The historic result of the 2016 election ushers in a new set of challenges, opportunities, and unknowns for Nevada businesses at the federal and state levels. Here, at home, Nevada bucked the national trend and once again gave Democrats control of both houses of the legislature. The result is two new legislative majorities, along with a host of freshman chairs and freshman legislators with a new set of legislative priorities.
Nationally, the election of President Donald Trump and a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate gives rise to a significantly changed political environment that cannot be understated. As Nevada is once again in growth mode, Nevada’s businesses will be tasked to navigate significant policy changes at the federal, state and local levels of government.
Nevada businesses, many previously affected by the 2015 Commerce Tax, should pay close attention to additional tax conversations in 2017. As Nevada’s economy rebounds, increasing pressure on municipal governments will place Nevada’s property tax policy at the forefront of the 2017 legislative session. While there appears to be no appetite by the governor, nor by legislative leadership, to significantly alter the 2015 Commerce Tax, increased demand for municipal services will generate a different tax conversation in 2017. Consequent tax policy will surely have the potential to impact Nevada businesses.
Businesses in Nevada should also focus their attention on healthcare issues in the new political and regulatory environment. The Trump administration, along with a Republican Congress, have their eyes set on major changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They are currently tackling, in a highly publicized internal debate, whether to immediately repeal the law, or to wait until there is a detailed plan to replace it at the same time. Regardless of the mechanism or political ramifications, there is little doubt that major policy changes will soon complicate state and local healthcare funding and access—including the possibility of block-granting Medicaid and allowing for insurance sales across state lines, which will surely influence the cost of insurance for businesses.
The state is also placing healthcare at the top of its agenda for the 2017 legislative session. Legislative committees on healthcare are set to pay considerable attention to reviewing the state Medicaid reimbursement rates. Nevada is currently struggling to recruit and retain doctors and other providers, and Nevada businesses should pay close attention to policy changes in this realm as a strong and sustainable healthcare community is vital to the state’s economy.
Additionally, Nevada will be in the national spotlight as it negotiates energy policy with an eye toward the future. Executives should be prepared for a sweeping energy policy conversation as both houses have designated special subcommittees to tackle the ever-contentious subject of energy legislation.
Hot-button energy topics will include Nevada’s renewable portfolio standard, and the controversial policies related to rooftop solar policy and large-scale deregulation of Nevada’s energy market. As national energy policy changes in the new federal environment, many will be looking to Western states, Nevada in particular, to set the tone for the future of energy policy.
Finally, with the passage of Question 2, the ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana, Nevada businesses must be prepared for the challenges that will surely come with recreational marijuana. With legalization comes personnel issues, compliance concerns and, for the hospitality industry, guest-use questions. Question 2 offers little guidance as to how the measure applies to employers, so the burden will fall upon trade associations and individual companies to navigate this new world, and to seek redress in the legislature to clarify rights and responsibilities.
The 79th session of the Nevada Legislature will commence Feb. 6, 2017. The 120-day session will take place in the majority of President Trump’s first 100 days. During this memorable time, Nevada’s businesses will have numerous opportunities to help shape federal, state and local policy.
Alisa Nave-Worth, shareholder, Jodi Stephens, senior policy advisor and Kandis McClure, policy advisor are with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.