Finance Committee approves money for energy authority |

Finance Committee approves money for energy authority

The Interim Finance Committee Thursday approved $250,000 to get the newly created Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Authority up and running.

But they did so after raising a number of questions about the lack of detail in how the authority will operate and how it will spend its budget. Several members questioned how the authority will fund the money to operate after this initial cash infusion from the Public Utilities Commission reserve account.

Hatice Gecol, head of the Energy Office, told lawmakers the authority will more than pay for itself by attracting renewable energy industries to the state and should be able to pay for operations from the renewable energy fund established by the legislation creating the authority.

IFC members voted to approve the $250,000 needed to get the authority going this fiscal year. Most of the money will pay for an energy commissioner to head the authority and an administrative assistant to that position.

The authority will have the power to grant partial abatements to property and sales taxes for renewable generating plants, among other things.

IFC members postponed a vote on the request by the Department of Information Technology to purchase an Internet content management system. The goal of the project is to have DOIT standardize the more than 300 sites operated and maintained by state agencies. Director Dan Stockwell said fully half those sites aren’t under DOIT management and that a lot of money can be saved just in software licenses they pay each year by bringing them in under his department.

“For every site, you won’t have to explore it for five hours to get through it,” he said. “Every site will have the same feel and touch.”

A similar attempt was made nearly 20 years ago but ran into stiff opposition from agencies that argued their needs are all different and don’t lend themselves to a standard pattern.

IFC members also voted to accept nearly $30 million in federal stimulus money. The biggest single piece is the $13.8 million Justice Assistance Grant. Next largest on the list is the $8 million for Nevada Medicaid set aside for the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services.

The committee also named a dozen lawmakers to the committee they created to oversee the receipt and use of federal stimulus money coming to Nevada. That panel will be chaired by Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.