Sandoval touts 'bright' future for states

Gov. Brian Sandoval says the future is “bright” for the nation’s 55 states, commonwealths and territories, but states still require collaboration with the federal government to develop and pave the way forward for technologies of the future.

In a “State of the States,” address on Friday in Las Vegas, Sandoval and National Governors Association Vice-Chair and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock touted the status of governors as the nation’s “chief innovators,” laying out a laundry list of partnerships with tech companies and a futuristic vision rife with references to “Star Trek” and “Knight Rider.”

Sandoval, who is in the final year of his 8-year tenure as Nevada’s governor and chairs the NGA, said that governors welcomed the “renewed interest” in determining a new relationship between states and the federal government while still providing support and working with states on boundary-crossing issues such as determining regulations and rules for self-driving cars.

“While states are driving innovation, the burden of modernizing and maintaining the nation’s transportation and energy network is a shared obligation,” he said. “State, federal and local governments must partner to invest in quality infrastructure and meet our nation’s needs.”

Sandoval also called governors the “new ambassadors,” touting his nine overseas trips and noting that almost all governors call Mexico or Canada their top trading partner.

“These relationships are not only crucial, they’re vastly beneficial, and governors will continue to support and encourage them at the state level,” he said.

In a follow-up question and answer session with Nevada Independent Editor Jon Ralston, the two governors took on topics from cybersecurity to net neutrality. Both Sandoval and Bullock said they opposed the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal rules on net neutrality — regulations that treated the Internet as a public utility, and prevented internet providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service for certain websites.

However, the Nevada governor cautioned that individual states shouldn’t take action to counter the FCC’s move given the “danger” of having “50 different rules and regulations, especially on something as ubiquitous as the Internet.”

Bullock took a different tack, saying to “stay tuned” and hinting that state-led action on reinstating net neutrality rules could be on the way.

“I know there’s discussions happening all around the country on, if Congress doesn’t act, are there things the states can do,” he said.

Sandoval also said that he accepted help from the Department of Homeland Security ahead of the 2016 election to inspect and certify the security of the state’s voting machines, and said he was confident going forward.

“I believe our elections went well, and moving forward, our counties are going to have the latest and greatest equipment for the upcoming election.”

In a separate panel on Thursday, Sandoval, Bullock and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder touted their economic development efforts and shared lessons they had learned in encouraging the growth of their technology sectors.

Snyder said he saw the state’s role as similar to that of a “service provider.” It should be the mission of state policymakers, he said, to make sure physical infrastructure and economic development policy tools like tax incentives.

There are some things that states can do without even adding new infrastructure, Bullock said. Montana officials have used the outdoors as a pitch to attract businesses and their employees.

“We need to always play to our strengths,” he said.