The idea got a frosty reception in rural Nevada, but U.S. Sen. Harry Reid says he intends to keep pushing for the withdrawal of 805,100 acres of federal land in Lincoln and Nye counties.
In September, Reid quietly introduced legislation that would restrict mining and energy exploration over a 1,250-square-mile area of Garden Valley and Coal Valley. In his first comments on the bill, Reid said in an interview Friday that segregating the land would preserve the massive “City” sculpture that noted artist Michael Heizer is constructing about 160 miles northwest of Las Vegas in Garden Valley
“He’s a very famous man,” the Nevada Democrat said of Heizer. “Fortunately he has Nevada connections and he wanted to do something that would be lasting, and this (sculpture) will last forever.”
Conservationists describe the valleys as scenic and unspoiled basin and range that provide habitat for mule deer and Pronghorn antelope and contain ancient Native American trails and rock shelters. The withdrawal area includes the White River Narrows, a district of native rock art.
Reid contended the area is not of much economic use. His bill would allow grazing but forbid federal land sales or leasing for mining or renewable energy development.
“Mining interests there are negligible,” he said. “Water is very limited. I don’t know what ability there is for anyone to farm, which is zero.”
Nonetheless, Lincoln County officials have opposed restricting development over such a sweeping region, and the Nye County commissioner who represents part of the area said she was surprised by the bill.
“City” has been described as one of the most ambitious pieces of art ever. A mile and a half long and 900 feet wide, it is constructed mostly of earth, rocks and concrete and was inspired by the architecture of ancient cities of South and Central America.
People will have to walk through “City,” much as they would a real city, to take it all in. Some who have seen the almost-finished work say it is awe-inspiring; others have called it a massive eyesore.
Reid predicted the project when completed and opened to the public will increase tourism “a million-fold” to a remote part of Nevada.
“I think this work of art is going to be historic,” Reid said. “I am going to do everything I can to have this as part of Nevada.”
— Steve Tetreault
SANDOVAL: TAX INTERNET SALES
You can add Gov. Brian Sandoval’s name to a list of governors who are calling on Congress to pass legislation allowing states to collect taxes on Internet purchases.
Sandoval said last week that he does support the Marketplace Fairness Act, which passed the Senate in May 2013. It is awaiting action in the House.
Retailers currently are required by law to collect sales and use taxes only for states in which they have a physical presence.
States are losing about $23 billion a year in sales taxes because residents are buying things online instead of at brick-and-mortar retail stores, according to information provided by the National Governors Association.
A dozen governors of both parties are calling on Congress to pass the measure.
“No matter how you do business in a state, you have to play by that state’s rules. Marketplace Fairness lets competition, not tax loopholes, determine who will thrive in our modern marketplace,” said governors association Executive Director Dan Crippen earlier this month. “It is fair, simple and good for Main Street business. It preserves Main Street jobs, encourages competition and helps states.”
Sandoval early in his first term brokered a deal with retail giant Amazon to voluntarily collect sales taxes on Internet purchases in Nevada.
The collections began Jan. 1 and were estimated to bring in $16 million a year in additional sales taxes.
Sandoval and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., disagree on the issue.
Heller voted against the measure.
— Sean Whaley
GOVERNOR MUM ON DETAILS
If you want to know what Gov. Brian Sandoval has planned for the state for the next two years, then you will have to tune in to his State of the State address Jan. 15 like everyone else.
Sandoval said last week that details of his budget for the next two years are being finalized and won’t be released until then.
Despite repeated queries from reporters, he said that he won’t give away any of his plans on how he plans to increase funding for education or resolve other budget challenges until then.
“We’re still building the budget as we speak,” he said. “It’s very complicated, and we have some challenges we haven’t had before.”
Sandoval declined to talk about the potential of seeking new tax revenue and sidestepped questions about whether he will seek to yet again extend a package of taxes set to expire June 30.
“That’s the purpose of the State of the State, to present the budget, and today is not the day to do that,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s wise or good policy for me to be giving the State of the State on Dec. 9.”
— Sean Whaley
NEW JOB FOR HECK
Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., will have new responsibility in the new Congress. He was named chairman of the House subcommittee that handles military pay raises and benefits.
The job will boost Heck’s visibility and clout when the House Armed Services Committee writes its annual defense bill.
Compensation and housing issues that directly affect the wallets of those in uniform are among the most closely monitored parts of the defense budget.
An independent Military Compensation and Retirement Commission that was formed to review potential pay and benefits reforms is expected to report its recommendations to Congress in February.
The Military Times Media Group reported that Heck will be in charge “of what could be one of the dominant military budget storylines next year.”
Heck, a brigadier general in the Army Reserve, also becomes the first Iraq War veteran to head the Military Personnel Subcommittee.
“For more than 23 years, I have dedicated my career to protecting the morale and welfare of our troops, and it has been my life’s honor to care for our men and women in uniform as a physician in the U.S. Army Reserve,” Heck said in a statement accepting the post.
— Steve Tetreault
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC. Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.