Monday, June 21, 2010 | 5:23 p.m.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and the Nevada Resort Association today filed a joint legal challenge to a recently filed initiative petition that would enact reform legislation similar to Arizona’s controversial new immigration law.
The Nevada Immigration Verification Act, which could appear on the 2011 ballot if the initiative is qualified, mirrors Arizona’s controversial immigration reform legislation that was signed into law earlier this year by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.
The Arizona law requires immigrants to carry registration papers and requires police to question anyone suspected of being in the United States illegally.
Because critics of the Arizona law have organized boycotts and canceled conventions in that state, the LVCVA board of directors vowed at its June 8 meeting to fight the Nevada initiative to protect the city’s fragile meetings and conventions industry, which has only recently started to make a comeback after struggling for months during the recession.
“Passage of this initiative would have severe economic consequences on our tourism and convention business,” Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the LVCVA, said in a statement issued today. “We cannot afford to give people a reason to choose other cities for business or leisure travel. Lost business would translate into lost jobs. As the tourism sector has shown some evidence of stabilization, cancellations of future business would be devastating.”
Ralenkotter has said Phoenix has lost more than $90 million in convention business this year as a result of boycotts and protests against the state.
Keith Smith, chairman of the Nevada Resort Association’s board and a member of the LVCVA board, echoed Ralenkotter’s comments in a prepared statement.
“At a time when it is critical to attract new business and revitalize our economy, proposing a controversial new immigration law would be counter-productive,” Smith said. “Over the past two years, we have experienced unprecedented economic struggles, including declines in convention business and visitor spending. Our entire state’s economic well-being has suffered as a result. As recovery is taking hold nationally, we cannot afford to create unnecessary distractions that could hurt our ability to promote Nevada as one of the world’s top business, convention, and tourism destinations.”
Local critics have questioned whether the LVCVA board – a quasi-governmental conventions and tourism bureau comprised of private sector leaders and elected officials – could fight an initiative because it’s funded by room taxes.
LVCVA spokesman Vince Alberta clarified that the board can’t challenge the concept or ideology behind the initiative, but it can challenge the validity and legality of the proposal. It also can’t run ads against the initiative.
The legal challenge filed by the two organizations cited violations of Nevada’s “single-subject rule,” which requires that an initiative petition embrace one subject when presented to voters.