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Last week all forty-nine senators and committees had a deadline to designate their priority bills. Once those advance from their respective committees’ debate will then begin on the floor. As chairman, I have designated LB 858 as one of two committee priority bills for the Natural Resources Committee. LB 858 was brought to me by MEAN the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska, this bill reorganizes, updates, and simplifies the basic governance of MEAN. Also, it is important to note that this bill is what we refer to as a Christmas tree bill which is a common practice for committee priority bills. We take one bill and amend a few smaller bills that are usually not controversial to it so they all have a chance to pass this year. If you look at the committee amendment it will list all of the bills attached to LB 858, the original bill. The bills added in the committee amendment are as listed: LB 856 which extends the sunset date for the Petroleum Release Remedial Action Act from June 30, 2020, to June 30, 2024, LB 855 which eliminates legislative confirmation for members appointed to the Niobrara Council, and LB 367 extends the termination date of the Nebraska Litter Reduction and Recycling Act from October 30, 2020, to September 30, 2025, and it also strikes language allowing transfers from the Nebraska Litter Reduction and Recycling Fund to the General Fund at the discretion/direction of the Legislature.
There is a big federal push to supply money to service providers to build high-speed broadband out to rural areas across the nation. The FCC launched the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, RDOF, which will supply $20.4 billion over a 10 year period to help service these areas. These areas experience slow speeds, limited coverage, or are devoid of service. Senator Brandt is addressing this pressing issue at the state legislative level with LB 996. LB 996 allows the state of Nebraska to participate in the FCC’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection that will assist with the collection of data. The 2020 census will be on April 1st of this year. That data will then be used to designate new census blocks that will aid in the expansion of high-speed broadband. Under these 2010 census blocks, 100mi² is considered served. This is a disservice to folks who need improved broadband coverage to run businesses, schools, and residences.
A brief update on the Revenue Committee’s priority bill. LB974 was debated upon Thursday and still remains on General File. There is a strong sentiment in the body that the incentive package for the state, the Nebraska Advantage Act which expires in December of this year, will not move forward until there is property tax relief. There is enough support to stop that bill. In doing so it will then put pressure on the chamber to put pressure on senators to work out a compromise before it is advanced.