January 7th, 2015

The Urban Affairs Committee is responsible for processing legislation involving the following subject areas:

  • state natural gas regulation
  • cities and villages; organization; powers and services; officers and employees; funds; annexation and zoning; planning
  • sanitary and improvement districts
  • Metropolitan Utilities District; Business Improvement District Act
  • housing authorities
  • community antenna television service
  • handicapped parking (for municipal responsibilities)
  • tax increment financing

During session, the Urban Affairs Committee meets on Tuesdays in Room 1510 on the 1st Floor of the Capitol.

This Week in Urban Affairs

February 23rd, 2015

Historically, tax-increment financing, or 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 municipality to issue bonds to pay the costs of a redevelopment project, with the increased property tax revenues from the redevelopment area dedicated to paying off the bonds.  After fifteen years (or earlier if the bonds are paid off sooner), the increased property tax revenues revert to the city’s general fund and to other political subdivisions which have a property tax levy on property within the redevelopment area.

This past fall, TIF was also the subject of one of the committee’s major interim studies, LR 599.

This week, the Urban Affairs Committee will be hearing three bills dealing with TIF:

-          LB 596:  Change the Community Development Law and create the Tax-Increment Financing Division of the Auditor of Public Accounts

-          LB 238:  Change provisions relating to tax-increment financing under the Community Development Law

-          LB 445:  Authorize audits of redevelopment plans that use tax-increment financing

Last week, four bills from the Urban Affairs Committee were passed on Final Reading and forwarded to Governor Ricketts for his signature.   The four bills, all of which passed unanimously, were:

-          LB 149:  Change provisions relating to election procedures for sanitary and improvement districts

-          LB 150:  Redefine terms under the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act

-          LB 151:  Provide for a person designated to accept city or village notices in cases of mortgaged property or trust deed default

-          LB 168:  Authorize expansion of existing business improvement districts

This Week in Urban Affairs

February 14th, 2015

The Urban Affairs Committee has jurisdiction over most state and local building codes, and since 2007 has heard bills dealing with a wide variety of codes, including building codes, energy codes, and plumbing codes.

In 1987, the State of Nebraska adopted its first statewide building code to govern the construction, reconstruction, alteration, and repair of buildings in Nebraska.  The goal of the state building code is to protect the life, health, property, and public welfare of Nebraskans by adopting minimum standards for building design and construction, and to provide for the use of modern and innovative construction techniques.

Like most states, Nebraska has adopted as its state building code a series of model codes published by the International Codes Council, a national association that develops model building codes and standards.  The current state building code consists of three such model codes: 1) the International Building Code, or IBC, which covers all new construction except one- and two-family dwellings; 2) the International Residential Code, or IRC, which covers new construction of one- and two-family dwellings; and 3) the International Existing Building Code, or IEBC, which covers repair, alteration, addition, and change of occupancy for existing buildings.  New editions of these codes are published every three years, and the state has currently adopted the 2009 versions of the codes, with the exception of the residential fire sprinkler mandate in the IRC.

In addition to a bill on the state building code, this week the Urban Affairs Committee will hear two bills dealing with first-class cities, which are cities with a population between 5,001 and 100,000:

  • LB 455: Clarify provisions relating to employment of a full-time fire chief by cities of the first class

  • LB 378: Change requirements for voter approval of borrowing money for public improvements by a first-class city

This Week in Urban Affairs

February 6th, 2015

Of the twenty bills that were referenced to the Urban Affairs Committee this legislative session, six have already been advanced to the floor of the Legislature by the committee.  Among those bills is LB 168, a bill that updates and modernizes Nebraska’s statutes governing business improvement districts (BIDs).

BIDs are special-purpose districts created by a municipality to help fund improvements and developments within an established business area.  While the use of BIDs has increased in recent years, the statutes governing them have remained largely unchanged since the 1980s.  Under LB 168, the cumbersome process of creating a BID would be streamlined to provide affected businesses with clearer information about the proposed district.

LB 168 would also create a process to allow the expansion of an existing BID.  Currently, if additional businesses would like to receive the benefits of the BID, there is no process in statute to expand the current boundaries.  As a result, several communities have been forced to create new BIDs adjacent to the existing ones, which causes unnecessary duplication.  The process to expand an existing BID would mirror the process for creating one under current law.

This week’s Urban Affairs Committee will be returning to the topic of sanitary and improvement districts (SIDs), hearing four bills on the subject:

  • LB 197: Provide additional powers to certain SIDs

  • LB 420: Require acknowledgments from purchasers of real estate in a SID

  • LB 300: Change provisions relating to enforcement of ordinances by SIDs

  • LB 324: Provide authority to SIDs to contract for solid waste collection services

This Week in Urban Affairs

February 2nd, 2015

Discussions in the Urban Affairs Committee this week will return to the statutes governing cities and villages in Nebraska.  Two of three bills being heard by the committee this week deal with municipalities’ extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction, commonly referred to as the ETJ.  A municipality’s ETJ consists of the contiguous unincorporated land within a certain radius of its corporate limits.

