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Tim Gragert

Sen. Tim Gragert

District 40

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A new event center and lodge at Niobrara State Park, a new boat launch near the Village of Niobrara, and expanding the Weigand Marina at the Lewis and Clark State Recreational Area, are one step closer to reality, as the Legislature gave first-round approval to LB 1023 on a 29-4 vote. LB 1023 carries out the recommendations of the State Tourism and Recreational Water Access and Resource Sustainability (STAR WARS) Special Committee, of which I am a member. The bill also includes funding for road improvements and a new marina at Lake McConaughy, as well as a new lake between Omaha and Lincoln. All discussion pertaining to the improvements in Knox County were favorable, noting the natural beauty of the area and agreeing that we need to attract more people. There were many questions asked on the proposed 4,000 acre lake, such as the projected costs, whether Lincoln’s drinking water would be affected, and the process that will be used to purchase the land. It was estimated that the proposed lake could cost up to $1 billion, but that private-public partnerships would be sought. Discussion also focused on guaranteeing that the lake would be accessible to the public.

The Appropriations Committee has included $80 million from the Cash Reserve Fund and $120 million from the General Fund in funding for the LB 1023 projects in their final budget recommendations to the Legislature. Unlike the Governor, the committee did not suggest funding any portion of it with the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars, as they felt these projects did not fit the criteria put forth by the federal government on the use of these funds. The funding includes $1 million for an independent hydrology study to make sure that Lincoln and Omaha water resources would not be adversely affected.

The Legislature also gave first-round approval on a 36-3 vote to LB 1015, which attempts to secure Nebraska’s water supply from the South Platte River under the 1923 South Platte Compact signed with the State of Colorado. This compact entitled Nebraska to 120 cubic feet per second of water from April 1st through October 15th (irrigation season) and 500 cfs of water from October 16th through March 31st (non-irrigation season). Although we are currently receiving the full amount, senators were told that we can only legally claim the non-irrigation season water entitlement by building the Perkins County Canal, a canal and reservoir system, along the South Platte River.

With population growth in Colorado and talk of water projects, Governor Ricketts has pushed for this project and recommended to fund it with an appropriation of $400 million from the Cash Reserve Fund and $100 million from ARPA funds. Senators have questioned the total projected costs, including maintenance costs, the amount of water Nebraska has the right to, and the urgency for this project. The Appropriations Committee voted to include only $53.5 million for the canal project in its budget package. This would fund a feasibility study, design work, permitting, and potentially buying land.

Second amendment rights were the subject of more than eight hours of debate this past week. LB 773, introduced and prioritized by Senator Tom Brewer, was stuck in the Judiciary Committee. A pull motion to place the bill on General File was successful on a 30-12 vote. A couple days later the bill was filibustered on General File. A cloture motion to end debate and allow a vote on the advancement of the bill was successful on a 36-9 vote, after which LB 773 received first-round approval.

Currently, to get a concealed carry permit, applicants must submit to a background check, pay a $100 fee, and complete an approved handgun training and safety course. Under LB 773, referred to as the constitutional carry legislation, persons wanting to carry a concealed weapon would no long need to obtain a permit.

As the Legislature begins the last 20 days of this 60-day legislative session, I encourage you to inform me of your thoughts and opinions on the legislation 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
(402) 471-2801
Email: tgragert@leg.ne.gov
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