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Over $100M In Additional Spending Added In Final Days Of Legislative Session

$15 to $25 million could be awarded to the Culinary Academy for an undisclosed ‘capital investment plan’

By Megan Barth, June 6, 2023 7:01 pm

In the waning days and hours of the 82nd legislative session, the Democratic majority added over $100 million dollars in State spending through last-minute amendments to the following three pieces of legislation: Assembly Bill 525, Assembly Bill 521 and Senate Bill 341. Earlier this week, The Globe reported that this spending would fund numerous nonprofits tied to the Nevada Democratic Party and labor organizations.

AB521 is the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), a State budget that appropriates $1.2 billion for various state projects and  reimplements a statewide property tax. Instead of passing the bill approved by the Assembly on party lines, Senate Democrats added a $25 million dollar amendment for the union-backed Culinary Academy. In order to attend this academy, a student must be a registered member of Culinary Union 226 or 165.

Senate Bill 521 amended to include an additional $25M to the Culinary Academy (Photo: Sean Golonka of the NV Indy)

The amendment was added if two Christmas tree bills, AB 525 and SB341, are vetoed by the Governor.

A Christmas tree bill is a term to describe a bill that is adorned with numerous amendments that provide special benefits to various groups or interests. According to Ballotpedia, these bills are used strategically, as legislators attach amendments and riders that otherwise may not garner legislative approval if left to stand on their own. (emphasis added)

As million dollar amendments were placed like shiny ornaments on AB525 and SB341, the Culinary Union Local 226, stands to bag either $15 or $25 million in taxpayer cash for an undisclosed “capital improvement plan” for their Culinary Academy.

Overheard in the halls of the legislature this week, a Culinary Union lobbyist was asked by another lobbyist if the Culinary Union “got the $15 million” in the Assembly. The lobbyist replied, “yes.”

We have talked to a few Capitol sources who haven’t reviewed any details related to a “capital improvement plan”–a plan that has increased from $15 million to $25 million in a mere 48 hours. If you peruse through AB521,  you will find numerous detailed line items for capital projects. One would think that a plan that has nearly doubled in cost would have a line item outlined in the state budget, but one would be wrong.

In an interview today with the Nevada Independent, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said Lombardo had agreed to a last-minute amendment added to the CIP bill that would direct $25 million to the Culinary Training Academy. She had believed they had negotiated in good faith. (The interview didn’t disclose the details of the $25 million appropriation).

“I am frustrated,” Cannizzaro said. “We negotiated. I have negotiated — and because I have a job to do here … I have sat through meetings with this baby, instead of being home. My family has not met this baby. I negotiated in good faith because that’s what I was supposed to do.”

Senate Majority Nicole Cannizzaro. (Photo from headline by KLAS)

Senate props aside, according to the NV Indy: “Sources close to negotiations on the governor’s side said Lombardo had not reneged on the deal and is still ready to sign the bill with no conditions — adding that parties had not agreed to have the governor whip Senate Republican votes in support of the deal. Sources — granted anonymity to speak freely about ongoing negotiations — added that Senate Democrats were made aware of Republican opposition to the CIP earlier in the day.”

Republican legislators we have spoken to fear that this $15 or $25 million appropriation is no more than a gift to an entity that campaigns and ballot harvests on behalf of the Nevada Democratic Party. Among the various union leaders and activists who are Trustees of the Culinary Academy is President of Culinary Union Local 226, Diana Valles, pictured here endorsing and promoting a slate of State Democrats.

In order to meet the demands of historic spending, it should come as no surprise the budget seeks to reimplement a sunsetting statewide property tax which constitutionally requires a two-thirds vote to pass. As Senate Democrats are one vote shy of a supermajority, the budget failed on a party line vote and a special legislative session was called by Governor Lombardo.

At 6:41 this evening, the Governor announced that the special session will convene at 8 pm this evening. The Globe will continue to track the legislation slated to be heard and negotiated.


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