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Wyoming wants to be the Silicon Valley of blockchain

Alexis Christoforous

Silicon Valley may be the center of American tech innovation, but Wyoming wants to be the center of American blockchain innovation.

Wyoming’s House of Representatives unanimously voted this month to pass two blockchain bills: the “utility token bill” and the “bitcoin bill.” (The group that has led the charge is called the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition.) Those bills are now headed to the Wyoming State Senate, and lawmakers are set to vote on three more blockchain-friendly bills in the coming weeks, totaling five blockchain bills in the works.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead on Nov. 30, 2016. Mead has thrown his support behind blockchain legislation efforts in his state. (AP Photo/Ben Neary)
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead on Nov. 30, 2016. Mead has thrown his support behind blockchain legislation efforts in his state. (AP Photo/Ben Neary)

Wyoming governor Matt Mead indicated his support for blockchain tech and regulation in a recent interview with Wyoming PBS. “I think we need to move down that road now,” he said. “Bitcoin itself, I’m not saying we invest in that, but blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, you see most of the states are moving in that way, and I think that has to be something that is available in the state if Wyoming. I wish I was more of an expert on it, so we continue to try to learn more.”

Republican state representative Tyler Lindholm is one of the architects behind Wyoming’s blockchain legislation. “We’ve got really good bones already, to build on,” Lindholm told Yahoo Finance on our live Market Movers show. (See video above.) “Our LLC [limited liability company] laws are some of the finest in the nation, and we have no corporate income tax.”

Some industry experts are calling this a watershed moment for cryptocurrency law.

If House Bill 70, the “utility token bill,” becomes law, it would exempt some utility-token developers or sellers from securities regulations, if they meet certain criteria.

“We’re the first legislative body in the world to define that there’s a difference between a utility ICO and a security ICO, and that’s got a lot of blockchain folks excited,” says Lindholm. “It is a new asset class, and we’re going to recognize that in the state of Wyoming.”

House Bill 19, the “bitcoin bill,” exempts cryptocurrency from the Wyoming Money Transmitter Act, which made it impractical for cryptocurrency exchanges to operate in the state. If the “bitcoin bill” becomes law, exchanges such as Coinbase could resume operations in Wyoming as early as this summer.

Meanwhile, bitcoin miners are already setting up shop in the Cowboy State because of its large, fiber-optic bandwidth and cheap power.

“We only use about 10% of the power we generate in the state of Wyoming,” Lindholm explains, which makes Wyoming well-suited to cryptocurrency mining, which requires a lot of electrical power.

As the federal government drags its feet when it comes to crafting legislation for the crypto industry, more states are taking matters into their own hands. In addition to Wyoming, nearly a dozen states have pending legislation or cryptocurrency laws already on the books, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, and Tennessee.

Lindholm believes his state’s blockchain legislation can be a blueprint for other states, even the federal government.

“We hope the SEC is paying attention, we hope other states are paying attention,” he says, “and hopefully this tech sector can find a safer landing spot within the US, especially in Wyoming.”

Alexis Christoforous is anchor of the Yahoo Finance morning show, Market Movers. Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.

Read more blockchain news from Yahoo Finance:

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CFTC commissioner to crypto companies: Regulate yourselves