All About Nevada Geographic Area
Nevada is a state in the Western, Mountain West, and Southwestern regions of the United States. Nevada is the 7th most extensive, the 35th most populous, and the 9th least densely populated of the 50 United States. Nearly three-quarters of Nevada's people live in Clark County, which contains the Las Vegas–Paradise metropolitan area where the state's three largest incorporated cities are located. Nevada's capital is Carson City. Nevada is officially known as the "Silver State" due to the importance of silver to its history and economy. It is also known as the "Battle Born State", because it achieved statehood during the Civil War; as the "Sagebrush State", for the native plant of the same name; and as "Sage hen State".
Nevada is largely desert and semiarid, much of it located within the Great Basin. Areas south of the Great Basin are located within the Mojave Desert, while Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada lie on the western edge. Approximately 86% of the state's land is managed by various jurisdictions of the U.S. federal government, both civilian and military.
Prior to European contact, Native Americans of the Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe tribes inhabited the land comprising the modern state. The first Europeans to explore the region originated from Spain. They gave the region the name of Nevada (snowy) due to the snow which covered the mountains at winter. The area formed part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, becoming part of Mexico when that country gained independence in 1821. The United States acquired the territory in 1848 following its victory in the Mexican-American War, and the area was eventually incorporated as part of Utah Territory in 1850. The discovery of silver at the Comstock Lode in 1859 led to a population boom that became an impetus to the creation of Nevada Territory out of western Utah Territory in 1861. Nevada became the 36th state on October 31, 1864, as the second of two states added to the Union during the Civil War (the first being West Virginia).
Nevada has a reputation for its libertarian laws. With a population of just over 40,000 people, Nevada was by far the least populated state in 1900, with less than half the population of the next least-populated state. However, the establishment of legalized gambling and the adoption of lenient marriage and divorce proceedings in the 20th century transformed Nevada into a major tourist destination. Nevada is the only U.S. state where prostitution is legal, though it is illegal in Clark County and in Washoe County, which contain Las Vegas and Reno, respectively. The tourism industry remains Nevada's largest employer, with mining continuing as a substantial sector of the economy: Nevada is the fourth-largest producer of gold in the world.
The name "Nevada" comes from the Spanish nevada [neˈβaða], meaning "snow-covered", after the Sierra Nevada ("snow-covered mountain range").
Nevadans usually pronounce the second syllable of their state name using the /æ/ vowel of "bad". Many from outside the Western United States pronounce it with the /ɑː/ vowel of "father" /nəˈvɑːdə/. Although the latter pronunciation is closer to the Spanish pronunciation, it is not the pronunciation preferred by Nevadans. State Assemblyman Harry Mortenson proposed a bill to recognize the alternate (quasi-Spanish) pronunciation of Nevada, though the bill was not supported by most legislators and never received a vote. The native pronunciation is the de facto official one, since it is the one used by the state legislature. Notably, the state's official tourism organization, "TravelNevada.com". stylizes the name of the state as Nevăda, with a breve accent over the a indicating the locally preferred pronunciation which is also available as a licence plate design.
Nevada is almost entirely within the Basin and Range Province, and is broken up by many north-south mountain ranges. Most of these ranges have endorheic valleys between them, which belies the image portrayed by the term Great Basin.
Much of the northern part of the state is within the Great Basin, a mild desert that experiences hot temperatures in the summer and cold temperatures in the winter. Occasionally, moisture from the Arizona Monsoon will cause summer thunderstorms; Pacific storms may blanket the area with snow. The state's highest recorded temperature was 125 °F (52 °C) in Laughlin (elevation of 605 feet or 184 metres) on June 29, 1994. The coldest recorded temperature was −52 °F (−47 °C) set in San Jacinto in 1972, in the northeastern portion of the state.
The Humboldt River crosses the state from east to west across the northern part of the state, draining into the Humboldt Sink near Lovelock. Several rivers drain from the Sierra Nevada eastward, including the Walker, Truckee, and Carson rivers. All of these rivers are endorheic basins, ending in Walker Lake, Pyramid Lake, and the Carson Sink, respectively. However, not all of Nevada is within the Great Basin. Tributaries of the Snake River drain the far north, while the Colorado River, which also forms much of the boundary with Arizona, drains much of southern Nevada.
The mountain ranges, some of which have peaks above 13,000 feet (4,000 m), harbor lush forests high above desert plains, creating sky islands for endemic species. The valleys are often no lower in elevation than 3,000 feet (910 m), while some in central Nevada are above 6,000 feet (1,800 m).
