Nevada Governor pumps the brakes on Innovation Zones

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak delivers his 2021 State of the State speech. - photo: State of Nevada

Today, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced his intention to create a special joint committee to allow the continued analysis and exploration of Innovation Zones beyond the 2021 Legislative Session.  

The Governor proposed legislation for consideration in the 2021 Legislative Session to authorize the establishment of “Innovation Zones.” According to the Governor, “the zones are a unique form of local government on private land, for the purpose of creating favorable conditions for the advancement of innovative technologies and accelerating the State’s growing economic diversification and ability to attract advanced technology industries prepared to invest in the State’s success.”

The plan has drawn fire from many quarters. In a press release, the Governor said they will not put forward legislation to create the zones this legislative session. 

“As the State of Nevada and the Nevada Legislature necessarily continue to direct their energies to the impact of and critical response to COVID-19 and the global pandemic, as well as budgetary and other issues raised during the 2021 Session, fully analyzing the potential benefits and impacts of legislation authorizing Innovation Zones remains challenging during the current legislative session,” the Governor’s Office wrote in a press release.

Instead, lawmakers will form a special joint committee through a Concurrent Resolution by the Nevada Legislature. The Concurrent Resolution will allow for the appointment of a special joint committee by Legislative Leadership.

“I recognize there are limitations that come with a biennial 120-day session – never mind one taking place in the midst of a historic pandemic that requires state officials and legislators to direct their energies to the impact of COVID and the critical response needed,” said Governor Sisolak. “Innovation Zones is a bold proposal for our State that deserves additional attention and discussion – and not under the pressure of less than 40 remaining days in the current legislative session. I know that legislators, stakeholders and Nevadans still have questions, and I want those questions to be discussed and answered. I want people to be enthusiastic about this opportunity, not skeptical about a fast-tracked bill. Nevadans deserve that, and I believe this Special Joint Committee is a perfect solution to explore this economic opportunity.” 

Speaker of the Assembly Jason Frierson and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro expressed support for the Governor’s decision to defer Innovation Zone legislation. 

“This plan will allow for additional time to vet this proposal and include critical stakeholders, including tribal leaders, water authorities, environmental groups, labor organizations, economic development authorities, local jurisdictions, and interested tenants,” said Majority Leader Cannizzaro. “This alternative proposal allows legislators and Nevadans the ability to fully vet and remain open to economic opportunities that can create high-skilled, high-paying jobs for Nevadans.” 

“A special joint committee gives this economic policy proposal the dedicated space and time needed to have productive conversation and determine what works best for Nevada,” said Speaker Frierson. “We understand that there are outstanding questions that deserve discussion and vetting, and this path forward will allow us to remain open to economic diversification while determining the full impact to our State.”