By the time you read this column, the Legislature will have already adjourned for the year.
If you’ve been keeping up with legislation that has been discussed here in Lincoln, I probably don’t need to tell you how they ended up because of all the media coverage. So what I thought I’d do is to let you know how the bills I introduced or prioritized fared this year.
I designated LB 897 as my priority. It was introduced by Sen. Brett Lindstrom and allowed certain public power agencies to hedge fuel costs or generated electricity.
A bill I introduced last year had since been held over in the Judiciary Committee. LB 275 clarified existing statutory language that created loopholes in our license revocation law. In fact, it was the Merrick County Attorney who recognized the problem and asked me to introduce it.
Many times, Senators are asked to introduce particular bills because of the committee they are members of. LB’s 735, 785, 814, and 996 are examples of that. Those bills all dealt with issues under the jurisdiction of the Transportation and Telecommunication Committee, where I am a member.
LB 735 allowed the articulated buses operated by the Metropolitan Transit Authority in Omaha to exceed the current forty-foot length limit to sixty-five feet. LB 785 was brought to me by the Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles, and is an attempt to address complaints and to find better ways of streamlining the department statewide. LB 785 was amended into LB 311, another transportation bill that was further along in the legislative process. I introduced LB 814 because a constituent came to me and asked if I would consider changing the mileage requirement for School Permits. After some consideration, instead of changing the mileage requirement of living more than 1.5 miles from school, I just eliminated it. A representative of the Cummins Engine Company asked if I would introduce LB 996. The bill corrects a technicality when dealer statutes were put in place in 2009. LB 996 will allow Cummins to continue to operate just as they do now with two locations in Kearney and Omaha.
I also serve as a member of the Natural Resources Committee, for that reason, I was asked to introduce LBs 736 and LB 737. LB 736 clarifies a definition in the Community-Based Energy Development Act (C-BED) to ensure all Nebraska electric utilities have the option of negotiating a contract for energy output from a C-BED project. LB 737 expands eligible funded activities for public entities seeking low-interest loans through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. It also increases loan terms from 20 to 30 years.
The Executive Director of the Nebraska Association of County Officials asked if I would consider introducing LB 784, which was heard before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. While I am not a member of that committee, a county official from Hall County had recommended this change to the association. LB 784 allows counties to use the tax dollars that are currently being budgeted for and generated at a more appropriate time. The bill makes it clear that counties can use the resources available for roads during the late summer – prime time to build and maintain roads – rather than being limited to a proportion of their road budget during this time.
All of the above bills were successfully passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.
In order to try and add another layer of oversight to Tax Increment Financing (TIF) projects, I introduced LB 1042. LB 1042 would have additionally required approval by the County Board of Equalization of the county affected by the TIF project before approval of the governing board of the municipality. Also, LB 1042 would have required the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) to use the full value of all property. By using the full value of these projects verses the base value (which they use now), there would have been a $21,000,000 savings in equalization money needed in the next fiscal year. However, the committee indefinitely postponed the bill.
The 2016 session has ended, but my Lincoln office will continue to be open. Please contact me or my staff if you have concerns or questions about state issues. My email is email@example.com and our telephone number is 402-471-2630.