Nevada Legislature briefly 3-21

Omnibus mortgage reform bill introduced in Assembly

The Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee Friday introduced the bill designed to reform a variety of laws regulating mortgage lending and prevent some of the abuses seen during the current crisis.

AB486 would first allow the Commissioner of Mortgage Lending to make escrow agencies, brokers and other licensed people in the industry pay restitution in certain cases.

It also allows any party to void a contract if any person engages in the escrow business of acts as a broker or agent without a license. The penalty for violation could be up to $50,000. It also would allow a civil suit against an unlicensed broker or agent.

The bill also grants the commissioner authority over foreclosure consultants operating in the state and requires they register with the state.

The bill was referred back to the Commerce and Labor Committee for study.

"Nevada Appeal Capitol Bureau

Tax cut sought " but likely to fail

A measure that would give Nevada bankers a tax break isn't likely to win approval given the state's bleak finances, its author says.

Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, said the banks are being treated unfairly because they pay a higher tax rate than other businesses, but adds, "We're in a tough financial situation, so this bill will not be passed."

Since 2003, Nevada banks have paid payroll taxes more than three times as high as other businesses in the state, plus a $7,000-per-branch excise levy. For the past three legislative sessions, bankers have tried unsuccessfully to ease those taxes.

This year, with a $2 billion-plus state budget shortfall and national scandals concerning bank abuse of federal bailout money, the odds of getting tax relief in Nevada have worsened.

"The idea that with the headlines the way they are, that I could push the green button and do something real nice for banks, that's a problem," Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, said during an Assembly Taxation hearing Thursday on Gansert's AB275.

"Executives are getting rewards for destroying their own institutions, not to mention the global economy."

Bill Uffelman, president of the Nevada Bankers Association, said it's unfair to hold Nevada's community banks responsible for the bad headlines generated by companies such as Merrill Lynch Co. and American International Group Inc. for paying huge bonuses to their employees after accepting federal bailout money.

Uffelman urged lawmakers to reconsider their 2003 decision to tax banks at a 2 percent rate, compared with the 0.63 percent rate other businesses pay.

He also argued the branch excise tax discourages banks from expanding.

"Associated Press

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