I was proud to be honored as a Capitol Caregiver from the Nebraska AARP and AARP Advocates this week. Photo Credit: Nebraska AARP.
Thirty Senators Sign On as Co-Sponsors of Campaign Finance Act
As of Friday, thirty senators signed on as cosponsors to LB 166, a campaign reform bill I introduced last year that provides a mechanism for the Accountability and Disclosure Office to check once a year to ensure that campaign finance accounts match campaign finance reports. The bill also prohibits the granting of loans from campaign funds, increases penalties for violations of the Accountability and Disclosure Act and adds enforcement power for the commission to require restitution as a consequence of violations.
Current law does not provide a second check against campaign finance fraud. The balance in a campaign account currently provided to the Accountability and Disclosure Office is entirely self-reported. LB 166 provides an important tool to ensure campaign funds are represented truthfully and correctly in public reports.
At the hearing for the bill, Director Daley said the heart of the reason for the bill for their office is not to catch a few big cases, but to improve the day to day efficiency of their office. Each year, staff closes a number of accounts, which requires reconciling the balance of accounts with campaign reports. For example, staff close almost 60 accounts within a few months following a general election. Some of these accounts have been open for 8-12 years and small accounting errors become much harder to reconcile as the years go on.
LB 166 is designed to safeguard the public’s trust and confidence in government. Nebraskans trust that when they make a contribution to a candidate that those candidates will not use these funds inappropriately. I am thankful that a majority of my colleagues have joined me to cosponsor this important legislation. I hope the Government Committee will advance this bill for debate on the floor soon.
Public Hearings To Begin Next Week
Starting on Tuesday, standing committees will begin conducting public hearings for bills. In Nebraska, each bill receives a public hearing where citizens and interested stakeholders can come to testify in support or opposition to a bill. Technical experts and others can also offer neutral testimony if they so choose. From next week until the beginning of March, senators will meet for floor debate in the morning and attend committee hearings in the afternoon.
Generally, each senator serves on standing several committees, depending on the number of days each committee meets. The one exception to this is the Appropriations Committee, which meets 5 days a week; therefore, senators appointed to this committee will not serve on other standing committees. There are four one-day committees, half of which meet on Mondays and half of which meet on Tuesdays. Monday committees are Business and Labor and General Affairs while Tuesday committees are Agriculture and Urban Affairs.
Additionally, there are 3 two-day committees who meet on Mondays and Tuesdays: Banking, Commerce and Insurance; Education; and Transportation and Telecommunications.
Finally, there are 5 three-day committees who meet on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays: Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs; Health and Human Services; Judiciary; Natural Resources; and Revenue.
I currently serve on two one-day committees (Business and Labor, Urban Affairs) and one three-day committee. During my first year in the Legislature, I served on a two-day committee (Banking, Commerce, and Insurance) and a three-day committee (Health and Human Services.
How To: Testify at a Public Hearing
As I mentioned, bill hearings are open to the public and committees stay, sometimes late into the night, to ensure everyone who wishes to speak has an opportunity to do so.
You are warmly welcome to testify at a hearing on any of the bills mentioned in last week’s update or any other piece of new legislation before the Unicameral this year. Hearing notices are published as they become available at the following link: http://nebraskalegislature.gov/calendar/hearings_range.php
Here are a few tips as you prepare your testimony:
This Week in Urban Affairs
Each week during committee hearings, my update will feature a preview of the issues being heard by the Urban Affairs Committee in the coming week. In addition to listing the bills that will be heard by the committee, the update will give an overview of one or more policy areas under the Urban Affairs Committee’s jurisdiction that will be featured in each week’s hearings.
Among the topics being heard by the committee at its first hearing next week is the subject of land banking, which has not been discussed in Urban Affairs since 2013. A land bank is a governmental entity or non-profit corporation that focuses on the conversion of vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties into productive use.
Passed in 2013, the Nebraska Municipal Land Bank Act authorizes the creation of land banks in certain municipalities. Under the Act, only municipalities located within a county in which a city of the metropolitan class is located (Douglas County) or within a county in which at least three cities of the first class are located (Sarpy County) are eligible to create a land bank. While land banks in Nebraska are created by municipalities, in form they are a separate political subdivision whose board is appointed by the municipality or municipalities that created them. Currently, the Omaha Municipal Land Bank is the only land bank in Nebraska.
Nebraska is one of eleven states that have enacted comprehensive state-enabling land bank legislation, although some local governments in other states have established land banks through their home rule authority. As seen in the map below, there are approximately 120 land banks throughout the country, with the highest number of active land banks in Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia.
This week, the Urban Affairs Committee will hear four bills covering a wide variety of subjects under the committee’s jurisdiction, including building codes, business improvement districts, land banks, and municipalities:
Sue in the News
The Omaha World Herald and Lincoln Journal Star ran stories this week on my campaign finance legislation, LB 166.
Omaha World Herald: Campaign Donation Accountability Bill Receives Strong Backing
Lincoln Journal Star: Support Grows for Tightening Checks on Nebraska Campaign Money
All my best,