The southern third of the state, where the Las Vegas area is situated, is within the Mojave Desert. The area receives less rain in the winter but is closer to the Arizona Monsoon in the summer. The terrain is also lower, mostly below 4,000 feet (1,200 m), creating conditions for hot summer days and cool to chilly winter nights (due to temperature inversion).
Nevada and California have by far the longest diagonal line (in respect to the cardinal directions) as a state boundary at just over 400 miles (640 km). This line begins in Lake Tahoe nearly 4 miles (6.4 km) offshore (in the direction of the boundary), and continues to the Colorado River where the Nevada, California, and Arizona boundaries merge 12 miles (19 km) southwest of the Laughlin Bridge.
The largest mountain range in the southern portion of the state is the Spring Mountain Range, just west of Las Vegas. The state's lowest point is along the Colorado River, south of Laughlin.
Nevada has 172 mountain summits with 2,000 feet (610 m) of prominence. Nevada ranks second in the US, behind Alaska, and ahead of California, Montana, and Washington. This makes Nevada the "Most Mountainous" state in the country, at least by this measure. [clarification needed]
Nevada is the driest state in the United States. It is made up of mostly desert and semiarid climate regions, daytime summer temperatures sometimes may rise as high as 125 °F (52 °C) and nighttime winter temperatures may reach as low as −50 °F (−46 °C). While winters in northern Nevada are long and fairly cold, the winter season in the southern part of the state tends to be of short duration and mild. Most parts of Nevada receive scarce precipitation during the year. Most rain that falls in the state falls on the lee side (east and northeast slopes) of the Sierra Nevada.
The average annual rainfall per year is about 7 inches (18 cm); the wettest parts get around 40 inches (100 cm). Nevada's highest recorded temperature is 125 °F (52 °C) at Laughlin on June 29, 1994 and the lowest recorded temperature is −50 °F (−46 °C) at San Jacinto on January 8, 1937. Nevada's 125 °F (52 °C) reading is the third highest temperature recorded in the U.S. just behind Arizona's 128 °F (53 °C) reading and California's 134 °F (57 °C) reading.
The vegetation of Nevada is diverse and differs by state area. Nevada contains six biotic zones: alpine, sub-alpine, "Ponderosa Pine", "pinion-juniper", "sagebrush" and "creosotebush".
Nevada is divided into political jurisdictions designated as counties. Carson City is officially a consolidated municipality; however, for many purposes under state law it is considered to be a county. As of 1919 there were 17 counties in the state, ranging from 146 to 18,159 square miles (380 to 47,030 km2).
Lake County, one of the original nine counties formed in 1861, was renamed Roop County in 1862. Part of the county became Lassen County, California in 1864. The portion that remained in Nevada was annexed in 1883 by Washoe County.
In 1970 Ormsby County was dissolved and the Consolidated Municipality of Carson City was created by the Legislature in its place co-terminous with the old boundaries of Ormsby County.
Bullfrog County, was formed in 1987 from part of Nye County. After the creation was declared unconstitutional the county was abolished in 1989.
Humboldt county was designated as a county in 1856 by Utah Territorial Legislature and again in 1861 by the new Nevada Legislature.
Clark County is the most populous county in Nevada, accounting for nearly three-quarters of its residents. Las Vegas, Nevada's most populous city, has been the county seat since the county was created. Clark County attracts numerous tourists. An estimated 40 million people have visited Clark County in 2009.
Washoe County is the second most populous county of Nevada. Its county seat is Reno. Washoe County includes the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area.
Lyon County is the third most populous county. It was one of the nine original counties created in 1861. It was named after Nathaniel Lyon, the first Union General to be killed in the Civil War. Its current county seat is Yerington. Its first county seat was established at Dayton on November 29, 1861.
Francisco Garcés was the first European in the area, Nevada was annexed as a part of the Spanish Empire in the northwestern territory of New Spain. Administratively, the area of Nevada was part of the Commandancy General of the Provincias Internas in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Nevada became a part of Alta California (Upper California) province in 1804 when the Californias were split. With the Mexican War of Independence won in 1821, the province of Alta California became a territory - not a state - of Mexico, due to the small population. Jedediah Smith entered the Las Vegas Valley in 1827, and Peter Skene Ogden traveled the Humboldt River in 1828. As a result of the Mexican–American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, Mexico permanently lost Alta California in 1848. The new areas acquired by the United States continued to be administered as territories. As part of the Mexican Cession (1848) and the subsequent California Gold Rush that used Emigrant Trails through the area, the state's area evolved first as part of the Utah Territory, then the Nevada Territory (March 2, 1861; named for the Sierra Nevada).
