Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus on Thursday introduced an imaginative, out-of-the box legislative proposal designed to attempt to spur major economic development in western Nebraska.
Schumacher's resolution (LR269CA) proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to delegate complete or partial sovereignty over a designated, limited and sparsely-settled area of the state for not to exceed 99 years.
That could tempt major enterprises that might be attracted by the prospect of no city or state taxes and no local or state regulations, Schumacher said.
"A major global company or coalition could have their own development in the center of the country," he said.
"If I were a major business, I would not want Omaha or Lincoln or Des Moines (Iowa) telling me what to do," he said.
Economic development opportunities in Nebraska outside of Omaha and Lincoln have become limited, Schumacher said, especially in smaller towns and sparsely-settled counties that are experiencing population and economic decline.
His proposal would confine the grant of sovereignty to one area of the state not to exceed 36 square miles in area and a population density of 10 persons per square mile.
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Schumacher sees possibilities in western Nebraska, where there are nearby rail lines, transmission lines, fiber-optic cable connections, recreation sites and an array of transportation options.
"We're talking about Nebraska's future," he said.
"To build out here, you do not have to tear down something. And property is the ultimate economic tool."
This presents an opportunity, he said, to essentially "have your own state."
And, Schumacher said, "nobody else has done it."
If the Legislature approves the resolution, voters would decide whether to adopt the constitutional amendment.