Week five of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 18 through 22 of the 90-day session.
Due to concerns expressed by constituents residing along the Missouri River in Burt and Washington Counties, I was asked to share the following important announcement. There will be an informational meeting hosted by the Responsible River Management Organization and other related groups about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed changes to the management plans for the Missouri River. The meeting is Thursday, February 9 at 6:00 p.m. at the Iowa Western Community College (in Looft Hall). The address is 2700 College Road, Council Bluffs, IA 51503, I-80 and US HWY 6 Exit #8. For information contact Leo Ettleman at email@example.com or (712) 313-0287.
On Wednesday, February 8 at 1:30 p.m., I will be presenting LB 338 in the Revenue Committee at the request of the Governor. This legislation would change the valuation method for agricultural land from the market approach to the income-based approach. This method is used by many neighboring states such as South Dakota, Iowa, and Kansas. Under LB 338, some land may still experience an increase in property valuation but at a lesser rate than currently; a small number of counties will see no overall change; and no county will experience a faster rate of increasing property valuations than currently.
On Tuesday the Agriculture Committee held a public hearing for LB 348, which would eliminate a licensing requirement for potato shippers, the potato checkoff program, and the Potato Development Act. LB 348 transfers any unused funds to the state’s General Fund. The Potato Development Act created a relatively small program, generating around $75,000 annually. That money was deposited into a cash fund and used by the Director of Agriculture in consultation with an industry advisory board made up of potato growers to finance potato promotion and research projects. Typically the cash fund has a minimal balance at the end of each fiscal year, but in recent years the fund has grown to nearly $200,000. During the public hearing for LB 348 we learned that, although the collection of the checkoff assessment has continued, only minimal expenditures have been made from the fund for the past three years, which explains the rapid rise in the cash fund balance. Members of the Potato Development Board spoke in opposition to the bill and expressed interest in continuing the program. While there may be questions about whether it is appropriate to transfer fees to the state’s General Fund that were originally paid by potato producers for the checkoff program, I believe it is important for the potato industry to have a clear consensus on the value of continuing this checkoff program, as well as a clear vision on what they wish to accomplish with the program in the future.
On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday the Legislature debated LB 22. This bill was introduced by Speaker Scheer at the request of the Governor. This is the Governor’s expedited fiscal year 2016-17 budget adjustment recommendations. LB 22 makes adjustments to appropriations and re-appropriations for state operations in the current fiscal year which ends on June 30, 2017. Detailed information regarding the Governor’s budget recommendations can be found in the document entitled “Governor’s Budget Recommendations, FY 2016-17 Budget Adjustments” dated January 5, 2017, and may be viewed on the Administrative Services, State Budget Division’s website at http://budget.nebraska.gov/assets/governor_fy2016-17_expedited_budget_book.pdf.
Thank you to Chaplain Gregg Gahan from Craig who led the Legislative body in prayer on Monday. We are very grateful to those who travel here from our district to pray before we face difficult decisions each day.
Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, 2 doors south of previous office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.