See History of Utah, History of Las Vegas, and the discovery of the first major U.S. deposit of silver ore in Comstock Lode under Virginia City, Nevada in 1859.
On March 2, 1861, the Nevada Territory separated from the Utah Territory and adopted its current name, shortened from Sierra Nevada (Spanish for "snow-covered mountain range").
The 1861 southern boundary is commemorated by Nevada Historical Markers 57 and 58 in Lincoln and Nye counties.
Eight days prior to the presidential election of 1864, Nevada became the 36th state in the union. Statehood was rushed to the date of October 31 to help ensure Abraham Lincoln's reelection on November 8 and post-Civil War Republican dominance in Congress, as Nevada's mining-based economy tied it to the more industrialized Union. As it turned out, however, Lincoln and the Republicans won the election handily, and did not need Nevada's help.
Nevada is one of only two states to significantly expand its borders after admission to the Union. (The other is Missouri, which acquired additional territory in 1837 due to the Platte Purchase.)
In 1866 another part of the western Utah Territory was added to Nevada in the eastern part of the state, setting the current eastern boundary.
Nevada achieved its current southern boundaries on January 18, 1867, when it absorbed the portion of Pah-Ute County in the Arizona Territory west of the Colorado River, essentially all of present day Nevada south of the 37th parallel. The transfer was prompted by the discovery of gold in the area, and it was thought by officials that Nevada would be better able to oversee the expected population boom. This area includes most of what is now Clark County.
Mining shaped Nevada's economy for many years (see Silver mining in Nevada). When Mark Twain lived in Nevada during the period described in Roughing It, mining had led to an industry of speculation and immense wealth. However, both mining and population declined in the late 19th century. However, the rich silver strike at Tonopah in 1900, followed by strikes in Goldfield and Rhyolite, again put Nevada's population on an upward trend.
Unregulated gambling was commonplace in the early Nevada mining towns but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nation-wide anti-gambling crusade. Because of subsequent declines in mining output and the decline of the agricultural sector during the Great Depression, Nevada again legalized gambling on March 19, 1931, with approval from the legislature. Governor Fred B. Balzar's signature enacted the most liberal divorce laws in the country and open gambling. The reforms came just eight days after the federal government presented the $49 million construction contract for Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam).
The Nevada Test Site, 65 miles (105 km) northwest of the city of Las Vegas, was founded on January 11, 1951, for the testing of nuclear weapons. The site is composed of approximately 1,350 square miles (3,500 km2) of desert and mountainous terrain. Nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site began with a 1 kiloton of TNT (4.2 TJ) bomb dropped on Frenchman Flat on January 27, 1951. The last atmospheric test was conducted on July 17, 1962, and the underground testing of weapons continued until September 23, 1992. The location is known for having the highest concentration of nuclear-detonated weapons in the U.S.
Over 80% of the state's area is owned by the federal government. The primary reason for this is that homesteads were not permitted in large enough sizes to be viable in the arid conditions that prevail throughout desert Nevada. Instead, early settlers would homestead land surrounding a water source, and then graze livestock on the adjacent public land, which is useless for agriculture without access to water (this pattern of ranching still prevails).
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Nevada was 2,839,099 on July 1, 2014, a 5.13% increase since the 2010 United States Census.
According to the Census Bureau's 2014 estimate, Nevada had an estimated population of 2,839,099 which is an increase of 48,963, from the prior year and an increase of 138,548, or 5.13%, since the year 2010. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 81,661 people (that is 170,451 births minus 88,790 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 337,043 people into the state. Immigration resulted in a net increase of 66,098 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 270,945 people. According to the 2006 census estimate, Nevada is the eighth fastest growing state in the nation.
The center of population of Nevada is located in southern Nye County. In this county, the unincorporated town of Pahrump, located 60 miles (97 km) west of Las Vegas on the California state line, has grown very rapidly from 1980 to 2010. At the 2010 census, the town had 36,441 residents. Las Vegas was America's fastest-growing city and metropolitan area from 1960 to 2000, but has grown from a gulch of 100 people in 1900 to 10,000 by 1950 to 100,000 by 1970.
From about the 1940s until 2003, Nevada was the fastest-growing state in the US percentage-wise. Between 1990 and 2000, Nevada's population increased 66%, while the USA's population increased 13%. Over two thirds of the population of the state lives in the Clark County Las Vegas metropolitan area.
Henderson and North Las Vegas are among the USA's top 20 fastest-growing cities of over 100,000.
