Happy Birthday to the great state of Nebraska. 150 years ago on March 1, 1867, Nebraska became the 37th of the United States of America. So on March 1st, 2017, at 2 p.m. the Legislature, Governor, Supreme Court Justices, and the Secretary of State kicked off the sesquicentennial celebration. A ceremony held in the George W. Norris Chamber in the State Capitol was the first of many events set to occur across the state during 2017. After the presentation of colors, Hannah Huston sang the national anthem followed by Secretary of State John Gale, reading the original statehood proclamation signed by President Andrew Johnson. Governor Pete Ricketts signed a new proclamation to commemorate the sesquicentennial. Eighteen third through fifth graders sang “Happy Birthday” and an Octet from Waverly High School sang “Beautiful Nebraska”. I would encourage all Nebraska to make a trip to the Capitol sometime this year and visit this beautiful building, see the mosaics, artwork and this summer, the newly installed fountains in the center courtyards.
Legislative Resolution 1 CA (Constitutional Amendment) would make a change to the Nebraska Constitution and require a person to show a picture ID or digital image prior to casting a ballot. Senator Joh Murante of Gretna presented the bill to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee on March 2nd and said that 32 states have some form of voter ID requirement. He stated voters have a lack of confidence in the integrity of the election process. The constitutional amendment would go before Nebraska voters in general election in November, 2018. Supporters of the bill believe such a law would protect the process and people from having someone walk in to a polling place, state they are someone else and vote. Opponents of the bill cite studies where voter ID laws adversely impact minority and elderly groups. The Secretary of State has consistently reported voter fraud in Nebraska is not a problem. The resolution is being held in committee at this writing.
The Revenue Committee heard testimony on March 3rd about LB 475, introduced by Senator Paul Schumacher of Columbus, regarding the elimination of the Nebraska Job Creation and Main Street Revitalization Act. This law was enacted in 2015 with up to $15 million a year in tax credits for rehabilitation, preservation and restoration of historically significant buildings. Each project is capped at $1 million. The current law has a sunset date on December 31, 2022. The purpose of the law was to help communities throughout the state but most of the approved projects have been in Omaha. Senator Schumacher believes with the budget constraints facing the state, the grants going primarily to Omaha, and the bureaucratic red tape, the law should be rescinded. The State Historical Society who oversees this grant program, along with the Department of Revenue, opposed the bill, as did representatives from Beatrice. Trevor Jones, the director and CEO of the Historical Society, stated the application process for the credits is complex and must comply with federal standards. He stated the process is constrained by the law itself. It was also stated that Omaha developers were ready to go with projects. There were 16 applications from Omaha and 14 from the rest of the state. This bill is also still being held in committee.
The State Treasurer is in charge of receiving and attempting to find the rightful owners of unclaimed property in the state. This consists of cash and other personal assets that are considered to be lost or abandoned. Every year banks, businesses, and other organizations remit unclaimed property to the State Treasurer and he in turn attempts to locate the owners through a published newsletter. The treasurer’s website is: www.treasurer.nebraska.gov, from there you can find a link to unclaimed property. My staff recognized some names and encouraged them to visit the website to see if they have a little cash out there. Information is organized by county, then last name, on the website.