Regulatory reform victory highlights accomplishments for small business
NFIB/Nevada State Director Randi Thompson reports from Carson City on the small-business agenda at the June 6, 2017, end of the 79th Legislature
Small business fared well this legislative session, thanks to Gov. Brian Sandoval, who vetoed bills that would have increased the minimum wage, mandated paid leave and placed other onerous regulations on Nevada’s Main Street enterprises.
Early in the session, the governor asked the business community for a list of bills that businesses opposed. It was a lengthy list, and NFIB is pleased to report most of them died.
While NFIB worked closely with several business organization lobbyists to kill some bills in committee, Governor Sandoval kept that list and vetoed those that made it out of the Legislature. NFIB worked closely with other business organizations to present a unified opposition to defeat or get these bills vetoed, and that unity paid off!
Leaders in both legislative chambers were keenly aware of the power of the business community this session. Some bad-for-business bills may have had a hearing, but many of those measures failed to move forward.
Through it all, three good-for-small-business bills did pass, which lead off the following re-cap of NFIB’s lobbying primary lobbying efforts.
Regulatory Reform Victory
Signed into law by Governor Sandoval, Senate Bill 160 now requires state agencies to be more forthcoming with new regulations by posting a draft, or any revisions of a regulation online, three working days before a regulatory hearing. NFIB worked with the bill’s sponsor before the session on crafting that language needed to help small businesses receive more notice about regulations that impact them.
Business Resource Centers Made Permanent
Also earning the governor’s signature was Assembly Bill 94, which makes the NV Grow Program permanent and provides funding to the Small Business Development Centers in Clark and Washoe county. The timeliness of this measure came at the right time, as the latest Optimism Index put out by NFIB shows finding qualified workers back to being a major concern of small business owners.
Small Business Financing Enhanced
Assembly Bill 436 is another law winning the governor’s nod. It requires the secretary of state, the Office of Economic Development, and the Regional Business Development Advisory Council for Clark County to provide small and disadvantaged businesses with information concerning public and private programs to obtain financing for small businesses.
Construction-Defect Law Saved
Although a victory from the previous session, Assembly Bill 462 would have rolled back the reforms that passed the last session on construction defects. NFIB, along with lobbyist from the chambers, insurance and construction, all opposed the bill. The unity within the business community was a death knell for this attempt to weaken the construction defect law.
Nursing Mothers Bill Refined
Seeing its inevitable passage and signing into law by the governor, NFIB worked with the sponsor of Assembly Bill 113 that requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to allow a nursing mother to express breast milk. This includes providing break time, be it paid or unpaid, and a private, clean room that is not a bathroom. NFIB met with Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel, the bill’s main sponsor, and explained the burden this would have on small businesses with limited space. She agreed to amend the bill to apply to employers with 50 more employees, which is consistent with federal law, and to allow some flexibility related to the private space.
Restroom Bill Adjusted
Assembly Bill 241 now requires local governments to include in their building codes a rule that buildings that contain a public restroom and is constructed after October 1, 2017, be equipped with baby changing tables in the men’s and women’s restrooms. NFIB opposed the original bill that was going to require all existing businesses with public bathrooms to add changing stations. After meeting with the business community, the bill’s sponsors, Assemblyman Justin Watkins and Speaker Jason Frierson, agreed to amend it to apply only to future construction.
Equal Pay Survey Modified
Assembly Bill 423 and Senate Bill 343 originally called for mandatory businesses participation in a survey on equal pay. After meeting with NFIB, the measures’ key sponsors, Assemblywomen Brittney Miller and Maggie Carlton and Senators Patricia Farley and Becky Harris agreed to make the survey voluntary. The survey will be conducted by the secretary of state.
Pregnancy Accommodation Proposal Altered
Senate Bill 253 establishes the Nevada Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act and requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to female employees and applicants who are pregnant. NFIB worked with Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, the bill’s lead sponsor, to limit the burden to employers, including reducing possible violations to ensure that employers would not be subject to more lawsuits.
Minimum-Wage Bill Defeated
Thanks to the strong lobbying efforts from NFIB members, the governor vetoed Senate Bill 106, which would have raised the minimum wage by 75 cents a year until the hourly pay reached $12. The minimum wage is an entry level wage earned mostly by teens and young adults
Paid Leave Measure Stopped
Also vetoed was Senate Bill 196, which would have required that any business with 25 or more employees give workers at least 24 hours of paid leave a year. The good news is that the vast majority of businesses already offer paid or unpaid time off, and for any reason the employee chooses: sickness, care for a family member, parental duties, personal or family member victim of domestic violence, etc. (see infographic here). Also, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act “provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave. The rigid nature of state mandates only interferes with the agreements employees and employers have come to that is beneficial for both.
Health Insurance Mandate Killed
Assembly Bill 175 was also vetoed. It would have required employers who pay minimum wage to offer health insurance plans roughly equivalent to a “bronze” level plan under the Affordable Care Act.
For 30 consecutive years, the cost of health care has been a small-business owner’s No. 1 worry—out of 75 concerns measured by NFIB. The lion’s share of the credit for the problem goes to Washington D.C., but states do their part to exacerbate the crisis by passing more and more mandates on insurers who pass the cost along to small businesses in the former of higher premiums—at least to those who can still afford to provide their employees with health care. NFIB/Nevada will continue its battle to make health care affordable to a broader base of consumers by opposing state mandates that only drives insurance farther out of reach for Main Street enterprises.
Lawsuit-Boosting ‘Equal Pay’ Bill Halted
Small business is also grateful for Governor Sandoval’s veto of Senate Bill 397, which would have imposed new penalties for “equal pay” complaints and exposed employers to more lawsuits.
NFIB strongly supports equal employment opportunity and appropriate enforcement of the federal Equal Pay Act, which protects all employees, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Federal and state law already prohibit gender discrimination, including workplace compensation and benefits, but so-called “equal pay” legislation proposed in states are typically little more than increased penalties for behavior that is already against the law. While increasing penalties may enrich a few attorneys who file questionable lawsuits against numerous small-business owners who don’t have the resources to fight frivolous cases in court, they will do little or nothing to improve wages for women.
Triple-Damages Bill Beat Back
NFIB worked to kill many bills before they could get to the governor’s desk, including Assembly Bill 211, which would have allowed an employee to be paid triple damages if they were successful in winning a case against their employer related to wage violations. NFIB also helped kill Assembly Bill 178, which would have made small-business employers more vulnerable to employment lawsuits.
The Final Analysis
The 2017 legislative session is a wrap, and many in the business community are breathing a big sigh of relief. While some of the bills that NFIB considered bad for business passed the Legislature, they died by the veto pen of Governor Sandoval.
From Day One, NFIB and other business associations knew there would be bills to mandate paid leave, increase the minimum wage, and require new regulations on “equal pay”. All were concerned that Republican legislators would cut a deal to ensure funding of the Education Savings Accounts, and that deal would include agreeing to a minimum wage increase. Fortunately for the business community, that deal was not made.
Before the session started, the governor said he would veto measures that sought to simply undo bills that passed in the 2015 session, and he kept his word. This session could have been a lot worse for business. We’re grateful to Governor Sandoval for striking down several bills that would have increased the cost to do business in Nevada. He vetoed 41 bills this session, second only to Jim Gibbons’ 43 vetoes from the 2009 session.