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Nevada Governor Lombardo’s administration ends COVID declarations, orders review of state employment

Ben Kieckhefer is smiling and wearing a gray suit with a red tie. He’s outside in front of a building and a tree.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Ben Kieckhefer, chief of staff for Republican Governor Joe Lombardo, at the Nevada State Capitol in Carson City., Nev., on Jan. 6, 2023.

Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo signed two executive orders related to COVID-19 and state employees during his first week in office.

Lombardo’s chief of staff, Ben Kieckhefer, outlined some of the administration’s goals in a briefing with reporters in Carson City.

In a mostly symbolic executive order, Lombardo rescinded all COVID-19-era declarations. Most of which have been inactive for more than a year. These include closures, social distancing, and capacity limits. Former Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak ended the state of emergency in May 2022.

Lombardo also ordered the state to review and recommend changes to hiring and retaining state employees. Currently, there is a 24% vacancy rate, according to Kieckhefer.

“The second part of that executive order is a directive to prepare for a return to pre-pandemic normalcy for working conditions. So, starting at the next fiscal year, we expect everyone to be working back in normal hours in a physical office.”

Kieckhefer said the administration is committed to giving state employees a raise, but didn’t specify by how much.

Another goal of the administration includes expanding school choice, which would allow parents to use state money for private-school education. Kieckhefer said the governor would provide more concrete details during the “State of the State” address on January 23.

“We believe in this sort of holistic school choice. That includes choice within the private system, choice within the traditional public system, choice within public charters,” Kieckhefer said. “I think school choice is growing in popularity amongst constituents throughout the state, whether they’re represented by Republicans or Democrats.”

Kieckhefer said the administration doesn’t have immediate goals to rescind Sisolak’s executive order to prevent the state from working with others to prosecute people for seeking an abortion in Nevada.

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
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