CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The Nevada statehouse will reopen Thursday after more than two months of being shuttered to the public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Brenda Erdoes announced Friday evening that staff planned to launch an electronic reservation system for members of the public — including lobbyists, activists and others — to make appointments to meet in-person with lawmakers or attend committee hearings, which have been conducted virtually up to this point.
Erdoes' highly anticipated announcement comes 11 weeks into the part-time Legislature's 16-week biennial session, throughout which the normally bustling corridors of the statehouse have been almost empty, apart from lawmakers, their staffs and a limited number of reporters — all of whom have been asked to wear masks and submit to testing on a weekly basis.
People working in the legislative building have also all been given the opportunity to be vaccinated against the virus.
“Now that all of the people working in the Legislative Building have had an opportunity to receive a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, we are able to begin opening the Legislative Building to the public," Erdoes said in a statement.
Appointment slots will open on Tuesday and visitors will be permitted in the building on Thursday. Visitors will be required to take rapid tests, which will be offered without cost in the parking lot outside of the building. Those with proof of vaccination may bypass testing.
Legislative staff have also assembled metal detectors and bag scanners at the front entrance of the building, mirroring actions taken in other states to beef up security following months armed protests at statehouses and the storming of the U.S. Capitol in January.
Nevada lawmakers are expected to deliberate over criminal justice reforms, election policies and whether to allow for the creation of “Innovation Zones” to attract technology companies to the state in the upcoming weeks. States throughout the U.S. have conducted hearings in divergent ways, with some operating completely remotely and others proceeding as they normally do, without mask requirements or mitigation measures.
Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.