Nevada Builders/Developer’s Lobby vs. Trial Lawyers-Construction Defects Law is Challenged

It’s like the wild wild west out in Nevada, with the trial lawyers lobby vs the builders and developers lobby over “Chapter 40” the construction defects law that lets the prevailing party collect attorney’s fees.

Sun, Jun 21, 2009 (2 a.m.)

The construction industry had just captured a huge victory, pushing legislation through the state Senate that would limit the ability of homeowners to win settlements against developers for construction defects.

Builders needed only a victory in the Assembly to save themselves millions in settlements and legal fees.

Their lobbyists, gathered in the hallway of the state’s 1970s-era concrete slab of a Legislative Building on April 16, were ecstatic over the 19-1 Senate vote.

James Wadhams, a lobbyist for the Southern Nevada Homebuilders, turned to his cohorts, according to two people present, and readied them for the not-always-pleasant task of dealing with Assembly Democrats, who he knew would drive a hard bargain.

“I’m gonna savor this victory awhile, but now we put our hand in the garbage disposal.”

•••

Sitting 450 miles from Las Vegas, cut off from average Nevadans, Carson City is special interest heaven.

While the public watches from afar the every-other-year 120-day legislative session, special interest lobbyists — for gaming, energy and development companies, trial lawyers and labor unions — make the rules and fight among themselves over the booty. They fly the Southwest shuttle Monday mornings and return to Las Vegas on Fridays. They spend their days shuffling between legislative offices and committee hearings, and their evenings in Carson City’s restaurants and bars, swapping gossip and toasting or ridiculing the legislators they are paid well to lobby.

No issue this session better exemplified how they do their work in the state capital than construction defect legislation, which pitted two powerful interest groups — construction companies and trial lawyers — in a battle they knew would determine the economic fate of both groups for years to come.

On one side was the Coalition for Fairness in Construction, big homebuilder and contracting companies and small subcontractors, who knew they had a sympathetic ear among conservative Democrats in the Senate.

On the other was the Nevada Justice Association, a fancy name for trial lawyers. Many Assembly Democrats, particularly in leadership, are their close allies.

Read the rest of this article by clicking here to go the Las Vegas Sun website.

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