The rural community of Mesquite located 65 miles (105 km) northeast of Las Vegas was an example of micropolitan growth in the 1990s and 2000s. Other desert towns like Indian Springs and Searchlight on the outskirts of Las Vegas have seen some growth as well.
Large numbers of new residents in the state originate from California, which led some locals to feel that their state is being "Californicated".
A small percentage of Nevada's population lives in rural areas. The culture of these places differs significantly from that of the major metropolitan areas. People in these rural counties tend to be native Nevada residents, unlike in the Las Vegas and Reno areas, where the vast majority of the population was born in another state. The rural population is also less diverse in terms of race and ethnicity. Mining plays an important role in the economies of the rural counties, with tourism being less prominent. Ranching also has a long tradition in rural Nevada.
According to the 2010 census estimates, racial distribution was as follows:
Hispanics or Latinos of any race made 26.5% of the population. In 1970, non-Hispanic whites made up 88% of the state's population.
The principal ancestries of Nevada's residents in 2009 have been surveyed to be the following:
Nevada is home to many cultures and nationalities. As of 2011, 63.6% of Nevada's population younger than age 1 were minorities. Las Vegas is minority majority city . Nevada also has a sizable Basque ancestry population. In Douglas, Mineral and Pershing counties, a plurality of residents are of Mexican ancestry, with Clark County (Las Vegas) alone being home to over 200,000 Mexican Americans. Nye County and Humboldt County have a plurality of Germans; and Washoe County has many Irish Americans. Americans of English descent form pluralities in Lincoln County, Churchill County, Lyon County, White Pine County and Eureka County. Las Vegas is home to rapid-growing ethnic communities, including Scandinavians, Italians, Poles, Greeks, Spaniards and Armenians.
Largely African American sections of Las Vegas ("the Meadows") and Reno can be found. Many current African-American Nevadans are newly transplanted residents from California.
Asian Americans lived in the state since the California Gold Rush of the 1850s brought thousands of Chinese miners to Washoe county. They were followed by a few hundred Japanese farm workers in the late 19th century. By the late 20th century, many immigrants from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and recently from India and Vietnam came to the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The city now has one of America's most prolific Asian American communities, with a mostly Chinese and Taiwanese area known as "Chinatown" west of I-15 on Spring Mountain Boulevard, and an "Asiatown" shopping mall for Asian customers located at Charleston Avenue and Paradise Boulevard. Filipino Americans form the largest Asian American group in the state, with a population of more than 113,000. They comprise 56.5% of the Asian American population in Nevada and constitute about 4.3% of the entire state's population.
According to the 2000 US Census, 16.19% of Nevada's population aged 5 and older speak Spanish at home, while 1.59% speak Filipino, and 1% speak Chinese languages.
At the 2010 census, 6.9% of the state's population were reported as under 5, 24.6% were under 18, and 12.0% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 49.5% of the population.
Las Vegas was a major destination for immigrants from South Asia and Latin America seeking employment in the gaming and hospitality industries during the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century, but farming and construction are the biggest employers of immigrant labor.
Senior citizens (over age 65) and young children or teenagers (under age 18) form large sections of the Nevada population. The religious makeup of Nevadans includes large communities of Mormons, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals; each is known for higher birth rates and a younger than national average age. American Jews represent a large proportion of the active adult retirement community.
Data from 2000 and 2005 suggests the following figures:
Church attendance in Nevada is among the lowest of all US states. In a 2009 Gallup poll only 30% of Nevadans said they attended church weekly or almost weekly, compared to 42% of all Americans (only four states were found to have a lower attendance rate than Nevada).
Major religious affiliations of the people of Nevada are: Roman Catholic 27%, Protestant 26%, Latter-day Saint 11%, Muslim 2%, Jewish 1%, Hindu 1%, and Buddhist 0.5%. The unaffiliated are at 20%. Parts of Nevada (in the eastern parts of the state) are situated in the Mormon Corridor.
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2010 were the Roman Catholic Church with 451,070; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 175,149; and the Southern Baptist Convention with 45,535; Buddhist congregations 14,727; Bahá'í 1,723; and Muslim 1,700.
The economy of Nevada is tied to tourism (especially entertainment and gambling related), mining, and cattle ranching. Nevada's industrial outputs are tourism, mining, machinery, printing and publishing, food processing, and electric equipment. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Nevada's total state product in 2010 was $126 billion. The state's per capita personal income in 2009 was $38,578, ranking nineteenth in the nation. Nevada's state debt in 2012 was calculated to be $7.5 billion, or $3,100 per taxpayer. As of December 2014, the state's unemployment rate was 6.8%.
