A looming vote Tuesday about a proposed ordinance severely limiting how street vendors operate shows it’s no secret that the Clark County Commission is not particularly interested in engaging on the question of how to regulate the vendors — at least, not really. 

After years of operating in a bureaucratic patchwork and permitting black box, street vendors were provided a new path to legal licensing under SB92 last year. Sponsored by Sen. Fabian Donate (D-Las Vegas) and passed with broad, near-unanimous bipartisan support, the bill laid out clear steps for local governments to craft the finer rules that would license and regulate these vendors. 

But as it was debated in Carson City, many of these local governments — Clark County, Las Vegas and Henderson in particular — emerged as the bill’s most fierce critics. Now, with the keys to the bill’s execution, those local governments have ensured that vendors will have fewer and worse opportunities, not more, not better. 

The newest set of regulations would go a step further, banning vendors from doing business near parks and schools — leaving vanishingly few options for vendors who make their living with their stalls. 

This is not to say restrictions are not necessary. Clear rules will be the backbone of any successful implementation of SB92, if only to prevent the kind of serious and potentially disastrous confrontations created immediately after the bill’s passage last summer. But the scope of the new rules begs the question — where does the commission expect these vendors to go? 

Nowhere with any foot traffic, apparently. 

Under the commission’s proposal, the financial consequences for vendors would be disastrous. Vendors who are entrepreneurs, like other men and women working hard toward the American dream, would be left with no path forward, a set of unfulfilled promises that leaves them in the same legal limbo they started in. 

It will punish vendors who are not just a stereotype — they are Latinos and African Americans and Asian-American-Pacific-Islanders whose cultural traditions on sale at these carts are so much more than the snap-judgment vision conjured in the mind of a county commissioner by the term street vendor. 

Zoning restrictions from the county will compound with a health permitting process that has moved even slower, mandated only by a deadline to create new street vendor health permit rules by the end of 2025. 

In the meantime, street vendors will be expected to comply with rules for open-air vendors — such as temporary food tents at events — that require hot water sinks and hundreds of dollars per year in fees, all under assumptions that vendors aren’t already trying to maintain clean and sanitary operations for the benefit of their own businesses and the customers they’re trying to retain. 

Those regulations, with no tailoring for the specifics of street vending, will push vendors toward staying unregulated and outside the eye of the government bodies that ought to be working with vendors in the first place. 

SB92 was passed by the representatives of the people of Nevada on the promise that the street vendors integral to the cultural fabric of this state would be given a path toward legal, licensed operation. 

Instead of the piecemeal erosion of places street vendors might actually operate, county and city leaders could have seized the opportunity to enact regulations that let vendors thrive without the fear of confiscation and citation. 

We’re left to wonder: Where would we be if the governing bodies in charge of this process actually made those state-level promises a reality?

Paula Luna is the deputy director of Battle Born Progress. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from UNLV.

The Nevada Independent welcomes informed, cogent rebuttals to opinion pieces such as this. Send them to [email protected].

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