Nevada tourism interests fight proposed immigration bill

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Concerned about potential travel boycotts, Las Vegas and Nevada tourism officials are challenging efforts to put Arizona-style immigration reform on the ballot next year.

The groups say the proposed initiative, which is similar to a controversial new Arizona law that has prompted a number of groups to cancel conventions at resorts there, could severely hamper tourism in Nevada just as it is starting to recover from the recession.

“Passage of this initiative would have severe economic consequences on our tourism and convention business,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

RossiRalenkotter“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.”

Keith Smith, chairman of the Nevada Resort Association, expressed similar concerns.

“At a time when it is critical to attract new business and revitalize our economy, proposing a controversial new immigration law would be counterproductive,” Smith said in a joint statement with Ralenkotter.

“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.”

The groups are challenging the legality of the petition that would put the issue on the ballot, saying it violates Nevada’s “single-subject rule” for initiatives.

In their challenge, the groups argued that the law "cherry picks" from a variety of immigration laws from around the country. They argue that in the 32 sections of the proposed law, it touches on everything from traffic safety to voter identification.

Arizona officials recently warned other states to watch out for similar proposals after being blindsided by boycotts over that state’s immigration-reform law, which gives authorities power to demand proof of a person's residency status when they are lawfully stopped for any reason.

Opponents are concerned the law will result in racial profiling.

Debbie Johnson, CEO of the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association and the Arizona Tourism Alliance, recently estimated the state stands to lose $90 million in convention and tourism business.

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