The economy of Nevada has long been tied to vice industries. "[Nevada was] founded on mining and refounded on sin—-beginning with prizefighting and easy divorce a century ago and later extending to gaming and prostitution", said the August 21, 2010 issue of The Economist. Resort areas like Las Vegas, Reno, Lake Tahoe, and Laughlin attract visitors from around the nation and world. In FY08 the total of 266 casinos with gaming revenue over $1m for the year, brought in revenue of $12 billion in gaming revenue, and $13 billion in non-gaming revenue. A review of gaming statistics can be found at Nevada gaming area.
Nevada has by far the most hotel rooms per capita in the United States. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, there were 187,301 rooms in 584 hotels (of 15 or more rooms). The state is ranked just below California, Texas, Florida, and New York in total number of rooms, but those states have much larger populations. Nevada has one hotel room for every 14 residents, far above the national average of one hotel room per 67 residents.
Prostitution is legal in parts of Nevada in licensed brothels, but only counties with populations under 400,000 residents have the option to legalize it. Although prostitution employs roughly 300 women as independent contractors, and not a major part of the Nevada economy, it is a very visible endeavor. Of the 14 counties that are permitted to legalize prostitution under state law, 8 have chosen to legalize brothels. State law prohibits prostitution in Clark County (which contains Las Vegas), and Washoe County (which contains Reno). However, prostitution is legal in Storey County, which is part of the Reno–Sparks metropolitan area.
In portions of the state outside of the Las Vegas and Reno metropolitan areas mining plays a major economic role. By value, gold is by far the most important mineral mined. In 2004, 6,800,000 ounces (190,000,000 g) of gold worth $2.84 billion were mined in Nevada, and the state accounted for 8.7% of world gold production (see Gold mining in Nevada). Silver is a distant second, with 10,300,000 ounces (290,000,000 g) worth $69 million mined in 2004 (see Silver mining in Nevada). Other minerals mined in Nevada include construction aggregates, copper, gypsum, diatomite and lithium. Despite its rich deposits, the cost of mining in Nevada is generally high, and output is very sensitive to world commodity prices.
Cattle ranching is a major economic activity in rural Nevada. Nevada's agricultural outputs are cattle, hay, alfalfa, dairy products, onions, and potatoes. As of January 1, 2006, there were an estimated 500,000 head of cattle and 70,000 head of sheep in Nevada. Most of these animals forage on rangeland in the summer, with supplemental feed in the winter. Calves are generally shipped to out-of-state feedlots in the fall to be fattened for market. Over 90% of Nevada's 484,000 acres (196,000 ha) of cropland is used to grow hay, mostly alfalfa, for livestock feed.
Nevada does not have a state income tax.
The state sales tax(similar to VAT or GST) in Nevada is variable depending upon the county. The minimum statewide tax rate is 6.85%, with five counties (Elko, Esmeralda, Eureka, Humboldt, and Mineral) charging this minimum amount. All other counties assess various option taxes, making the combined state/county sales taxes rate in one county as high as 8.1%, which is the amount charged in Clark County. Sales tax in the other major counties: Carson at 7.745%, Washoe at 7.725%. The minimum Nevada sales tax rate changed on July 1, 2009.
The largest employers in the state, as of the first fiscal quarter of 2011, are the following, according to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation:
Amtrak's California Zephyr train uses the Union Pacific's original transcontinental railroad line in daily service from Chicago to Emeryville, California, serving Elko, Winnemucca, and Reno. Amtrak Thruway Motorcoaches also provide connecting service from Las Vegas to trains at Needles, California, Los Angeles, and Bakersfield, California; and from Stateline, Nevada, to Sacramento, California. Las Vegas has had no passenger train service since Amtrak's Desert Wind was discontinued in 1997, although there have been a number of proposals to re-introduce service to either Los Angeles or Southern California.
The Union Pacific Railroad has some railroads in the north and in the south. Greyhound Lines provides some bus service.
Interstate 15 passes through the southern tip of the state, serving Las Vegas and other communities. I-215 and spur route I-515 also serve the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Interstate 80 crosses through the northern part of Nevada, roughly following the path of the Humboldt River from Utah in the east and passing westward through Reno and into California. It has a spur route, I-580. Nevada also is served by several federal highways: US 6, US 50, US 93, US 95 and US 395. There are also 189 Nevada state highways. Many of Nevada's counties have a system of county routes as well, though many are not signed or paved in rural areas. Nevada is one of a few states in the U.S. that does not have a continuous interstate highway linking its two major population centers. Even the non-interstate federal highways aren't contiguous between the Las Vegas and Reno areas.
