Nevada lawmakers start study of Sisolak's 'Innovation Zones'

Nevada lawmakers start study of Sisolak's 'Innovation Zones'
A rendering of Blockchains LLC's proposed Painted Rock Smart City concept. (Credit: EYRC Architects + Tom Wiscombe Architecture)

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada lawmakers convened on Thursday to discuss whether to allow technology companies to exercise powers similar to those of local governments, if they own land and promise investment.

The “Innovation Zones” proposal first appeared in Gov. Steve Sisolak’s State of the State address but was never introduced in the Legislature after resistance from local officials, environmentalists and progressive groups who likened it to 19th century company towns.

Sisolak framed the proposal as a vehicle to diversify Nevada’s economy but amid opposition, it was scaled back to a study to assuage concerns and allow lawmakers, local officials and the public to get their questions answered, the governor said.

Under the initial proposal, any technology company that possesses 78 square miles (202 square kilometers) of land and promised to invest $1.25 billion could apply to form an Innovation Zone where a governing body could create court systems, impose taxes and make land and water management decisions. Two of the three officials would initially be company-appointed.

Although the company did not appear in the proposal’s draft language, it was pushed behind the scenes by lobbyists for Blockchains, a digital record-keeping company that owns almost half of rural Storey County, in the desert east of Reno.