Vegas stadium plan going to Nevada lawmakers next week

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada lawmakers will meet next week to consider raising a hotel tax for an NFL stadium, convention center expansion and more police officers in the Las Vegas area.

Gov. Brian Sandoval announced Wednesday that a special legislative session is scheduled for 8 a.m. Monday. Lawmakers typically only meet once every two years and aren’t scheduled to reconvene until February. But stadium backers have urged quick action so the NFL owners can decide, perhaps in January, whether they’ll let the Raiders move from Oakland to Las Vegas.

“Now is the time to capitalize on the opportunity before us to invest in Nevada’s most foundational industry, tourism,” Sandoval said in a statement. “We can and must usher in a new era for tourism in the Las Vegas market.”

The proposed 65,000-seat domed stadium would be funded with $750 million in hotel room taxes, along with $650 million from the family of Las Vegas Sands casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and $500 million from the Raiders and the NFL. Critics, including faith-based groups and the powerful Culinary Union that’s made up of hospitality workers, question whether the stadium will bring the promised economic benefits and don’t like that public funds could support a project backed by one of the world’s richest men.

Proponents have launched a counter-effort to push the plan, capped by a pep rally-style news conference on Monday that featured cheerleaders and former Raider Howie Long.

Sandoval said he will also ask lawmakers next week for “a minor adjustment” in the hotel tax to temporarily fix an expected shortfall in public education funding.

Another hot-button education issue won’t appear on the agenda, however. Sandoval said there’s “simply not enough time” during the special session to consider a fix for the voucher-style Education Savings Account program, so he’s launching a working group to develop a solution that will pass constitutional muster.

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled last week that the program, which would to divert public education dollars into accounts that could be used for private school tuition, is unconstitutionally tapping into an account meant for public schools. However, the court didn’t have problems with the general concept of Education Savings Accounts.

Sandoval promised to include funding for the accounts in his 2017 budget recommendation.

“Protecting this program is a top priority for me,” he said. “I recognize the magnitude of this sweeping policy measure and consider it a major component of the reform package ushered in during the last legislative session.”

Its chances of passing the Legislature are expected to be lower next year. Republicans hold majorities in both the Senate and Assembly. But Democrats, who have consistently opposed the program on the basis that it diverts scarce funding from struggling public schools, could regain control in the November elections.