The bill designed to move the annual Burning Man festival outside of Pershing County’s control passed the Assembly Tuesday on a party line vote.
Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, authored Assembly Bill 374 to prohibit a county from regulating, licensing or permitting events on federal land if the federal government has already issued a license or permit for the event.
He said it was introduced after Pershing County tripled the law enforcement fees they were charging the festival to $375,000 in 2012 and announced that those fees would again rise to some $600,000 for the 2013 festival.
Bobzien said the legislation makes clear that such festivals on federal lands are not under control of the local county and that it’s not appropriate for them to be “enacting an ordinance and simply handing organizers a bill.”
Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, urged the body to reject the legislation saying the $375,000 payment is “a drop in the bucket” compared to the $30 million to $50 million in profit the festival generates each year.
“It’s not unreasonable to expect a county can at least recover their costs,” he said.
Hansen said Pershing County is simply charging for the services including law enforcement that it is required by Nevada law to provide.
He said the bill also prohibits he county from enforcing state laws at the festival including the ability to enforce drug use and possession laws.
Bobzien denied Hansen’s claims saying the bill doesn’t take the right to enforce existing statutes, that it bars the county from imposing duplicative rules on the event.
AB374 passed 26-15. The bill now goes to the Senate.