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KUNR Today: Nevada Drops Mask Mandate For Vaccinated, State Revenue Bills Ruled Unconstitutional

David Calvert
The Nevada Independent
Nevada GOP Executive Director, Greg Bailor, left, and Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer inside the Legislature on Monday, March 15, 2021 in Carson City, Nev.

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Friday, May 14, 2021.

New CDC Guidelines Drop Mask Mandate For Vaccinated In Nevada
By Paul Boger

Fully-vaccinated residents in Nevada no longer have to wear a mask indoors. The news follows the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which dropped mask recommendations for the fully vaccinated Thursday.

Nevada tied its coronavirus regulations to the CDC earlier this month when the state handed mitigation efforts to local leaders. California health officials say they expect to drop their mask mandate next month.

Teens 12 And Up Eligible For COVID Vaccine In Washoe County
By Paul Boger

Children 12 and older are now eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Washoe County. County health officials made the announcement Thursday following the Food and Drug Administration's decision to extend the vaccine's emergency approval to teens.

Vaccinations will continue to be given at the Livestock Events Center in Reno. Walk-ins are welcome, but residents are encouraged to make an appointment in order to speed up the process.

Nevada Supreme Court Strikes Down 2019 Tax Bills
By Paul Boger

The Nevada Supreme Court has declared a set of revenue bills from the 2019 Legislative session unconstitutional. The unanimous decision strikes down state law that extended a business tax and DMV license surcharge past their scheduled termination date.

The measures passed along party lines during the waning hours of the 2019 session, but the tallies fell one vote short of the constitutionally-required two-thirds majority needed to pass tax and spending bills.

Senate Minority Leader James Settlemeyer, who filed the suit on behalf of legislative Republicans, hailed the decision as a victory for tax payers.

"What this means is that they shouldn't have stole the money from the citizens of the state of Nevada to begin with. They should have followed the constitution. They recklessly did not, and now we're here," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro helped shepherd the tax bill through the 2019 legislature. She said the ruling will have dramatic implications on the state's education budget.

"There are real consequences for deciding that it's just not worth it to put money into education and to put money into the state budget. One of those consequences now is going to be that we have to find that money," Cannizzaro said.

The exact financial ramifications have yet to be fully determined, but officials say the state could be forced to return roughly $100 million to tax payers.

Nevada Bill Would Prohibit Government Websites From Tracking Users
By Paul Boger

Republican lawmakers in Nevada have introduced a bill that would prohibit government websites from collecting and selling user data. The measure comes after a report found the Immunize Nevada website to be more inundated with ad trackers and third-party cookies than any other state-run COVID site.

Las Vegas Assemblyman Tom Roberts says tracking user data creates mistrust.

"People are visiting this site, because they're getting information on COVID and where to get vaccinated, and in our opinion, that should not be used for this type of commercial purposes," he said.

State officials say most trackers are used to optimize user experience and evaluate their outreach efforts, but experts say the amount of trackers on the site goes beyond data-gathering applicable to outreach.

Nevada Democrats Unveil Renewable Energy Infrastructure Bill
By The Associated Press

Nevada lawmakers are considering a massive energy infrastructure proposal that would encourage the construction of renewable energy transmission lines and electric vehicle charging stations. State Sen. Chris Brooks introduced a bill Thursday that could direct federal infrastructure funds to projects that will help Nevada transition away from carbon-based fuels and to renewables like solar, wind and geothermal. The Nevada proposal mirrors similar legislation under consideration throughout the region, including in Colorado. It also dovetails with President Joe Biden’s plans to increase the use of renewable energy, modernize the country’s aging electrical grid and incentivize drivers to trade their gas-powered vehicles for electric ones.

EPA Publishes Climate Change Report For First Time Since 2016
By Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau

For the first time since 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency has published an update detailing the effects of climate change. Those effects include more frequent and severe heat waves in many of our region’s cities.

Ladd Keith studies climate change and urban planning at the University of Arizona. He said extreme heat is less visible than other signs of a warming climate.

"You don’t get the dramatic media images of a hurricane coming through, or flooding or the wildfires," Keith said.

The data in the report show heat waves are becoming more common and lasting longer in Albuquerque, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, but Keith said cities elsewhere in our region should also be on alert.

"If you think historically, the extreme heat events that have caused the most deaths have actually been in those temperate climates where there’s just less heat adaptedness," Keith said.

The EPA started publishing a climate indicators report every two years under former President Obama but stopped during the Trump administration.

Congressional Bill Could Restore Federal Funds For Lake Tahoe
By Paul Boger

Nevada's Congressional Delegation has introduced a measure aimed at reauthorizing the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act. If passed, the measure could bring more than $400 million into the Tahoe Basin over the next decade. The money is for efforts such as combating invasive species and protecting the lake's clarity.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
Savannah comes to Wyoming Public Media from NPR’s midday show Here & Now, where her work explored everything from Native peoples’ fraught relationship with American elections to the erosion of press freedoms for tribal media outlets. A proud citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, she’s excited to get to know the people of the Wind River reservation and dig into the stories that matter to them.
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