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The 2016 60-day session has passed the halfway mark and committee hearings are concluding. Full-day debate on the bills advanced from the fourteen legislative committees will begin on March 7. Despite having more time to discuss legislation, the number of bills make it impossible to get to everything before the session’s conclusion and thus it is necessary to prioritize. Each senator is permitted to designate one bill as his or her personal priority for the session, giving the measure a better chance of being debated.
Senator Lydia Brasch has chosen my bill calling for the adoption of the Transportation Innovation Act as her priority for this session. LB 960 includes the creation of a Transportation Infrastructure Bank to accelerate completion of Nebraska’s Heartland Expressway and to assist counties in repairing and replacing dangerously deficient bridges. While the Appropriations Committee has yet to advance LB 960 to the full Legislature, I have confidence my colleagues will recognize how important a good transportation infrastructure is for the benefit of our state and that LB 960 will eventually pass.
I designated LB 884 as my personal priority bill for the session. LB 884 was introduced by Senator Jim Scheer and would amend the Convention Center Facility Financing Act and the Sports Arena Facility Financing Act. Both of these acts provide for turnback financing. Under this funding mechanism, a portion of the sales tax generated from new businesses established around convention centers and sports arenas is captured to help pay for the facility. LB 884 would make the “capture zone” uniform for both convention centers and sports arenas and would extend the time period for cities to solicit new businesses. This bill not only benefits the larger cities that can support these facilities, it benefits communities across the state with a portion of the new sales tax going to the Civic and Community Center Financing Fund. The fund provides grants to smaller cities and villages to develop community-centered infrastructure such as civic centers, libraries, public pools and auditoriums. In 2015, over two million dollars were awarded to Nebraska communities. LB 884 will give cities of all sizes an important tool to create new investment and job opportunities, help grow the economy, reduce property taxes and enrich the lives of all Nebraskans.