The second session of the One Hundred and Fourth Legislature is coming to a close and despite the session’s shorter schedule and a record number of filibusters, laws were approved that will benefit the residents of Legislative District 14 and the state as a whole. Over 200 bills were passed and signed into law during the 60-day session. There were four in particular that I worked very closely on and that I think will move our state successfully into the future – LB 1067, LB 884, LB 977 and LB 960.
While I introduced my own bill to eliminate the common property tax levy of the Douglas/Sarpy County Learning Community (LB 739), LB 1067 was the vehicle used to pass this overdue policy change. The bill was introduced by the Education Committee chairperson, Senator Kate Sullivan. In addition to ending the 95-cent common levy, LB 1067 increases aid to schools with high numbers of poverty students, exchanges open enrollment with option enrollment and reduces the size of the Learning Community bureaucracy. As a Sarpy County resident, I have been opposed to the common levy since its inception in 2009 and have advocated for its elimination since I was first elected to the Legislature. Not only was the common levy unfair, it did not adequately address the funding needs for high-poverty schools, it fostered animosity between the two counties and it stunted development in Sarpy County, resulting in valuation stagnation for the entire metropolitan area. Now that the issue of the common levy is behind us, it’s time to look ahead to ensure all Nebraska students receive a quality education.
Sarpy County residents will also benefit from a measure I designated as my priority bill for the 2016 session. LB 884, introduced by Jim Scheer, makes significant improvements to the Convention Center Facility Financing Assistant Act and the Sports Arena Facility Financing Assistance Act. The bill will facilitate the building of an economically important athletic complex in La Vista, planned by the nonprofit corporation, Nebraska Multisport Complex. The proposed $125 million venture will include facilities for swimming, diving, soccer and tennis and will attract local, regional and national interests, bringing new investment into the area. The two acts allow for the use of new sales tax dollars generated by convention centers and sporting facilities to be used to pay off debt incurred in the building of these facilities. LB 884 will benefit the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, the Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln and the Ralston arena and will result in more funds being generated for a grant program aimed at developing civic and community centers across the state. LB 884 will create new investment and job opportunities, grow the economy, increase state revenues and enrich the lives of all Nebraskans for years to come.
LB 977 contains an important provision that will aid in the on-going success of the state’s number one industry, agriculture. An exemption is granted for certain implements of husbandry, or farm machinery, from weight and load limitations when operated on the highways of this state. Today’s farm equipment is much bigger and heavier than those of the past and the occasional use of our roadways is incidental to the business of agriculture. The passage of LB 977 will protect Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers from hefty fines that compromise their ability to work effectively and efficiently. The bill ensures our valuable agriculture industry will continue to grow and prosper.
Finally, I introduced LB 960 to protect and build our critical transportation infrastructure. LB 960, the Transportation Innovation Act, establishes a $450 million transportation infrastructure bank using $50 million from the state’s cash reserve and earmarking a portion of the gas tax over the next 17 years. The Transportation Innovation Act calls for the completion of Nebraska’s expressway system by 2023, creates a county/state program to fix our state’s excessive number of dilapidated bridges and allows for funding of projects that stimulate economic growth. Additionally, the bill authorizes the Department of Roads to utilize alternative contracting methods expected to accelerate major highway construction, resulting in more efficient use of state funds. The Transportation Innovation Act would not have been possible without collaboration with the executive branch, the private sector and several members of the Unicameral Legislature. The bill passed nearly unanimously on a 48-0 vote – one senator, unfortunately was absent. Our transportation infrastructure is the life-blood of Nebraska, supporting economic growth and the safety of our families as we work and travel across our great state. LB 960 is landmark legislation that will move our state into a bright future.
While the legislative session may be over, our work is not done. During the interim, I will be busy attending meetings and researching legislation for the next session. If you ever have any thoughts or ideas which you would like to share with me, I encourage you to contact my office at (402) 471-2730 or email me at email@example.com. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve the residents of Legislative District 14 and the State of Nebraska.