The state is one of just a few in the country to allow semi-trailer trucks with three trailers—what might be called a "road train" in Australia. But American versions are usually smaller, in part because they must ascend and descend some fairly steep mountain passes.
RTC Transit is the public transit system in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The agency is the largest transit agency in the state and operates a network of bus service across the Las Vegas Valley, including the use of The Deuce, double-decker buses, on the Las Vegas Strip and several outlying routes. RTC RIDE operates a system of local transit bus service throughout the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area. Other transit systems in the state include Carson City's JAC. Most other counties in the state do not have public transportation at all.
Additionally, a 4-mile (6.4 km) monorail system provides public transportation in the Las Vegas area. The Las Vegas Monorail line services several casino properties and the Las Vegas Convention Center on the east side of the Las Vegas Strip, running near Paradise Road, with a possible future extension to McCarran International Airport. Several hotels also run their own monorail lines between each other, which are typically several blocks in length.
McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is the busiest airport serving Nevada. The Reno-Tahoe International Airport (formerly known as the Reno Cannon International Airport) is the other major airport in the state.
The government of Nevada is defined under the Constitution of Nevada as a democratic republic with three branches of government: the executive branch consisting of the Governor of Nevada and their cabinet along with the other elected constitutional officers; the legislative branch consisting of the Nevada Legislature which includes the Assembly and the Senate; and the judicial branch consisting of the Supreme Court of Nevada and lower courts.
The Governor of Nevada is the chief magistrate of Nevada, the head of the executive department of the state's government, and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The current Governor of Nevada is Brian Sandoval, a Republican.
The Nevada Legislature is a bicameral body divided into an Assembly and Senate. Members of the Assembly serve for 2 years, and members of the Senate serve for 4 years. Both houses of the Nevada Legislature will be impacted by term limits starting in 2010, as Senators and Assemblymen/women will be limited to a maximum of 12 years service in each house (by appointment or election which is a lifetime limit)—a provision of the constitution which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court of Nevada in a unanimous decision. Each session of the Legislature meets for a constitutionally mandated 120 days in every odd-numbered year, or longer if the Governor calls a special session.
The Supreme Court of Nevada is the state supreme court. Original jurisdiction is divided between the District Courts (with general jurisdiction), and Justice Courts and Municipal Courts (both of limited jurisdiction).
Incorporated towns in Nevada, known as cities, are given the authority to legislate anything not prohibited by law. A recent movement has begun to permit home rule in incorporated Nevada cities to give them more flexibility and fewer restrictions from the Legislature. Town Boards for unincorporated towns are limited local governments created by either the local county commission, or by referendum, and form a purely advisory role and in no way diminish the responsibilities of the county commission that creates them.
State departments and agencies:
In 1900, Nevada's population was the smallest of all states and was shrinking, as the difficulties of living in a "barren desert" began to outweigh the lure of silver for many early settlers. Historian Lawrence Friedman has explained what happened next:
With the advent of air conditioning for summertime use and Southern Nevada's mild winters, the fortunes of the state began to turn around, as it did for Arizona, making these two states the fastest growing in the Union.
Nevada is the only state where prostitution is legal (under the form of licensed brothels).
Prostitution is specifically illegal by state law in the state's larger jurisdictions, which include Clark County (which contains Las Vegas), Washoe County (which contains Reno), and the independent city of Carson City. Otherwise, it is legal in those counties which specifically vote to permit it.
Nevada's early reputation as a "divorce haven" arose from the fact that, prior to the no-fault divorce revolution in the 1970s, divorces were quite difficult to obtain in the United States. Already having legalized gaming and prostitution, Nevada continued the trend of boosting its profile by adopting one of the most liberal divorce statutes in the nation. This resulted in Williams v. North Carolina (1942), 317 U.S. 287 (1942), in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina had to give "full faith and credit" to a Nevada divorce.
Nevada's divorce rate tops the national average.
Nevada's tax laws are intended to draw new residents and businesses to the state. Nevada has no personal income tax or corporate income tax. Since Nevada does not collect income data it cannot share such information with the federal government, the IRS.
Nevada's state sales tax rate is 6.85 percent. Counties may impose additional rates via voter approval or through approval of the Legislature; therefore, the applicable sales tax will vary by county from 6.85 percent to 8.1 percent in Clark County. Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, imposes four separate county option taxes in addition to the statewide rate – 0.25 percent for flood control, 0.50 percent for mass transit, 0.25 percent for infrastructure, and 0.25 percent for more cops. In Washoe County, which includes Reno, the sales tax rate is 7.725 percent, due to county option rates for flood control, the ReTRAC train trench project, mass transit, and an additional county rate approved under the Local Government Tax Act of 1991.
