by Jeniffer Solis, Nevada Current
December 16, 2021
WASHINGTON–The Nevada National Security Site, a.k.a. the test site, will get an extra $135 million in the massive defense authorization bill the Senate passed Wednesday. The House already passed the $770 billion bill.
And under separate legislation, the Commerce Department will get a new assistant secretary focused on tourism.
Those were some of the legislative points Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen highlighted on a call with media Wednesday.
Rosen praised the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (NDAA). The $768.2 billion bill, which passed easily with broad bipartisan support, includes a 2.7% pay raise for service members, increased parental leave to 12 weeks for all active duty service members, and housing cost assistance for service members.
The Senator highlighted the bill’s benefits to Nevada, including $135 million for a major ongoing construction project at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) needed to verify the reliability of the nation’s nuclear stockpile without having to detonate a weapon, as well as long-term funding for the site.
The bill also includes $80 million for four MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft, a program at Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base. Another $16.4 million is included in the bill to construct a Mission Support Facility and a Warrior Fitness Training Center at Creech.
Rosen also touted the Omnibus Travel and Tourism Act of 2021, of which she was an original co-sponsor. The bill advanced through the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Wednesday with bipartisan support.
As tourism has languished due to the pandemic, the legislative package is focused on restoring the tourism industry as it faces ongoing challenges.
Rosen, the Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, said the bill was a result of months of meetings with the tourism industry. The Senator said she would continue to work on passing the omnibus bill through the Senate.
Tourism employs nearly 350,000 Nevadans and although the state’s economy has slowly recovered the unemployment rate remains the worst in the country. In the Las Vegas metro area, visitor volume is still down 7.6% and hotel room occupancy is down 8.4% compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
There were nearly 100,000 more jobs in Nevada in October than there were 12 months earlier, but the workforce was still about 80,000 jobs shy of pre-pandemic levels, with jobs failing to return in the leisure and hospitality sector accounting for the shortfall, according to data released by the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation last month.
“Over the past two years our state’s travel and tourism industry has faced major disruptions because of the COVID-19 pandemic and we know just how important tourism and travel are to Nevada’s economy,” Rosen said in a statement.
The legislation includes provisions to study the impacts of COVID-19 on the travel and tourism industry, elevate travel and tourism matters at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and facilitate international travel and set visitation goals for international travelers to the U.S.
Rosen highlighted the fact that the bill creates an Assistant Commerce Secretary for Travel and Tourism position to provide federal leadership. The legislation authorizes a pilot program that enhances security and facilitation by streamlining the entry process for international arrivals at U.S. airports.
“More than any other state, tourism and travel are essential to Nevada’s economy,” Rosen said.
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