It’s The Little Things Happening in The Legislature That Should Matter Most to Nevadans

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Nevada State Senator Ben Kieckhefer

In the Nevada State Senate, like all of life, it’s the little things that generally matter the most.

Public attention is drawn to the controversy of the day, but often the most important work of the Legislature is found in the less exciting measures that improve daily life and make government more efficient and responsive.

There’s no controversy, for instance, around a bill I’m sponsoring (SB 414) that would double the number of students who benefit each year from the Kenny C. Guinn Memorial Millennium Scholarship. This scholarship, supported by donations, helps Millennium Scholars who plan on becoming teachers in Nevada.

It’s straightforward. Currently, the Board of Trustees of the College Savings Plans of Nevada awards one scholarship each year to a student at a college in northern Nevada, and one scholarship each year to a student at a college in southern Nevada. With my bill, two students from each end of the state would be awarded scholarships.

Kenny Guinn’s service as governor opened the doors to higher education for thousands of students who otherwise would have found college out of reach.

Doubling the number of students who benefit from Kenny C. Guinn Memorial Millennium Scholarship pays tribute to the accomplishments of this respected leader. Even more important, this bill will make a life-changing difference to two highly deserving students each year.

Transparency for taxpayers is at the heart of another bill I’m sponsoring, SB 410, and I’m pleased that it has earned strong bipartisan support.

Currently, the state can issue tax credits to companies that build big projects in the state — projects that invest at least $1 billion.

The companies that receive these tax breaks can turn around and sell them to other companies. The Nevada Office of Economic Development can authorize as much as $38 million of these transferable tax credits for a project that makes a $1 billion capital investment in Nevada.

Here’s the problem: these credits were approved by the legislature as a part of an incentive package for a project in southern Nevada that never materialized. Unfortunately, they could be used to support any project anywhere in the state. If economic development officials want to support these types of projects, they should be able to come back to the legislature, justify the project, and get approval.

Good government requires that taxpayers are able to understand the financing of these projects, and this bill will help ensure that happens.

Good government is the cornerstone of another bill I’ve proposed (SB 279). It provides clear guidance about the ways that general improvement districts in Nevada can sell real estate.

There are dozens of general improvement districts located in nearly every county in Nevada. They’re created by county and city governments to finance the infrastructure — streets, for instance, or water lines — needed to support economic development.

Those districts currently can sell any real estate they own. But state law doesn’t spell out the procedures general improvement districts need to follow, either to get a fair price or to ensure that the sale is transparent to taxpayers.

Rather than create a whole new process, my bill requires that general improvement districts follow the same process that’s used when other local governments sell real estate. They’d be required, for instance, to get two appraisals and sell the property for no less than the appraised value. To ensure that the process is transparent, the bill requires notice to the public and votes in meetings that are open to the public.

The bill doesn’t create government red tape. Instead, general improvement districts will have a clear set of rules when they need to sell property. And the business of the public will be conducted in public.

These bills, like hundreds of other measures considered by the Nevada Legislature each year, are the bricks that, one by one, build excellent government for a great state.

This is really what the work of the Legislature is all about.

Ben Kieckhefer
Ben is a Nevada State Senator representing District 16, which includes southern Washoe County and Carson City. First elected in 2010, Ben was reelected in 2014 and spends most of his time focusing on issues surrounding jobs and the economy, education, and the state budget. He and his wife April are proud to be raising their two sets of twins in northern Nevada.