Reason Roundup

Tech Companies Could Form Their Own Governments Under a New Nevada Proposal

Plus: Replacing cops with health care workers saves lives, tech policy advice for President Biden, and more...

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Nevada aims to bring innovative entrepreneurs to the state without forcing the public to foot the bill.  An unusual proposal from Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak may help attract to his state some tech companies fleeing from Silicon Valley—while also making Nevada a positive model for experimental government.

Sisolak wants to allow "innovative technology" companies to run their own "alternative form of local government," operating schools and courts, imposing taxes, and doing other things expected of and allowed by municipal and county authorities.

Under Sisolak's draft plan, the Governor's Office of Economic Development will consider "Innovation Zone" proposals from tech companies that own at least 50,000 acres of undeveloped land in an area of the state that doesn't already belong to a city or town. If chosen, a company must invest at least $250 million into the area upfront plus another $1 billion over the next ten years.

The new tech-backed towns and cities would initially be governed by existing authorities in the county they're located in, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which first reported on the plan. But the goal is for the new innovation zones to be run by a three-member board of supervisors and other mechanisms of an independent local government.

"During his speech last month, Sisolak specifically named Blockchains, LLC as a company that had committed to developing a 'smart city' in the area east of Reno that would run entirely on blockchain technology, once the legislation passes," the Review-Journal reports.

Sisolak said his goal was to attract new and innovative tech businesses without the usual offering of all sorts of publicly-funded perks and special tax abatements.

The current model for local governance in Nevada is "inadequate alone to provide the flexibility and resources conducive to making the State a leader in attracting and retaining new forms and types of businesses and fostering economic development in emerging technologies and innovative industries," says Sisolak's draft proposal.


FREE MINDS 

An open letter to Biden about Section 230. A January paper from First Amendment expert and Santa Clara University School of Law professor Eric Goldman, explains why President Joe Biden should "save, not revoke, Section 230."

Biden said during his campaign for president that he favors "repealing Section 230, the law that says websites aren't liable for third-party content," points out Goldman. But if Biden really wants to honor reality, rule of law, evidence-based policy-making and the First Amendment, he should leave Section 230 alone. And if he wants to "restore the U.S. as the world's free speech leader," he should leave Section 230 alone.

"It would be disingenuous for the United States to tout its global free speech leadership if we are simultaneously reducing Section 230's protections," writes Goldman.

The world is watching our moves on speech regulation, especially in light of how our moral leadership on the topic eroded in the Trump era. Our moves should promote free speech online, not seek to circumscribe it. Your presidency is a time to rebuild our country. It would be a tragic misstep if your presidency instead tore down one of Congress' most significant technology policy.

Read the full paper here.


FREE MARKETS

Replacing cops with health care professionals saves lives. "A program that replaces police officers with health care workers on mental health and substance abuse calls in Denver, Colorado, is showing signs of success, reports CBS News. "Despite responding to hundreds of calls, the workers made no arrests, the report said — and the city's police chief told CBS News on Friday that he believes the program 'saves lives.'" Read the city's six-month progress report on the program here.


QUICK HITS

• Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is suing a reporter to stop her from requesting records about a state official's discipline for sexual harassment.

• The mutant COVID-19 variant that's more highly transmissible (and has ravaged the United Kingdom) is now running rampant in the United States, according to a new study. The mutated strain—called B.1.1.7—was circulating in the U.S. "as early as late November 2020" and in "at least 30 states as of January 2021," write researchers. "Our study shows that the U.S. is on a similar trajectory as other countries where B.1.1.7 rapidly became the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant."

• Stealing Snapchat's shtick was no problem for Instagram. But beating TikTok at its game is proving to be much harder.

• Chinese tech companies are fighting over who owns user data.

• Why isn't the U.S. keeping better data on COVID-19 reinfections?