More amendments to A’s stadium bill raise community benefits requirements
Members of the Nevada Assembly on Wednesday amended the proposal to help fund a new Las Vegas baseball stadium for the Oakland A’s with up to $380 million in public funds, changing language related to the team’s required community investments and oversight.
That amendment — proposed a day after the bill passed out of the state Senate — include increasing the team’s required annual financial commitment to the community from $1.5 million to $2 million after the stadium is operational, as well as ensuring that the person responsible for oversight of the community benefits agreement between the A’s and Las Vegas Stadium Authority has lived in Clark County for at least five years and never worked for the team.
It would also adjust contributions of stadium revenues from a proposed new homelessness prevention fund to instead support an existing county community housing fund “to be used exclusively for the procurement and development of supportive housing and housing that serves low-income households.”
Assembly members also restored language adding the state treasurer as a non-voting member of the Stadium Authority board of directors, after the Senate had axed that language Tuesday. Treasurer Zach Conine, a Democrat, helped present the bill during its first hearing in the regular legislative session.
The latest amendment to SB1 came after members of the Assembly spent hours Tuesday grilling economic analyst Jeremy Aguero and Stadium Authority head Steve Hill over the team’s decision to relocate to Las Vegas, a proposed community benefits agreement, workforce diversity requirements and projected revenue and other details in an “informal” hearing while members of the Senate were debating the bill.
If the bill passes out of the Assembly, members of the Senate would need to concur with the amendment. If the Senate vote to concur is unsuccessful, the Assembly could withdraw the amendment, or appoint a conference committee between the two houses to hash out differences.
Still, the changes made by the Assembly do not affect the overall structure of the proposed public financing package, which would see up to $380 million in public funds contributed to the construction of the proposed $1.5 billion stadium through a combination of transferable tax credits and bonds issued by Clark County.
The back-and-forth changes over the treasurer’s role stem from conversations about what power the treasurer should have to draw money from state accounts to backfill certain funds used to make bond payments in the scenario that stadium revenues underperform. Greg Lademann, the executive director of the Senate Democratic caucus, said the original version of the bill “granted the Treasurer inappropriate discretionary authority to take money out of state accounts with little to no oversight.”
"That's not something any responsible legislator would ever approve,” Lademann said. “After extensive work over the weekend by the Majority Leader, the bill now includes real guardrails to protect the state and an oversight process involving the Interim Finance Committee to review any request to utilize state funds to back the bonds. With those additional oversight measures in place, our members felt there was no reason to appoint the Treasurer on as a non-voting board member.”
But Assembly members opted to place the treasurer on the Stadium Authority board through the amendment, as several lawmakers argued in favor of having his expertise on that board.
The Assembly amendment also follows an extensive amendment process in the Senate. After a week of closed-door negotiations that stalled public action in the special legislative session last week, Democratic lawmakers in the majority pushed for a raft of changes to the community benefits agreement, tied the stadium site explicitly to the location of the Tropicana, and revived two bills Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoed earlier this month.
Read more about the Senate amendments here.
On top of amendments added to the legislation itself, Assembly members sought changes to a tentative community benefits agreement that is required by the bill but would include stipulations above and beyond the minimum requirements placed into law.
The changes to the agreement obtained by The Nevada Independent would require the team to collaborate with local governments’ parks and recreation departments to provide community youth clinics and explicitly partner with the Nevada System of Higher Education around scholarship funding and workforce development opportunities. The team would also commit to establishing an employee relief fund for employees facing financial hardship, such as difficulty paying rent.
The changes come as the clearest sign yet that lawmakers have neared a deal to send the bill to Lombardo, who called the special session to consider the stadium bill last week and who has signaled he will sign the bill once it makes it to his desk.
During the question and answer portion of the informal hearing on Tuesday, Assemblywoman Daniele Monore-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas), who previously said the A’s would need to get her from a “hell no” to a yes, asked about the need for public dollars to support building a stadium on a highly valuable piece of real estate.
“The corner on Tropicana and the Strip … is one of the most valuable corners on the Strip in the state and quite possibly in our country. So something else is going to replace the Tropicana if the current owners decide to demolish it,” Monroe-Moreno said. “No matter what goes on that corner, it’s going to be the new shiny thing on our Strip.”
Lawmakers also raised concerns about the lack of benefits for constituents living in Northern Nevada.
“I got an email from a constituent who thought it might make this a little more palatable to the North if they could be called the Nevada A’s,” Assemblywoman Jill Dickman (R-Reno) asked during the hearing. “There's the Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies, so is that something we could consider?”
Hill said that it’s up to the A’s to make that decision.
Assemblywoman Sarah Peters (D-Reno) noted that she had a hard time seeing the benefits of an agreement that does not commit to distributing social benefits across the state. She said not only would the deal move the A’s further away from her constituents (Reno is about 200 miles away from Oakland, while Las Vegas is more than 500 miles away), but it would also “eat into social services that the rest of the state uses.”
Hill responded that the deal would be a “good investment for all of Nevada.” Presenters have emphasized that the team’s commitment to food security and other community benefits would go beyond Southern Nevada and the community benefits contract would develop further.
“This is an ongoing conversation,” Hill said. “What's there is what's been decided so far … but that's as far as the conversation has gone.”
Peters replied that she still struggles to see how the deal would benefit Northern Nevada.
“I have continued to ask for these family-friendly, community-based commitments. And I just have failed to see them,” Peters said. “It's disappointing.”
Assemblywoman Selena La Rue Hatch (D-Reno) said lawmakers were told to believe that attendance would reach 27,000 — despite the team’s 2023 attendance averaging roughly 9,100 so far this season, the worst in Major League Baseball — and that, “somehow, a deadbeat owner is going to invest in his team overnight and a losing team will become a winning team.”
“I don't know that those questions have been answered,” La Rue Hatch said. “So, I'm not going to ask those again, because as a teacher, I know if you keep getting the same answer over and over again from a student, it's time to move on because you're not getting anything new from that kiddo.”
This story was updated on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, at 5:25 p.m. to include the details of an updated proposed community benefits agreement.