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This week the Unicameral agenda is starting to take its final shape. With today being the last day to introduce bills, we will have an idea of which bills the members of the legislature feel need to be addressed this session. This week two of my bills, LB 760, and LB 819, will be heard in different committees. The following is just a short explanation of each of these bills, as well as, an amendment I will be introducing to LB 758.
As introduced, LB 758 requires natural resources districts that develop streamflow augmentation projects to work with the county where the project is located to reduce impacts to that county’s property tax base. The hearing on this bill was Wednesday, January 17. The change I will propose as an amendment at the hearing will expand on the idea and provide more detail.
The amendment would authorize the NRDs that own NCORPE and Rock Creek to make payments in lieu of taxes to Lincoln County and Dundy County where those projects are located. Payments would equal the property taxes the NRDs are currently paying. The amendment would also authorize such NRDs to waive repayment of property taxes paid under protest, and require public notice and accountability provisions. It’s my intention that this will be the first step in addressing several of the issues surrounding the streamflow augmentation projects currently in place to keep Nebraska in compliance with the Republican River Compact and the Platte Basin Enhancement project.
In 2016, LB 886 was passed by the Nebraska Legislature. That bill created the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act which provides an income tax credit for qualified active volunteer emergency responders, rescue squad members, and firefighters that serve a city, village, or rural or suburban fire protection district. This bill inadvertently left out volunteers serving a county. LB 760 would include volunteers serving a county and provides a mechanism for them to apply for the income tax credit that was originally intended in LB 886. LB 760 is just a thank you from the state for all our volunteers’ hard work and dedication.
LB 819 expands the allowable uses of the Department of Correctional Services Inmate Welfare and Club Accounts Fund to include programs which teach inmates skills to prepare them for reentry into the community and family friendly visitation activities. This will allow the department to provide additional opportunities for inmates to interact with their families in prosocial activities and to acquire skills which will assist them in preparing for release. Currently, inmate welfare funds may only be used for recreational activities and equipment. The welfare fund receives income from pop and canteen sales within the correctional institutions.