Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2019

Currently: 87° — Complete forecast

Where I Stand:

Nevada: America’s innovation state

As he does every August, Brian Greenspun is taking some time off and is turning over his Where I Stand column to others. Today’s guest columnist is U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.

Nevada is a leader in innovation because we’re approaching it from all angles.

We’re leading the way in groundbreaking transportation technologies and renewable energy production to create more accessible cities and a more sustainable world. We recognize the need to invest in our children and create an educated workforce ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st-century economy. And we know the importance of listening to the needs of our communities and bringing together diverse local leaders to spur development and job creation.

Click to enlarge photo

Catherine Cortez Masto

I’ve watched Nevada grow into a technology leader, and it brings me so much pride to see Nevada’s exceptional growth and promise. From issues ranging from transportation to the economy and education, I’ve never been more confident that our state is poised to tackle the challenges of both today and tomorrow. That’s why it’s been my mission in the Senate to support our state’s leadership and bring the lessons we’ve learned in Nevada to the nation through my innovation state Initiative. This signature initiative promotes the growth of emerging technologies, puts guardrails in place for the responsible use of technology, strengthens environmental protections and creates the jobs of the future.

A key piece of this initiative is advancing Nevada’s unparalleled innovation in transportation. Nevada is home to booming electric vehicle production, electric bus operations, as well as an expansive electric highway that stretches between Reno and Las Vegas. In Las Vegas alone, hundreds of public charging station ports are scattered throughout the city to serve drivers of electric vehicles.

Nevada was the first state to approve rules for testing autonomous vehicles, and Las Vegas is spearheading research into the potential benefits of self-driving vehicle technology. Cutting-edge projects like Go Med are exploring ways to speed travel through autonomous shuttles in the medical district, saving critical time for both patients and medical personnel in Nevada to get to medical appointments and surgeries.

To support projects like these, I recently introduced a package of clean vehicle bills in the Senate, legislation that will invest in clean transportation infrastructure and require a national strategy to promote electric vehicle adoption throughout the country. I also introduced the Moving FIRST Act, which creates a grant program for cities and communities to fund smart transportation projects that utilize innovative technology, like the ones being led by the Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission. Proposals like these reaffirm that Nevada is forging a path forward for efficient transportation throughout the U.S.

These initiatives are just one example of Nevada’s leadership. The Silver State is also leading the way in America’s growing renewable energy economy. Nevada recently committed to increasing its renewable energy portfolio standard to 50 percent by 2030 — placing it among the most ambitious states in promoting clean energy.

The Silver State is actively expanding its solar and geothermal energy production capacity — efforts that I’m supporting through my work in the Senate. I’ve introduced green bills like the Renewable Energy Extension Act, which encourages companies to make strong investments in solar energy while reducing carbon emissions and creating sustainable jobs. Similarly, I introduced the GEO Act to encourage growth of geothermal energy to sustainably power our communities and invest in the green jobs of the future. Nevada is a leader in the production of renewable energy, and geothermal technology is an essential part of that clean energy future.

For Nevada to maintain itself as the innovation state, we must work together to ensure that we’re educating our kids and our workers to be ready for these jobs. I’m committed to doing all I can to ensure our children have access to the quality education they need to compete and thrive. I know how important a college education can be — my sister and I were the first in our family to graduate from college. I also understand that critical apprenticeships and trade programs can provide the pathway to opportunity for many Nevadans — and that opportunity can begin in our high schools.

That’s why I’ve introduced the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which is projected to create 1.9 million new jobs by investing in school modernization and student advancement. Since our students can’t reach their full potential when their schools are falling apart, I’ve also supported the Renew America’s School Act to fund critical repairs and incentivize energy efficiency in schools. To fund and expand critical broadband accessibility, I’ve led on legislation like the ACCESS BROADBAND Act and the Digital Equity Act, as well as spearheaded legislation to put Wi-Fi on school buses. Students must be able to access quality broadband in the classroom and at home to complete homework, create projects and expand their horizons to the universe of opportunities available to them for learning and growth.

Every day in Congress, I’m committed to ensuring Nevada remains America’s innovation state. From our cutting-edge efforts to solve transportation challenges to our commitment to renewable energy and training our workforce, Nevada is a leader in innovation. Together, we’ll ensure continued investments in those fields so Nevada remains an example to the rest of America on transforming the way we move, the way we work, the way we educate and the way we lead.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., is the first woman from Nevada and the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate. She previously served as Nevada’s attorney general.