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We have reached the halfway point of the legislative session. Senator and Committee Priority Bill designations were due on Tuesday.
I prioritized our LB640, a carryover bill that Senator Friesen had prioritized last year, but we ran out of time to finish debate. The base language would provide property tax relief through changes in the State Aid to Education Formula (TEEOSA) by limiting the amount of property taxes to fund local schools to 55% and it would lower the max property tax rate a district could levy down from 1.05 to .987. It will shift more of the burden of funding schools back to where it belongs: state income and sales taxes. In these times of cash shortages, we would use the present Property Tax Credit Fund (PTCF) as the initial funding source for this long-range fix of the major cause of high property taxes–how we fund our schools. Over the last year, things have changed; previous strong opponents of using the PTCF have now proposed using it to fund the creation of permanent tax relief through legislation. We have had a year to address how to perfect LB640 and we will be amending the bill to close any concerns of prospective legislative support.
LB1123, our frantic attempt to push our N-CORPE land sale bill did not cross the finish line. I have never talked to so many lawyers in one week in my life, but we finally got the answers we needed to create the ultimate amendment for LB1123. But understandably, a majority of senators on the Committee just didn’t feel they had enough time to sort through all the proponents’ claims and opponents’ counter-claims on the effects the original language of the bill would have on ground water law. Of course, we know that Supreme Court case law and existing statutes already allows the NRDs to sell the land. All we were trying to do was give assurance, in statute, to the members of the four NRD boards involved that they could and should sell the land. Senator Hughes, Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, and I have since met and we agree that for interstate compliance reasons on the Platte and Republican Rivers, we need to protect the augmentation project. We agreed that we need to clarify the ability of the NRDs to sell the land. We will work together over the summer to accomplish that mission next year. At the hearing on LB1123, the NRDs and Legislature received a strong message from Lincoln County citizens (“Landowners for a Common Purpose”) that they, nor this issue, are going away; it needs to be resolved. Until then, locally we can make sure that we know where candidates for local NRDS stand on the N-CORPE issue and then vote accordingly.
Other priority bills of interest:
LB1069 Senator Brasch: Update of the American Civics statute defining guidelines of what will be taught in our schools’ civics classrooms. It will have to be pulled from committee by the body due to the makeup of the Education Committee members. As Committee Chairman, I will fully support a pull motion.
LR1CA Senator Murante: Constitutional Amendment to require voter ID. I will support. I personally am proud to show evidence I am an American citizen.
LB158 Senator Pansing-Brooks: Force counties to appoint an attorney for every juvenile between the ages of 14 and 18 at their arraignment. I will again oppose this carryover bill. You have a constitutional right to an attorney; freedom is forfeited when you lose the right to refuse counsel. Parents and youths will be forced to have an attorney’s opinion added into their decisions. Much of the cost will be put on local property tax payers.
Senator Williams’ LB496 adds construction costs to housing projects funded by Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Senator Wayne’s LB874 updates TIF law removing the “catch-all” phrase that allowed for just about any cost to be paid by TIF. It would now be foolish to immediately re-open the floodgates with LB496. Besides, the bill is not needed because we passed LB518 last year that created a Workforce Housing Fund.