Assembly Government Affairs, Feb. 14

Geoffrey Lawrence

It looks like there was great interest in the “jobs” bill being heard in the Assembly Government Affairs Committee this morning, since it is standing room only in the meeting room.

The Committee is hearing AB 144 this morning, which aims to change the bid preference statutes for public works projects. According to the bill summary, “Under existing law, a contract for a public work is awarded to the contractor who submits the best bid.”

AB 144 would add five new conditions to the bid preference laws, as follows:
(1) At least 50 percent of the workers on the public work have a Nevada driver’s license or identification card;
(2) all of the non-apportioned vehicles primarily used on the public work are registered in Nevada;
(3) at least 50 percent of the design professionals who work on the public work have a Nevada driver’s license or identification card;
(4) at least 25 percent of the materials used in the public work are purchased in Nevada; and
(5) certain payroll records related to the public work are maintained and available within this State.

Obviously, there are some onerous accounting requirements that will be involved in the submittal of all public bids in Nevada – something that flies in the face of legislative leadership’s professed committment to streamlining regulations on the construction industry.

More than that, however, this blatant effort at state mercantilism is certain to invite reciprocal treatment from neighboring states. As representatives from the Associated Builders and Contractors testified to the Senate Select Committee hearing on Friday, many native Nevadans are currently working on public works projects commissioned in other states.

In todays meeting, Assemblywoman Debbie Smith testified that “Other states are on board with this,” referring to the changes included in AB 144. I’m guessing she means that she’s conferred with lawmakers in other states and that they have agreed to discriminate against Nevadans in their public bidding processes just as Nevada will do with residents of other states.

Mercantilism as an economic theory was thoroughly refuted more than 200 years ago, but it is alive and well at the Nevada Legislature.

Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.