The lodging tax rate in unincorporated Clark County, which includes the Las Vegas Strip, is 12%. Within the boundaries of the cities of Las Vegas and Henderson, the lodging tax rate is 13%.
Corporations such as Apple Inc. allegedly have set up investment companies and funds in Nevada to avoid paying taxes.
In 2009, the Nevada Legislature passed a bill creating a domestic partnership registry that enables gay couples to enjoy the same rights as married couples.
Nevada provides friendly environment for the formation of corporations, and many (especially California) businesses have incorporated in Nevada to take advantage of the benefits of the Nevada statute. Nevada corporations offer great flexibility to the Board of Directors and simplify or avoid many of the rules that are cumbersome to business managers in some other states. In addition, Nevada has no franchise tax, although it does require businesses to have a license for which the business has to pay the state.
Similarly, many U.S. states have usury laws limiting the amount of interest a lender can charge, but federal law allows corporations to 'import' these laws from their home state.
Non-alcohol drug laws are a notable exception to Nevada's otherwise libertarian principles. It is notable for having the harshest penalties for drug offenders in the country. Nevada remains the only state to still use mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for marijuana possession. However, it is now a misdemeanor for possession of less than one ounce but only for persons age 21 and older. In 2006, voters in Nevada defeated attempts to allow possession of 1 ounce of marijuana (for personal use) without being criminally prosecuted, (55% against legalization, 45% in favor of legalization). However, Nevada is one of the states that allows for use of marijuana for medical reasons (though this remains illegal under federal law).
Nevada has very liberal alcohol laws. Bars are permitted to remain open 24 hours, with no "last call". Liquor stores, convenience stores and supermarkets may also sell alcohol 24 hours per day, and may sell beer, wine and spirits.
Nevada voters enacted a smoking ban ("The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act") in November 2006 that became effective on December 8, 2006. It outlaws smoking in most workplaces and public places. Smoking is permitted in bars, but only if the bar serves no food, or the bar is inside a larger casino. Smoking is also permitted in casinos, certain hotel rooms, tobacco shops, and brothels. However, some businesses do not obey this law and the government tends not to enforce it. In 2011, smoking restrictions in Nevada were loosened for certain places which allow only people age 21 or older inside.
In 2006, the crime rate in Nevada was approximately 24% higher than the national average rate, though crime has since decreased. Property crimes accounted for approximately 85% of the total crime rate in Nevada, which was 21% higher than the national rate. The remaining 20.3% were violent crimes. A complete listing of crime data in the state for 2013 can be found here:
Due to heavy growth in the southern portion of the state, there is a noticeable divide between politics of northern and southern Nevada. The north has long maintained control of key positions in state government, even while the population of southern Nevada is larger than the rest of the state combined. The north sees the high population south becoming more influential and perhaps commanding majority rule. The south sees the north as the "old guard" trying to rule as an oligarchy. This has fostered some resentment, however, due to a term limit amendment passed by Nevada voters in 1994, and again in 1996, some of the north's hold over key positions will soon be forfeited to the south, leaving Northern Nevada with less power.
Historically, northern Nevada has been very Republican. The more rural counties of the north are among the most conservative regions of the country. Washoe County, home to Reno, has historically been strongly Republican, but has become more of a swing county at least at the federal level. Clark County, home to Las Vegas, has become increasingly Democratic.
Clark and Washoe counties have long dominated the state's politics. Between them, they cast 87 percent of Nevada's vote, and elect a substantial majority of the state legislature. The great majority of the state's elected officials are either from Las Vegas or Reno.
An August 2012 Public Policy Polling survey found that 47% of Nevada voters supported legalizing same-sex marriage, with 42% thinking it should be illegal, and 11% were not sure. In a separate question, 80% of Nevada voters supported legal recognition of same-sex couples, while 17% opposed all legal recognition and 3% were not sure.
Nevada has voted for the winner in every presidential election since 1912, except in 1976 when it voted for Gerald Ford over Jimmy Carter. This includes Nevada supporting Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and Democrat Barack Obama winning the state in both 2008 and 2012. This gives the state status as a political bellwether. Since 1912, Nevada has been carried by the presidential victor the most out of any state (25 of 26 elections). Nevada was one of only three states won by John F. Kennedy in the American West in the election of 1960, albeit narrowly.
