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KUNR Today: Cortez Masto outraising GOP opponents, Reno eyes two hotels for affordable housing

Catherine Cortez Masto sits in the center of a table with five other people. There is a firefighter in a white shirt and black tie on either side of her. Everyone is masked and looking to a man in the forefront who is out of focus.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022.

Cortez Masto raised $3.3M last quarter, double her GOP foes
By The Associated Press

Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto raised $3.3 million the last three months of 2021 in her bid for reelection in the swing state of Nevada. It's more than twice as much as either of the leading candidates seeking the Republican nomination to try to unseat her.

Former GOP state Attorney General Adam Laxalt reported raising $1.35 million for the quarter and Republican Sam Brown $1.06 million. Cortez Masto finished the year with $10.4 million cash on hand.

Her campaign said Tuesday that's a record for a Senate candidate in Nevada. The $3.3 million she raised the last three months of the year was also a record for the quarter.

Reno eyes 2 downtown hotels to convert to affordable housing
By The Associated Press

The Reno City Council is moving forward with plans to buy two older downtown hotels as part of a plan to convert them into apartment buildings with affordable housing. The council agreed on Friday to authorize city officials to make offers for the purchase of the the Bonanza Inn and Sundowner Hotel and Casino.

Mayor Hillary Schieve told KOLO-TV they could provide 300 to 400 affordable housing units in downtown Reno. Schieve says the goal is to invest $200 million into affordable workforce and transitional housing. She says they’re currently targeting existing buildings because they can rehabilitate them faster than building new structures.

Educators look for alternatives as staffing shortages impact schools
By Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

As the pandemic continues, states in our region are struggling with staffing shortages in schools, correctional facilities and hospitals, but the educational impact is especially prevalent. New Mexico asked National Guard troops to volunteer as substitute teachers. And later this month, Nevada regulators will decide whether to continue certifying people with high school diplomas as subs.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox is taking a novel approach: He issued an executive order so state employees can take time off from their regular jobs to fill in as teachers. Heidi Matthews believes that will bring much-needed relief for educators, who have been filling in for colleagues who come down with COVID.

Matthews is the president of the Utah Education Association, a teachers’ union. She said the state was struggling to staff schools even before the pandemic, and she hopes the crisis will build support for long-term solutions to issues like low teacher pay.

"Retention is the best recruitment," she said.

According to Matthews, changes to school funding and federal COVID-19 relief are turning things around.

Universal health care bill fails to pass in California
By The Associated Press

A bill that would have created the nation's only universal health care system has failed to pass the California Legislature. The bill had to pass by midnight on Monday to have a chance at becoming law this year. But the bill never came up for a vote.

Democratic Assemblymember Ash Kalra, who authored the bill, said it did not have enough support to pass. The California Nurses Association condemned the decision, accusing Kalra of giving up on patients. A separate bill would have raised taxes on businesses and individuals to pay for the system. Both bills likely will not pass this year.

Dry January means less water than normal in California snow
By The Associated Press

The water contained in California's mountain snow is now at 92% of its historical average after a January without significant amounts of rain or snow. That's a dramatic swing from December, when heavy precipitation put the snowpack's water content at 160% of the average.

The state Department of Water Resources issued snow measurements on Tuesday. The low January precipitation is disappointing news for California, which needs a wet winter to reduce drought conditions. Much of the state is still in severe drought though overall conditions have improved since last winter. Snow that melts in the mountains and runs down into California’s lower elevations makes up about a third of the state’s water supply.

Tribes, Western leaders say EPA's methane plan doesn't go far enough
By Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Methane pollution from oil and gas development is a big health and environmental hazard. The Environmental Protection Agency has a new proposal to address it, but some in our region say it’s not enough.

Tribal leaders and Western officials say the EPA’s proposal is a good start. It could curb millions of tons of oil and gas methane pollution, but they also want things like regular monitoring of the many small oil and gas wells dotting our region.

"We need to talk about these orphan wells, and how chemicals contaminate our air, our soil and even the smallest leaks hurt the local environment, and it's hurting communities of color pretty specifically," said New Mexico State Representative Kristina Ortez.

The EPA’s current proposal would only require that smaller oil and gas facilities undergo a one-time inspection.

Doctors, EMTs pull out of consideration for Nevada execution
By The Associated Press

Nevada state officials are telling a federal judge the two doctors who would oversee an execution by an end-of-February deadline don’t want to be publicly identified and are no longer being considered.

State Department of Corrections operations official William Gittere says two emergency medical technicians also withdrew their names and he's looking for replacements. That's after U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware II said he wanted to see the credentials of medical personnel who might attend Zane Floyd’s lethal injection.

The judge plans a hearing Thursday in ongoing proceedings about whether Nevada’s plan to use a never-before-tried combination of drugs would result in an unconstitutionally cruel and inhumane death. One of the drugs the state would use expires Feb. 28.

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