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KUNR Today: Nevada approves new district maps, Mask mandates up for debate across Mountain West

An image of the Nevada Legislature building
Alexa Ard
KUNR Public Radio

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.

Nevada approves district maps that bolster Democrats’ edge
By The Associated Press

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak approved new district maps on Tuesday that account for a decades-worth of population growth and shore up Democrats' voter registration advantage in the statehouse and two battleground congressional districts. Newly drawn districts will likely aid Democrats in efforts to defend U.S. House seats held by Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford as the GOP attempts to reclaim a majority in Congress. Though Republicans oversee redistricting in more states, Democrats who control the process in states like Nevada and Illinois have forcefully pushed through their proposals, in a way that partially offsets gerrymandering in states like Texas and North Carolina.

Carson City Health and Human Services to stop COVID-19 testing
By Michelle Billman

Carson City Health and Human Services has announced that it will stop offering community-based COVID-19 testing events as well as on-site testing next month. Officials with the agency said the decision to end the testing is based on a drastic decrease in demand along with an increased focus on vaccination efforts. They will continue monitoring community metrics and can resume testing for the virus if the need arises.

Mask mandates up for debate across the region
By Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

New Mexico and Colorado have both seen a recent resurgence in COVID-19 infection rates. They’ve both seen a rise in hospitalizations, and in both states, slightly more than 60% of residents are fully vaccinated.

One difference between the two: New Mexico has had a mask mandate since mid-August. During apress conference last Friday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis questioned whether mandates are really effective.

"One hypothesis is that those who are unvaccinated are the least likely to follow a mask order, and obviously if we’re trying to get them to do one thing, it would be to get vaccinated. That’s more important," Polis said.

Vaccines remain contentious, too. Wyoming and Utah lawmakers met separately this fall to craft legislation against vaccine mandates, although Utah was more successful at that. Idaho’s legislature is making a similar attempt with its own special session.

Judge: Vegas man's vote fraud claim 'cheap political stunt'
By The Associated Press

A Nevada judge says a Las Vegas man’s admission that he voted twice in November 2020 in a case that state Republicans seized on to claim voter irregularities amounted to “a cheap political stunt” that backfired. Judge Carli Kierny in Las Vegas said Tuesday that Donald “Kirk” Hartle's guilty plea to voting twice in the same election shows the system actually works because he got caught. Hartle was accused of voting with a ballot that had been mailed to his dead wife. Hartle is chief financial officer of companies owned by state Republican party finance chairman Donald Ahern. He was fined $2,000 and sentenced to what amounts to a year of probation.

Biden administration forming tribal advisory committee
By Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

The White House hosted day two of its summit with Native American leaders Tuesday. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a new initiative to improve consultation between federal authorities and tribal governments.

The Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee, or STAC, will be the first of its kind.

"As the first Native American cabinet secretary and the leader of the department charged with carrying out treaty and trust responsibilities, I want tribal leaders to be able to speak with me directly," Haaland said.

Federal law requires the government to consult with tribal nations on decisions that affect them, but many Native Americans say the process is jammed with red tape or doesn’t allow enough time for community input.

What new clean car standards mean for Nevada drivers and the environment
By Sean Golonka, The Nevada Independent

Nevada recently became the 16th state to adopt California’s clean car standards. State officials and environmental advocates have heralded the decision as a way to not only strengthen emission standards and expand access to electric vehicles, but also to take a major step toward limiting the state’s primary source of pollution.

The approved regulation, also known as Clean Cars Nevada, implements California’s Low Emission Vehicle standards for tailpipe emissions. The regulation also adopts California’s Zero Emission Vehicle program, which requires car manufacturers to produce a certain percentage of zero-emission motor vehicles each year. Both requirements will be effective for model year 2025.

Read the full story at thenevadaindependent.com.

After record low, monarch butterflies return to California
By The Associated Press

There is a ray of hope for the vanishing orange-and-black Western monarch butterflies. The number of creatures wintering along California's central coast is bouncing back after the population reached an all-time low last year. An annual winter count last year by the Xerces Society recorded fewer than 2,000 butterflies, a massive decline from millions in the 1980s. This year’s three-week count started Saturday. An unofficial count by researchers and volunteers shows there are over 50,000 monarchs at overwintering sites. Last year, no butterflies arrived at one of the largest roosting sites, the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in the coastal city of Pacific Grove. This year more than 13,000 monarchs have been counted there.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
Maggie Mullen is a fifth generation Wyomingite, born and raised in Casper. She is currently a Masters candidate in American Studies and will defend her thesis on female body hair in contemporary American culture this May. Before graduate school, she earned her BA in English and French from the University of Wyoming. Maggie enjoys writing, cooking, her bicycle, swimming in rivers and lakes, and most any dog.
Sean Golonka joined The Nevada Independent after working as a contributor for Boston University News Service and a columnist for The Daily Free Press. Sean also worked as a producer for BUTV10's award-winning professional sports talk show Offsides.
Bert is KUNR’s senior correspondent. He covers stories that resonate across Nevada and the region, with a focus on environment, political extremism and Indigenous communities.
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