The state's U.S. Senators are Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate Minority Leader, and Republican Dean Heller. The Governorship is held by Brian Sandoval, a Republican from Las Vegas.
Education in Nevada is achieved through public and private elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges and universities.
There are 68 designated wilderness areas in Nevada, protecting some 6,579,014 acres (2,662,433 ha) under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management.
The Nevada state parks comprise protected areas managed by the state of Nevada, including state parks, state historic sites, and state recreation areas. There are currently 24 state park units, including Van Sickle Bi-State Park which opened in July 2011 and is operated in partnership with the state of California.
Nevada is not well known for its professional sports teams, but the state takes pride in college sports, most notably its college football. Especially the Nevada Wolf Pack (representing the University of Nevada, Reno) of the Mountain West Conference (MW)—and the UNLV Rebels (representing the University of Nevada, Las Vegas), also of the MW. In 2012, The University of Nevada, Reno joined its cross-state rival in the MW.
UNLV is most remembered for its men's basketball program, which experienced its height of supremacy in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Coached by Jerry Tarkanian, the Runnin' Rebels became one of the most elite programs in the country. In 1990, UNLV won the Men's Division I Championship by defeating Duke 103–73, which set tournament records for most points scored by a team and largest margin of victory in the national title game.
In 1991, UNLV finished the regular season undefeated, a feat that would not be matched in Division I men's basketball for more than 20 years. Forward Larry Johnson won several awards, including the Naismith Award. UNLV reached the Final Four yet again, but lost their national semifinal against Duke 79–77. The Runnin' Rebels were the Associated Press pre-season No. 1 back to back (1989–90, 1990–91). North Carolina is the only other team to accomplish that (2007–08, 2008–09).
Las Vegas has hosted several professional boxing matches, most recently at the MGM Grand Garden Arena with bouts such as Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield, Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II, Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao.
Along with significant rises in popularity in mixed martial arts (MMA), a number of fight leagues such as the UFC have taken interest in Las Vegas as a primary event location due to the number of suitable host venues. The Mandalay Bay Events Center and MGM Grand Garden Arena are among some of the more popular venues for fighting events such as MMA and have hosted several UFC and other MMA title fights. The city has held the most UFC events with 86 events.
The state is also home to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which hosts the Kobalt Tools 400. The Thomas & Mack Center, home to UNLV men's basketball, also hosts two major rodeo events—the National Finals Rodeo and the PBR World Finals, the latter operated by the bull riding-only Professional Bull Riders. Finally, Sam Boyd Stadium, home to the UNLV football team, also hosts the country's biggest rugby event, the USA Sevens tournament in the IRB Sevens World Series and the AMA Supercross Championship.
The state is also home to one of the most famous tennis players of all time, Andre Agassi.
The Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame provides educational resources and promotes the aerospace and aviation history of the state.
Several United States Navy ships have been named USS Nevada in honor of the state. They include:
Area 51 is located near Groom Lake, a dry salt lake bed. The much smaller Creech Air Force Base is located in Indian Springs, Nevada; Hawthorne Army Depot in Hawthorne; the Tonopah Test Range near Tonopah; and Nellis AFB in the northeast part of the Las Vegas Valley. Naval Air Station Fallon in Fallon; NSAWC, (pronounced "EN-SOCK") in western Nevada. NSAWC consolidated three Command Centers into a single Command Structure under a flag officer on July 11, 1996. The Naval Strike Warfare Center (STRIKE "U") based at NAS Fallon since 1984, was joined with the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Weapons School (TOPDOME) which both moved from NAS Miramar as a result of a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decision in 1993 which transferred that installation back to the Marine Corps as MCAS Miramar. The Seahawk Weapon School was added in 1998 to provide tactical training for Navy helicopters.
These bases host a number of activities including the Joint Unmanned Aerial Systems Center of Excellence, the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, Nevada Test and Training Range, Red Flag, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the United States Air Force Warfare Center, the United States Air Force Weapons School, and the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School.
"Goldfield" by Rocky Votolato off of the album "Makers" (2006)
Nevada enjoys many economic advantages, and the southern portion of the state enjoys mild winter weather, but rapid growth has led to some overcrowded roads and schools. Nevada has the nation's 5th largest school district in the Clark County School District (projected fall 2007 enrollment is 314,000 students grades K-12).
Coyote Springs is a proposed community for 240,000 inhabitants in Clark and Lincoln counties. It would be Nevada's largest planned city. The town is being developed by Harvey Whittemore and has generated some controversy because of environmental concerns and allegations of political favoritism.