Details of Tesla session need to be ironed out

Although the word is the 28th Special Session of the Nevada Legislature will convene Wednesday to consider the deal bringing Tesla Motors to western Nevada, Gov. Brian Sandoval has not yet issued the proclamation calling lawmakers to Carson City.

Frankly, it’s unlikely he’ll do so until Tuesday because, once he does, legislative candidates are prohibited from raising campaign contributions. That prohibition continues for a full 15 days after the special session adjourns.

When lawmakers convene to review the $1.3 billion state incentive package over 20 years to bring Tesla Motor’s gigafactory battery plant to Storey County, they will almost certainly be missing two members of the Assembly.

Peggy Pierce, a feisty, progressive Las Vegas Democrat, died last October after a lengthy battle with cancer. Fellow southern Nevada Democrat Joe Hogan suffered a massive stroke a week ago.

Although Pierce died almost a year ago, her seat has not been filled because the state Constitution bars county commissions from appointing some one to the Legislature if there’s an election before the next legislative session.

Until this week when the Tesla deal was completed, that next session was set for the end of January. Now it’s less than a week away.

“It’s not like we could have known two months ago,” said Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

He said Friday he doesn’t believe the Constitution requires Pierce’s seat be filled but that “we have to give Clark County the opportunity.”

If the commissioners can agree on an appointment before Wednesday, they have the power to fill Pierce’s seat. If they do, it must be someone from the same political party.

Hogan still holds his seat but it’s unlikely his medical condition would permit him to attend.

Between now and then, legislative leadership has to decide how it wants to proceed. Recent special sessions have generally convened as a committee of the whole — the Assembly and the Senate sitting together — to present proposed legislation to all members at the same time. Or it could be two committees — one for each house.

The other option is to follow regular session rules and present proposed legislation to individual committees and then take the measures to the floor of each house. That would mean most members just sit and wait while advocates present the bills implementing the deal to the money, taxation and possibly commerce committees.

It’s still unclear how many bills will be needed to make the deal happen. State law limits bills to a single subject and the Tesla deal requires a variety of legal changes in addition to approval of tax abatements.

The final number will be pretty much decided by LCB’s legal counsel Brenda Erdoes in consultation with leadership.


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