Local governments spent millions to lobby Legislature in 2023, breaking records
Nevada’s local governments reported spending nearly $4.7 million to lobby legislators during this year’s 120-day legislative session, breaking the record for annual lobbying spending by more than $700,000.
This year also saw all-time lobbying spending records for Nevada cities, counties and districts, which include agencies ranging from police departments to water authorities, according to a Department of Taxation report released in July.
The funding represents a 167 percent increase from 2021, when the legislative building remained closed for the majority of the session. Local officials said inflation increased those costs this year.
Under state law, local governments must disclose expenditures of more than $6,000 on “activities designed to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation,” which include lodging and travel expenses plus paid lobbyists who testified on bills, arranged lawmaker meetings, tracked legislation and conducted research on policy issues.
Almost all of the spending came from governments in Clark and Washoe counties, which make up more than 90 percent of the state’s population. Clark County governments spent a combined $3 million on lobbying, while those in Washoe County spent more than $1.1 million. Those are jumps of 80 percent and 45 percent, respectively, from 2021 lobbying spending totals.
The state’s most populous cities had a prominent role in those rising numbers. The City of Las Vegas spent $476,000 on lobbying this year, an increase of more than $140,000 from 2021, while the North Las Vegas government reported $337,000 in lobbying funding, a more than 230 percent increase from 2021. The cities of Reno and Sparks spent more than $180,000 this year, compared to the $110,000 spent two years ago.
Local governments reported using 232 lobbyists this session, an increase of 76 from the 2021 session, according to the Legislative Counsel Bureau. That included Clark County relying on five more lobbyists — 13 compared to eight — and the City of Las Vegas having three more lobbyists than during the 2021 session.
Rural governments lagged significantly behind the more populous areas in terms of lobbying spending but still saw increases from 2021. Governments in western Nevada’s Churchill County spent more than $140,000 in lobbying expenditures, a rise from $88,500 in 2021. That funding represented 3 percent of the total local government lobbying spending, even though Churchill County represents less than 1 percent of the state’s population.
School districts also returned to pre-pandemic levels of lobbying expenses, spending more than $420,000 on lobbying, with more than half coming from Clark County.
Here’s a breakdown of how different governments influenced legislation this session.
Clark County governments
Clark County spent more than $410,000 on lobbying efforts this session. Its lobbying team monitored more than 1,000 measures during this year’s session, mostly taking a neutral position on those bills. They also reviewed around 200 bills for potential fiscal impacts, county government affairs manager Joanna Jacob said.
The county supported SB380, which helps expand foster care services through the age of 21. That would help the county receive more federal funding for its existing programs designed to help kids who are aging out of the foster care system.
The Clark County Commission also asked county lobbyists to work to pass AB408, which allows police to tow vehicles involved in so-called “trick driving” without having to make an arrest.
The City of Las Vegas focused on bills that expanded affordable housing, created transit-oriented housing zones and services for people experiencing homelessness. The city pushed for the passage of AB10, which did not get a vote in either chamber and would have authorized the designation of a tax increment area for certain transportation and housing purposes.
The Clark County School District (CCSD) poured nearly $250,000 into lobbying efforts this year. It proposed bills including SB47, which would have allowed the district to build, purchase or rent residences for teachers, and SB65, which would have required professional development training for school board candidates. Neither bill became law.
CCSD also was involved in AB285 and AB330 (major school discipline bills that became law), AB175 (which adds four appointed, nonvoting members to the Clark County School Board) and SB231 (a bill to fund teacher raises) that has sparked an ongoing fight between the district and teacher’s union.
Other governmental agencies in Clark County, which include the water authority and the Las Vegas police department, more than doubled their 2021 lobbying expenditures this year, increasing from more than $530,000 combined to nearly $1.1 million.
Most of that came from water authorities and districts, which nearly tripled their lobbying expenditures this year. The Southern Nevada Water Authority, for example, sponsored AB220, which became law and allows the water authority to curb excessive water use in times of emergency. The water authority spent more than $173,000 on lobbying this year, compared to roughly $47,000 in the 2021 session.
The City of Henderson spent nearly $400,000 on lobbying this year, up from around $255,000 in 2021. This year, the city tracked 572 pieces of legislation and also worked with the Nevada League of Cities to pass two bills: SB11 and AB60, director of government and public affairs Nicole Rourke said. SB11 allows local governments to use drones to conduct building and fire safety inspections, while also placing restrictions on drone purchases from certain countries. AB60 streamlines the process for updating annual assessments for Neighborhood Improvement Districts.
The City of North Las Vegas, which relied on 14 lobbyists compared to five in 2021, prioritized two bills this session: AB30 and AB31, said Jared Luke, the city’s director of government affairs and economic development. AB30, which did not receive a hearing or vote in either chamber, would have allowed non-citizens to work as Nevada police officers, as long as they are legally authorized to work in the U.S. under federal law. AB31, which sought to make Juneteenth a state holiday, did not pass on its own but was folded into AB141, which designated the day as a state holiday.
The Boulder City government spent nearly $35,000 on lobbying this year, an almost $10,000 increase from the 2021 session. City Manager Taylour Tedder said there were fewer travel and staffing costs in the 2021 session because it was mostly virtual.
The city did not get actively involved in most legislation but sponsored SB23. Lombardo approved the measure, which allows a redevelopment agency to remove property from a redevelopment area where the use is residential.
Washoe County governments
Almost half of the $1.1 million lobbying expenditures reported among Washoe County governments came from the county.
The county supported bills including SB68, which never received a vote in either chamber and would have raised real property transfer taxes statewide by 20 cents per $500 of value. The effort was designed to boost housing options for people with behavioral, mental and physical disabilities. The county also backed SB368, which became law and allows homeowners to petition to remove historic racist covenants from housing documents that prohibited people who are not white from living in certain communities or buying homes.
The Washoe County Health District supported bills including SB172, a priority bill for LGBTQ+ rights groups to allow minors to receive preventative health care without parental consent. The district also partnered with other health districts to support SB118, which creates a fund to give local health authorities money to address community needs.
The county’s public defender’s office opposed the introduction of SB35, a bill from the attorney general’s office to increase penalties for fentanyl tracking. Erica Roth, the office’s government affairs liaison, said the introduction of the bill was “reminiscent of the failed crack cocaine-related legislation in the 1980s and ’90s.” The office also focused on mental health investments and specialty court prrgams rather than “reactionary incarceration first solutions,” Roth said.
The City of Reno had several priorities this legislative session, including SB12, a failed bill that would have halted a plan to give the city a sixth ward. The city also pushed for the passage of AB62 (a measure to expand eligibility criteria for affordable housing projects to receive property tax credits) and AB408 (the “trick driving” bill that Clark County officials also backed). Both measures became law.
“We’re really happy with how this session ended,” said Nic Ciccone, the city’s legislative relations program manager.
Governments and agencies in Nevada’s 15 other counties made up about 10 percent of all lobbying expenses, with six counties not spending any funds on lobbying.
Churchill County once again ranked third in lobbying expenditures, with more than half of reported expenses coming from the City of Fallon. The county government contracted out its lobbying efforts to an outside firm Strategies 360. In a presentation following the session, they described the session as “very successful” for rural communities, citing legislation to improve rural health care access.
Audience Engagement Manager Kristyn Leonard designed the infographics for this story.