Municipalities have the authority to enforce certain ordinances and regulations within their ETJ, including subdivision regulations, zoning regulations, building codes, and nuisance ordinances.  This is generally intended to ensure that infrastructure within the ETJ meets city standards, so that cities do not bear the cost of fixing substandard infrastructure upon annexation.

The size of a municipality’s ETJ varies according to the classification of the city or village.  State law currently classifies Nebraska municipalities into five categories based on population: 1) cities of the metropolitan class (300,000 or more); 2) cities of the primary class (100,001 to 299,999); 3) cities of the first class (5,001 to 100,000); 4) cities of the second class (801 to 5,000); and villages (100 to 800).  Cities of the metropolitan (i.e. Omaha) and primary (i.e. Lincoln) class have a three-mile ETJ, cities of the first class (i.e. Bellevue) have a two-mile ETJ; and cities of the second class (i.e. Springfield) and villages (i.e. Murray) have a one-mile ETJ.

This week, the Urban Affairs Committee will hear three bills, all of which deal with municipalities:

  • LB 295: Require municipalities to have county approval before enforcing ordinances in the extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction.
  • LB 304: Adopt the Municipal Custodianship for Dissolved Homeowners Associations Act.
  • LB 266: Change provisions relating to jurisdiction for municipalities to enforce nuisance ordinances.

This Week in Urban Affairs

January 24th, 2015

Each week during committee hearings, the Urban Affairs website will feature a brief overview of the issues being heard by the committee in the coming week.  The first week of hearings focused on a handful of municipal-related bills that were heard by the committee in 2014 but failed to become law due to time constraints.  This week, the committee’s hearings will shift to sanitary and improvement districts, or SIDs. SIDs are a type of limited-purpose political subdivision that is unique to Nebraska.  First created in the late-1940s, SIDs are primarily utilized in urban areas to facilitate growth outside of city limits, with the expectation that the SID will eventually be annexed by the nearby municipality.  Of the roughly 325 SIDs statewide, more than 80% are located in either Douglas or Sarpy County.  While a helpful development tool, SIDs present a wide variety of unique challenges for residents, particularly in cases where an SID is not annexed by a city that “grows around” it.  Most SID boards provide for basic services through contract or inter local agreement, but SID residents are often unaware that they cannot access city services without paying separate fees that are not charged to city residents.  Similarly, SID residents are unable to vote in city elections since they are outside of city limits. This week, the Urban Affairs Committee will hear four bills, three dealing with SIDs, and a fourth dealing with business improvement districts:

  • LB 168: Authorize expansion of existing business improvement districts
  • LB 116: Change election procedures and membership for certain SID boards of trustees
  • LB 131: Change provisions relating to annexation and prohibit SIDs from spending certain assets
  • LB 149: Change provisions relating to election procedures for SIDs

To watch these and all other hearings online , visit: http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government

Meet the Urban Affairs Staff: Courtney Breitkreutz, Committee Clerk

January 23rd, 2015


In addition to serving as Senator Crawford’s administrative aide, Courtney will also fulfill the clerk duties for the Urban Affairs Committee.  As the committee clerk, she helps keep committee records on bills reported to the committee in order to assist the Clerk’s office and Transcribers’ office with their records.  Courtney has been at the legislature since October 2013.  She is originally from Plattsmouth, and she makes many trips back to visit her family, including nephews Leo and Elijah.

She and her husband Paul, who is an academic advisor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, live in Lincoln. She comes to us after receiving graduate degrees in sociology and education from UNL. Before going back to school, she worked for a non-profit agency in Lincoln that provides assistance to Nebraska’s seasonal and migrant farmworkers. When not at the legislature, Courtney enjoys spending time with Paul and their dogs Pax and Greyson.

Meet the Urban Affairs Staff: Trevor Fitzgerald, Legal Counsel

January 23rd, 2015


Trevor started working in the Legislature in 2009, and is originally from Louisville, Nebraska.  Trevor earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from UNL, and a law degree from Creighton University.  Prior to joining the Urban Affairs Committee as legal counsel this past September, Trevor served as legislative aide for former Senator Bob Giese of South Sioux City and Senator Heath Mello of Omaha.  More recently, Trevor also served as research analyst for the Appropriations Committee, advising the committee chair on legal, procedural, and policy issues related to the state budget process.

In his role as legal counsel, Trevor reviews and analyzes legislation assigned to the committee, coordinates committee hearings and briefings, researches legal and policy issues for the committee, and monitors activities related to the committee’s jurisdiction.  The Urban Affairs Committee primarily deals with the statutes governing municipalities (cities and villages) in Nebraska, and also has jurisdiction over state natural gas regulation, building codes, handicap parking, and various types of special districts, including Sanitary and Improvement Districts (SIDs), Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD), mass transit authorities, housing authorities, and business improvement districts.

Trevor and his wife Bonnie, who is a history professor at Metropolitan Community College, live in the Maple Village neighborhood in Northwest Omaha with their soon-to-be 4-year-old son, Jack.  Trevor also serves as president of the Maple Village Neighborhood Association, enjoys traveling to and hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, and is an avid baseball fan.