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LB 753 Testifiers: (from left to right) Doug Carlson, Executive Director of Nebraska National Guard Association; State Senator Sue Crawford; Bruce Boyer, Greater Lincoln Chamber Foundation; Bryon Line, veteran
On Wednesday, I presented LB 753 to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. LB 753 amends Nebraska’s adoption of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) of 1994 to extend protections to persons who work in Nebraska but are called into National Guard Service by another state. Current state law does not provide protections for National Guard Members employed in Nebraska if they are deployed by another state. Estimates shows there are at least 242 individuals who are employed in Nebraska, but are assigned to another state. Therefore, these individuals and their families are not currently protected by state law in the same manner in which Nebraska Guard members are.
This bill will help ensure those individuals are reemployed in Nebraska after they serve. It will provide the added benefit of keeping hard-working individuals in our state and contributing to our economy. More than that, however, it is simply the right thing to do. For our military families worried about their economic security, their jobs and their health care, these protections are critical. We owe these employment protections to all National Guard members.
I am happy to report that the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee already voted this legislation out on a unanimous vote. LB 753 is now on General File.
Snowstorm Postpones Hearings, Floor Debate
On Monday morning, Speaker Hadley announced that due to the predicted snowstorm, hearings on Tuesday afternoon were canceled and would be rescheduled for the morning of Tuesday, February 9. Hearings already scheduled for the afternoon of February 9 will continue as planned. He also postponed floor debate on Tuesday. Instead, the Legislature met briefly to establish quorum (25 senators) before adjourning. Given that I-80 West was closed west of Lincoln due to snowfall, it was a wise decision to postpone floor debate and hearings. Many testifiers would have been unable to attend the hearings due to weather.
This means, however, that the Urban Affairs Committee and other committees who normally meet on Tuesdays will have hearings all day on Tuesday–with a morning and afternoon session.
I was proud to speak Wednesday at the Nebraska State AFL-CIO Annual Legislative Conference
How To: Navigate the Nebraska Legislative Website
The Legislature works hard to conduct their business in a transparent way. The legislative website is a great tool to help citizens stay informed on issues and learn more about the legislative process. This website can be found at the following link: www.nebraskalegislature.gov This session, the Clerk of the Legislature’s office worked hard to update and refresh the Legislature’s website.
The front page of the website has links to a variety of information, including links to hearings schedules, priority bill listings, interim study listings, news from the Unicameral Update (the Nebraska Legislature’s official publication), and a link to the day’s materials and activities including the agenda.
In Nebraska, all bills and amendments are posted online through the Legislature’s website. To look up a bill, simply type the bill number in the search engine on the right hand side of the home page. If you do not know the bill number, you can search by introducer, committee the bill was referred to, or subject matter here: http://nebraskalegislature.gov/bills/
When you read a bill, the most important language of most bills is the material underlined or struck out. Underlined content indicates new material or additions to state law. Struck out material indicates the bill removes this language from our state laws. The other language in the bill simply shows the rest of the existing law that the bill changes. The exception is an outright repeal of a section of statute. In this case, the bill will simply list the chapters and sections repealed. To see the repealed language, use the tools on the website to search or browse existing law.
The Transcriber’s Office in the Legislature helps create transcripts from public hearings and floor debate which are available online as they become available. By mid summer, all transcripts from the previous session are available online for public view. These transcripts can be found in the bottom right hand corner of the bill page under “Related Transcripts.”
The bill page also contains the fiscal note, committee statement, statement of intent and any amendments to the bill. The fiscal note and statement of intent help legislators and the public understand the fiscal impact of a bill and purpose of the bill. The committee statement allows one to see who supported or opposed a bill as well as the committee vote on the bill. Fiscal notes and statements of intent are generally posted within 24 hours of the bill’s public hearing. Committee statements are only available for bills that get voted out of committee.
The Legislative Fiscal Office employs fiscal analysts who prepare fiscal notes for all bills before the Legislature. State agencies submit fiscal notes to the Legislative Fiscal Office regarding the fiscal impact, if any, of a particular piece of legislation. The fiscal analyst’s job is to then interpret and determine a formal fiscal note for the bill. If a bill advances to General File, this formal fiscal notes becomes the basis of the ‘A’ or Appropriation bill that follows the bill throughout the three rounds of debate.
This Week in Urban Affairs
Due to the snowstorm this week, the Urban Affairs Committee will be holding two sets of public hearings next week – the first set Tuesday morning on municipal economic development tools, and the second set Tuesday afternoon on tax-increment financing, or TIF. Historically, TIF has been one of the more controversial topics under the jurisdiction of the Urban Affairs Committee.
Under Nebraska’s community development statutes, municipalities can utilize TIF for the redevelopment of properties that have been deemed “substandard and blighted”. As applied, TIF allows the municipalities to issue bonds to pay the costs of a redevelopment project based on the projected increase in property tax revenues that the new development creates. Property tax revenues based on the value of the property prior to the redevelopment (the “base”) continue to flow to other political subdivisions that have a property tax levy on property within the redevelopment area, while any increased property tax revenues are dedicated to paying off the TIF bonds.
After fifteen years, or when the bonds are paid off, the increased property tax revenues revert to the city’s general fund and other political subdivisions that have a property tax levy on property within the redevelopment area. As shown in the map below, TIF has been used by all classes of Nebraska municipalities, and in all areas of the state.
TIF was specifically authorized under the Nebraska State Constitution in 1978, and Nebraska’s TIF statutes must comply with the TIF-enabling language in the constitution. The primary constitutional requirements are the requirement that property be designated “blighted and substandard” in order to be eligible for TIF, and the 15-year limit on the repayment period for TIF bonds.
In addition to the bills that were postponed due to the snowstorm, next week the Urban Affairs Committee will be hearing four bills dealing with TIF – two bills that amend Nebraska’s TIF statutes, and two proposed amendments to the TIF-enabling language in the Nebraska State Constitution:
All my best,