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It has been a very busy schedule the first 28 days of the 60-day session, and we have not yet even talked about the budget shortfall.
Legislation that may be of interest to you.
LB449 Senator Chambers’ 2017 carryover bill; Repeal of the Black Tailed Prairie Dog Act. It came out of Committee by a 7-1 vote. It failed to get the 25 votes necessary on General File to go forward with a tally of 21-17 and 11 not voting. I was one of those not voting. Why? Because I believe that prairie dogs are varmints that need to be controlled; they cause range damage, their holes break livestock legs and their existence invites rattlesnakes. But I agree with Senator Chambers’ argument about property rights. I just don’t like government being able to go on private ground without permission to eradicate wildlife. If we start with prairie dogs, where do we stop? Deer, elk, rabbits, owls, hawks, etc. all can do damage to agricultural crops. Since the defeat of his bill three weeks ago, he has been holding up the legislative process with filibusters. He has decided to bring back LB449 by making it his 2018 priority bill. I have told him if he sticks to the property rights argument and does not attempt to regulate private control of the pests, I will support his bill.
LB874 Urban Affairs Committee’s Change the Community Redevelopment Law. I have been in full support of Chairman Wayne’s work on this legislation and have cosigned the bill. The legislation is in response to the 2016 State Auditor’s office audit report on Tax Increment Financing (TIF) use across the state which found major discrepancies in proper use by municipalities. The legislation strengthens requirements for record keeping, open meetings notices and adds better notice to affected government entities (schools, county, etc.) by requiring notice by certified mail. It also clearly states that TIF related tax dollars cannot be diverted to create a revolving loan fund and it clearly states TIF dollars must only be used on public costs related to the project that generates them. The bill also gives the State Auditor more auditing authority, but city officials are still their own oversight, therefore the legislation is only as good as the integrity of the city officials.
LB1123 Our N-CORPE land sale bill had its hearing last Wednesday, the Committee heard from many Lincoln County citizens and received over 160 letters of support. Expert testimony was received by the Committee from individuals involved in water law. I was disappointed in the misrepresentation of the bill by some farm groups who fear change. They are living in past time where water resources were believed infinite and had no limits. I believe, as do many of those involved in the citizens’ group, “Landowners for a Common Purpose”, that we need to get out in front to of the ground-water issue. Clearly defining the N-CORPE land sell issue in law is a step in the right direction. I have been working with legal minds to perfect an amendment that will fit into existing Nebraska Supreme Court case law and present state statutes. I hope to still prioritize it.
Property taxes: I sit on the Revenue and Education Committees; both Committees have heard different proposals for property tax relief. I don’t see any of the bills in their present form garnering enough votes to pass. The Governor’s bill has problems with raising property taxes on commercial property (rental homes, apartments and all other business property), he is working on solutions. LB1084 attempts to give property tax relief by offsetting the cost, with increased sales tax revenues. Strong opposition exists by those opposed to tax increases. After-all, Nebraska residents are the second highest taxed people in the nation (only behind Illinois) when compared to family incomes. Senator Friesen’s LB1103 in the Education Committee would guarantee that school districts receive a minimum of 25% of their basic needs. It at least addresses the true reason for high property taxes: how we fund our schools.
There will probably be at least two property tax relief bills on the floor of the Legislature seeing as the petition is still an option.