Senate passes A’s stadium bill, sends measure to Assembly
The state Senate voted 13-8 on Tuesday to pass the A’s stadium bill, sending the measure to the Assembly and giving the clearest signal yet that lawmakers could approve up to $380 million in public dollars to help construct a new Major League Baseball stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.
The vote on SB1 comes after more than five days of backroom negotiations in a special session of the Legislature that ultimately spurred the Tuesday addition of two substantial amendments aimed at tightening the public financing language, expanding the terms of a community benefits agreement and resurrecting two bills Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoed earlier this month.
The public financing envisioned in the bill includes up to $180 million in transferable tax credits from the state (which can be sold by the A’s to other businesses for cash) and a projected $120 million in county bonds. Those bonds and up to $120 million of the tax credits would be repaid over 30 years by the tax revenues generated by the stadium.
The bill passed with five Republican senators joining eight Democratic senators in support, while five Democrats voted in opposition alongside three Republican senators, all of whom represent the vast majority of rural Nevada.
The amendments were approved by the Senate Committee of the Whole (a committee composed of all members of the chamber, typically used in special sessions to consider major legislation) in a 12-7 vote earlier on Tuesday. Just one senator, Jeff Stone (R-Henderson), flipped from “nay” to “yay” from the committee vote to the floor vote.
Stone had expressed frustration over the amendments, but said he supported the investment in the stadium. Two additional senators who were absent from the committee vote, Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) and Robin Titus (R-Wellington), both voted against the bill remotely.
The full Senate floor vote came after a key number of Senate Democrats balked at the bill during an initial hearing last week, with internal party fractures sending behind-the-scenes amendment discussions skidding into this week.
But speaking from the Senate floor ahead of the vote, one of those senators in opposition — Sen. Edgar Flores (D-Las Vegas) — said he switched his vote after “every single request” he wanted added to the bill was included in Tuesday’s amendments.
“I also had concerns that we were forced into a special session, and that we were no longer just negotiating with our partners in the building but we were also negotiating with other branches of government,” Flores said, referencing Lombardo’s office. “And they worked in good faith with us. So I could not pretend that after all that I requested took place, that I then could turn around and not support this.”
Flores sponsored the two vetoed bills added into SB1 as part of Tuesday’s amendment.
Another such senator, Fabian Doñate (D-Las Vegas), echoed Flores and praised the new amendments, telling The Nevada Independent after the vote that the addition of one of the vetoed bills — SB429, a measure requiring companies over a certain size to provide paid family and medical leave — was central to his decision to support SB1.
“That was the main thing that led to my decision today. I was undecided for most of the day,” he said, also adding earlier in a floor speech that he had concerns about the displacement of workers in the proposed stadium area, but those fears were addressed through conversations about the potential for job creation in the bill.
A handful of senators from both parties, however, described “philosophical differences” with the concept of sending any public money at all toward a private enterprise. That includes Sens. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas), Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) and Hansen — all “no” votes.
“These deals are great, and I have no doubt that the A’s will make money, but if that’s the case, why are we holding the taxpayers accountable for financing it?” Hansen said during remarks delivered remotely.
Also on Tuesday, the Assembly Committee of the Whole held an informal hearing on the bill aimed at expediting the hearing process ahead of the Senate vote. The Assembly adjourned Tuesday evening without taking any action on the bill.
Members of the Assembly are set to reconvene Wednesday at 11 a.m.
A split out of committee
The 12-7 committee vote saw eight Democratic senators and four Republican senators, including Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) and Minority Leader Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno), vote in support of the bill, while five Democratic and two Republican senators voted against the bill. The bill requires a simple majority of 11 out of 21 senators to pass, and not a two-thirds supermajority because it only redirects tax revenues and does not create new taxes or raise taxes.
Two senators — Hansen and Titus — were absent from Tuesday’s committee vote, but have previously indicated opposition to the A’s stadium bill. In a note posted outside his Senate office last week, Hansen described his vote as a “hell no,” while Titus told KRNV, “I don’t support any public money going into sports stadiums of any kind.”
Neither senator publicly announced the reason for their absence, though Hansen’s wife Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen (R-Sparks) announced on Twitter that the two were soon expecting the birth of a grandchild.
But the move to advance the measure out of committee came with bipartisan friction, as both a number of Democrats continued to express reservations over the bill and as a Republican senator raised concerns with the new amendment undoing two Lombardo vetoes.
Ahead of the vote, Stone, one of two Republicans to vote against the bill, suggested the move to add back vetoed language could run afoul of Lombardo’s proclamation convening the special session, which limited the session to consideration of the A’s bill. He said the move “doesn’t pass the smell test.” Stone had previously indicated support for the proposal when it was first heard last week.
This story was updated on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, at 5:30 p.m. to include information about the Assembly’s informal hearing of SB1.
Update: 6/13/23 at 4:00 p.m. — This story was updated to include details from Tuesday's full Senate vote on SB1.
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