those paid hourly rates) paid at or below the federal minimum wage. That is down from 10 percent in 2011, when 22,000 minimum wage workers, or 3.3 percent of total workers paid hourly rates.

Along with rolling back reforms meant to promote growth and save taxpayers money, Democrats want to expand government spending at the expense of taxpayers. Senate Bill 135 would allow state employees to collectively bargain for wages and benefits. If implemented, it would add “an increase of approximately $1.7 billion to $1.75 billion per year by 2036, or by an annual 6.9 to 7.1 percent rate, above the current policy of no collective bargaining for state workers.”

From rolling back measures that save taxpayers money, to anti-business proposals that hurt low-income earners, and expanding government expenditures that will cost Nevada billions, I am worried about the direction of our state.

Under Republican leadership, we implemented pro-growth, pro-business policies that diversified our economy, brought in new businesses and made Nevada the fastest growing state in the nation. Between 2011 and 2017, our GDP increased by 25 percent, we saw a 473 percent increase ($5 billion to $29 billion) in business attracted to Nevada through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), and we saw our unemployment rate drop by over 8 percent from nearly 13 percent to 4.7 percent.

I cannot speak to the goal or intent of my colleagues on the left, but I do believe their policies will stunt Nevada’s economic growth and hurt businesses in the state. I am hopeful that with the time remaining in the session the Legislature will abandon some of the more egregious policies that will hurt everyday Nevadans.

My family has been in Nevada for five generations and I am committed to having a state with a bright fiscal future built on commonsense and responsible policies. It is my goal to be able to report more optimistic news after the final adjournment of the legislative session.

Assemblyman Greg Hafen II of Pahrump represents District 36 in the Nevada Legislature.

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