What will be the deal for his Education Savings Accounts?
NFIB/Nevada State Director Randi Thompson reports from Carson City on the small-business agenda as of May 23.
In a meeting last week, Mike Wilden, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s chief of staff, told NFIB that the governor is not letting the Legislature go home until there is funding for the Education Savings Accounts (ESA) program.
Senate Bill 506, which is in the Senate Finance Committee, would establish the ESA program through a new Office of Educational Choice. If SB 506 is approved, the funding would flow to this new agency to administer the program.
Democrats are not fond of ESAs, so the big question is, what will be the trade-off for ESAs? Wilden said he doesn’t know if the governor will trade for them yet, as there are about dozen bills the Democrats want, which you can read their general outline on NevadaBlueprint.com. Their specific agenda includes many “worker” bills, such as mandating paid leave, raising the minimum wage, “banning the box” to make it easier for former felons to get a government job, equal pay requirements, increasing penalties for wage theft, making it easier to unionize.
So, what are potential trade-off bills? NFIB thought at first it would be minimum wage, but the Democrats have introduced a Senate Joint Resolution (SJR6) to address that. SJR6 must pass the Legislature twice, then go to the voters in 2020. By putting that on the ballot, it will drive voters to the polls, so there is a reason for the Democrats to take this route. Plus, it delays a wage increase to 2021. A Joint Resolution can’t be vetoed. So that means that minimum wage could be off the table as a bargaining chip. That would leave paid leave as a major bill for the Democrats to push in return for ESAs, which is very worrisome to the business world.
Bad For Small Business Bills Still Alive
May 19 was the deadline for bills to be passed out of committee in the Second House. However, many bills related to funding issues — and other bills deemed important to leadership — are exempt from any deadlines. Most of the bad-business bills are still alive. The following are ones NFIB is opposing.
- Senate Bill 106 would raise the minimum-wage rate by 75 cents a year until the hourly pay reaches $11. It passed the Senate along party lines May 17.
- Senate Joint Resolution 6 proposes to amend the state Constitution to increase the minimum wage starting in 2021 to $9 an hour, then increase it annually by 75 cents a year until it reaches $12 an hour. The resolution also contains a provision that an employee who prevails in any legal action that shows the employer failed to pay minimum wage, the employee is awarded triple damages. Because this bill is a resolution, it can’t be vetoed by the governor. It will have to pass again next session exactly as it is, and then go to the voters in 2020 for approval. NFIB fears this will pass as is, but will continue its lobbying efforts to at least remove the triple-damages portion. It passed the Senate Commerce committee on a party line vote May 19 and is now in the Assembly.
- Assembly Bill 211 would increase the current administrative fine for wage theft from $5,000 to $10,000 and allows the Labor Commissioner to award a person harmed by a wage theft violation $10,000, despite a claim for back wages that could be as low as $100. The bill passed the Assembly on a party-line vote and was sent to the Senate Commerce Committee. However, this bill is now dead as it failed to meet the committee passage deadline.
- Senate Bill 361 would require that an employer allow any employee who’s a victim of domestic violence, or has a direct family member who was subject to domestic violence, up to 160 hours of leave (there was no requirement for paid leave in the original bill) in a 24-month period. This provision kicks in on the 90th day of employment. This applies to all businesses, no matter the number of employees. The bill’s sponsor made the point that victims of domestic violence tend to be ashamed of their status and shunned more than victims of other crimes. Thus, they tend to not tell employers of their status. While NFIB appreciates the sponsor’s willingness to work with it and others in the business community to address its concerns, small business remained opposed to the measure because it’s duplicative of federal law, essentially codifying what is in the Federal Family Medical Leave Act. The bill unanimously passed the Senate May 22.
- Senate Bill 253 essentially mimics the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which covers discrimination “on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” for businesses with 15 or more employees. SB 253 would require a business to make “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant women. NFIB is neutral on the bill now but has concerns because the bill applies to “applicants” and not to just employees. NFIB is working with the sponsor to make it apply only to current employees, not applicants. The bill passed the Senate 21-0 and passed out of Assembly Health Committee May 17.
- Senate Bill 397 would impose new penalties for equal pay complaints and opens up employers to more lawsuits. It passed the Senate on April 21 on a party-line vote and pass the Assembly Government Affairs Committee May 19.
- Assembly Bill 175 says an employer must offer prospective hourly minimum-wage employees, at the minimum, a bronze-level insurance plan, in order for that employer to qualify for using the lowest minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for their compensation. Current law basically says you can offer employees any insurance policy you want, and if they don’t accept it, the employer has the option to pay $7.25 an hour since they rejected the insurance coverage. For those companies that do not offer any health insurance plans to employees, this will mean an immediate $1 an hour increase to any employees pay of $7.25 an hour, unless they are part of a collective bargaining unit. The implementation date is upon passage, which could be as early as June 5, 2017. This bill is exempt from deadlines, and NFIB expects it to be part of the trade-off deals with ESAs.
- Assembly Bill 423 would require the state to gather data from employers on gender equity and could allow public shaming of companies. NFIB is opposed to the bill. It has passed Assembly Government Affairs Committee and is up in Assembly Ways and Means. It is exempt from deadlines.
Good For Small Business Bills
- Assembly Bill 94 would repeal the prospective expiration of the NV Grow Program. This will allow for continued support of the Small Business Development Centers at UNR and UNLV, organizations that provide great resources to entrepreneurs and start-up companies. This bill is exempt from deadlines, so it is still active.
- Assembly Bill 281 would allow a business whose Nevada gross revenue is $4 million or less annually to file its tax form at the same time as it renews its state business license. This will streamline the state registration process for more than 100,000 small businesses. This bill is exempt from deadlines, so it is still active. NFIB is a bit concerned about this bill, as it does deal with the commerce tax, and you never know if it could get amended to lower the exemption or change the tax rate, so NFIB is watching this one closely.
- Senate Bill160 would require agencies to post on their website three working days before the hearing a new or revised regulation that will be considered at the hearing. Requires an agency to provide at least three working days’ notice of its intended action before holding a second or subsequent hearing on a regulation. This bill has passed both houses and is on its way to the governor for his signature.