We have just come off of a week that had some highly contested and hotly debated issues. In the beginning of the week, we debated LB698 introduced by Senator Christensen. LB698 would change labeling requirements for alcohol-blended fuel. It eliminates the current provision that requires pump labeling when dispensing product containing 1% or more ethanol by volume. The Agriculture Committee offered an amendment, AM650, which would retain the labeling requirement for alcohol-gasoline blends but only when the alcohol content exceeds 11% of product by volume. I have received much correspondence in opposition to removing labeling alcohol-blended fuel. During the debate on General File, it was brought forward that people want to know what is in their gasoline. I did vote to move the bill to Select File, where we will get to see an amendment that is being worked on at this time. I am waiting to see what the amendment will do but I am inclined to vote for not changing the labeling requirements at this time.
On Wednesday, LB105 was debated on Select File. LB105 is a bill I introduced, which would require anyone born after December 31, 1985 to successfully complete a boating safety course and acquire a valid boating certificate to operate a motorboat or personal watercraft. There was a bit of opposition to this on the floor in the floor of an amendment, AM818 that would have changed the date from 1985 to 1990. A floor amendment was also offered FA10, which would make the age requirement the same as the age-of-majority. This floor amendment did not hold up under scrutiny and was withdrawn. I introduced an amendment, AM763, which is clean-up language that was suggested to us while the bill was in Enrollment and Review (E&R). Enrollment and Review is where a bill goes after being passed on General File and Select file to make sure it is fluid within the current statute, and to clean up and clarify language. This amendment passed, and the bill advanced to Final Reading by a majority voice vote.
Thursday and Friday the Legislature debated LB84, introduced by Senator Fischer. LB84 creates the State Highway Capital Improvement Fund and directs a half-cent of existing state sales tax to the Fund to be used for construction of high-priority highway projects. It is estimated that a half-cent of sales tax generates approximately $125 million per year.
The revenue would be split between the state (83%) and cities and counties (17%). Local governments would allot their portion as provided through the current Highway allocation formula and would be required to use the revenue for road and street purposes. The diversion of the existing sales tax would begin in 2013 and continue for twenty years until 2033. The Department of Roads, in conjunction with the State Highway Commission, would be authorized to issue up to $500 million in highway bonds to accelerate construction of high priority, high-dollar projects. Any bonds would be required to issue by 2018 and paid off within twenty years (2038). Debt service would be capped at $25 million per year paid off through the Capital Improvement Fund. The bill would require at least $15 million per year in the Fund be used for the construction of the expressway system as determined by the department.
There was quite a bit of opposition and heated debate on this issue for the full eight hours it was debated. Multiple amendments were introduced to filibuster the bill, as well as a motion to bracket the bill. I support LB84 because investing in our infrastructure is critical for growth and economic development, which is a great need in western Nebraska.
Thank you for taking interest in your Nebraska Legislature. As always, feel free to contact me by phone: (402) 471-2616 (office), by mail at: State Capitol, District 47, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or by email at email@example.com where you can also ask to be added to my personal email list for updates.