NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Sen. Tim Gragert

Sen. Tim Gragert

District 40

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This past week, the Legislature hit the half way mark in this year’s 60-day legislation session. The public hearing process is complete and senators will now meet in full-day session. Discussion will focus on bills that have been given priority status either by a senator, a committee, or the speaker. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on April 23.

LB 424, introduced by Grand Island Senator Dan Quick, proposes to allow municipalities throughout Nebraska to create a joint land bank with one or more other municipalities through an interlocal agreement or join an existing land bank. Currently, only cities in Douglas and Sarpy counties are authorized to create land banks and only Omaha could create a stand-alone land bank. An amendment to LB 424 would also allow Lincoln to create a stand-alone land bank.

LB 424 was debated last year, but the vote to stop the filibuster and advance the bill fell two votes short of the necessary 33 votes. Senator John Stinner of Gering, who prioritized the bill last year, did so again this year, giving the bill new life. Senators spent three hours debating the issue this past week. According to the speaker’s rules, Senator Quick will have to show that he has the necessary 33 votes for the bill to be placed on the agenda again.

A land bank is a tax-exempt political subdivision that acquires, manages and develops vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties into productive use. I signed on as a co-sponsor of LB 424 because I have seen in my hometown how this legislation could benefit all communities in Nebraska, not just the larger ones. Oftentimes, it is too costly or time consuming for private investors to rehabilitate blighted properties. These properties become an eyesore and an expense for cities to provide basic upkeep. Opponents claim that land banks decrease the property tax base when they purchase property because it becomes tax-exempt. However, after a land bank can secure and clean the property, the property is more likely to be attractive to individuals or private developers to purchase and rehabilitate the property, thereby resulting in an increase in valuation of the property and thus an increase in the property tax base.

LB 962, the Nebraska Fair Pay to Play Act, was given first round approval on a 36-4 vote this past week. The Nebraska Fair Pay to Play Act allows athletes to receive payment for their name recognition, images used, and athletic reputation. It eliminates the compensation cap on scholarships provided to athletes and allows athletes to sign with a licensed agent. It does not require colleges to pay athletes. This legislation would allow athletes to sign sponsorship deals, teach summer camps, or hire an agent without being penalized by losing their athletic scholarship or amateur status under NCAA rules.

Omaha Senator Megan Hunt explained that other students are not prohibited from earning income from their skills or talents, but due to NCAA restrictions, student athletes are prohibited. NCAA rules also require that universities limit the value of an athletic scholarship. However, the universities make significant profits from college sports.

LB 962 is modeled after a California law. At least 20 states are considering similar legislation. After the California bill passed, the NCAA Board of Governor’s reversed their historic stance and voted to allow student athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness, but the details haven’t been worked out yet.

As the Legislature begins all day debate, I encourage you to contact me with your opinion on the bills before us. I can be reached at District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE  68509. My email address is tgragert@leg.ne.gov and my telephone number is (402) 471-2801.

Sen. Tim Gragert

District 40
Room #11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2801
Email: tgragert@leg.ne.gov
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