NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Urban Affairs Committee

Welcome

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 1st, 2016

In December, the Urban Affairs Committee published an interim study report on LR 155, which took a comprehensive look at the economic development tools that are currently available to municipalities in Nebraska, as well as tools that are available to municipalities in other states.  Part of that report compiled ideas for changes to strengthen current tools, and the report has already begun to serve as a roadmap for the Legislature as we continue to evaluate local economic development tools.

Two ideas that were suggested as part of the LR 155 process are the subject of bills that will be heard by the Urban Affairs Committee next week.  Both deal with the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act, commonly referred to as LB 840  One, LB 860 adds workforce housing as a qualifying use of LB 840 funds. The other (LB 808) allows municipalities to amend LB 840 plans more easily.  LB 840 allows municipalities to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development purposes, if approved by local voters. There are approximately 70 municipalities which have voted to create an LB 840 program, including the City of Bellevue.  A map of those programs is shown below.

01282016_local_opt_munic_econ_dev_act

This week’s Urban Affairs hearings are being rescheduled due to the weather.

This Week in Urban Affairs

January 25th, 2016

This Week in Urban Affairs

Discussions in the Urban Affairs Committee this week will focus on statutes governing cities and villages in Nebraska.  Of the four bills being heard by the committee this week, three relate in part to the subject of 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 four bills – three dealing with municipalities, and a fourth dealing with enterprise zones:

  • LB 875: Change conditions for approval of a planned unit development for certain second-class cities and villages
  • LB 948: Change an application period limitation for the designation of enterprise zones and prescribed
  • LB 864: Change provisions relating to a municipality requesting additional extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction
  • LB 705: Change provisions relating to cities of the first class

This Week in Urban Affairs

January 19th, 2016

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.

Land banks jpeg

The Urban Affairs Committee’s report on LR 155, an interim study to examine current and potential economic development tools available to municipalities in Nebraska, is now available on the Urban Affairs Committee reports page:  http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/reports/urban.php
The LR 155 report takes a comprehensive look at economic development tools that are currently available to municipalities in Nebraska, as well as examining tools that are available to municipalities in other states.  The report also compiles ideas for changes to strengthen the tools that were presented to the committee as part of the interim study process, and should serve as a good roadmap as the Legislature continues to evaluate local economic development tools over the next few years.


The Urban Affairs committee held hearings this week at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, where I introduced LR152 and LR155.  Last month, the committee held two hearings at the Capitol.

On October 23rd, the Urban Affairs Committee held a pair of interim study hearings.  The first study, LR 278, examined existing resources and the need for additional tools for municipalities to encourage revitalization of older and historic neighborhoods.  At the hearing, a group of graduate students in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Community and Regional Planning program presented findings to the committee from their review of programs currently utilized in other states.  The committee also heard from a number of city and neighborhood representatives about the role current municipal tools play in neighborhood revitalization, and the need for additional tools to address vacant and abandoned properties.

The second hearing, LR 174, examined issues surrounding Nebraska’s energy code statutes.  Unlike building codes in Nebraska, which are largely enforced at the local level, the Nebraska Energy Code is enforced by the Nebraska Energy Office in cases where the relevant political subdivision does not have a code enforcement division.  The current Nebraska Energy Code is the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), and much of the discussion at the hearing focused on whether the state should update its energy code to either the 2012 or 2015 editions of the IECC. The committee also heard powerful testimony from a homeowner whose new home had not been built to meet the code and her limited options for recourse.

This week, the Urban Affairs Committee wrapped up its interim study work for the year with the second of two hearings on economic-development related interim studies, as well as held a stakeholders meeting for LR 159, an interim study to examine Nebraska’s handicapped parking statutes.

On Friday, September 25th, the Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing on two economic-development related interim studies.  The first, LR 152, examined the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act, commonly referred to as LB 840.  Passed in 1991, LB 840 allows municipalities to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development purposes, if approved by local voters.  Currently at least 68 municipalities have voted to create an LB 840 program, including the City of Bellevue.  A map of municipalities in Nebraska that have created an LB 840 program can be seen by clicking HERE

The second interim study, LR 155, marked the start of the Urban Affairs Committee’s comprehensive review of current and potential economic development tools available to Nebraska municipalities.  In addition to LB 840 plans, LR 155 will examine tax-increment financing (TIF) and a variety of other programs in state law.  The study will also review economic development tools currently available to municipalities in other states, and whether provisions in the Nebraska State Constitution prohibit similar programs from being created in Nebraska.

On Friday, October 23rd, the Urban Affairs Committee will hold interim hearings on issues related to neighborhood revitalization and energy codes.  The first interim study, LR 278, will examine the existing resources and the need for additional tools for municipalities to encourage revitalization of older and historic neighborhoods.  Issues covered under this interim study will include the need for financial incentives to encourage business investments in declining neighborhoods, methods of encouraging home ownership and rehabilitation of older buildings, and the role that current municipal tools play in neighborhood revitalization.

The second October hearing, LR 174, will examine issues surrounding Nebraska’s energy code statutes.  Unlike building codes in Nebraska, which are largely enforced at the local level, the Nebraska Energy Code is enforced by the Nebraska Energy Office in cases where the relevant political subdivision does not enforce the Energy Code.  The current Nebraska Energy Code is the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), and LR 174 will consider whether the state should update its energy code to the 2012 or 2015 editions of the IECC.  In addition, the study will examine the interaction between the energy code and the state building code and the role of both political subdivisions and the Nebraska Energy Office in enforcing the energy code statutes.

August 31st, 2015

On September 25th, the Urban Affairs Committee will hold two hearings on economic development-related interim studies.  The first, LR 152, will examine the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act, commonly referred to as LB 840.  Passed in 1991, LB 840 allows municipalities to collect and appropriate local tax dollars for economic development purposes, if approved by local voters.  As of last year, 65 municipalities have voted to create an LB 840 program, including the City of Bellevue.  A map of municipalities in Nebraska that have created an LB 840 program is shown below.

08242015_lb840.png

 
The second study, LR 155, will take a comprehensive look at current and potential economic development tools available to Nebraska municipalities.  In addition to LB 840 plans, LR 155 will look at tax-increment financing (TIF) and a variety of other programs in state law.  The study will also review economic development tools currently available to municipalities in other states, and whether provisions in the Nebraska State Constitution prohibit similar programs from being created in Nebraska.

There were 129 interim study resolutions introduced during the First Session of the 104th Legislature, of which nine were referred to the Urban Affairs Committee.  Over the past decade, the previous record for interim studies referred to the committee was eight, so it’s going to be a busy interim in Urban Affairs this year!

As Chair of the Urban Affairs Committee, part of my duties are to prioritize interim studies that are referred to the committee and schedule interim hearings.  A full listing of the interim studies referred to the Urban Affairs Committee, listed in order of committee priority, is below:

Resolution No.

Subject

LR 155 (Urban Affairs Committee)

Interim study to examine current and potential economic development tools available to municipalities in Nebraska

LR 174 (Crawford)

Interim study to examine issues surrounding the Nebraska Energy Code

LR 152 (Crawford)

Interim study to examine the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act

LR 278 (Pansing-Brooks)

Interim study to examine existing resources and the need for additional tools for municipalities to further encourage revitalization of neighborhoods

LR 273 (Davis)

Interim study to examine the current practices of municipalities using tax-increment financing under the Community Development Law

LR 159 (Crawford)

Interim study to examine issues surrounding handicapped parking

LR 280 (Crawford)

Interim study to examine municipal bankruptcy

LR 240 (Urban Affairs Committee)

Interim study to examine state law governing cities of the first class in Chapter 16 of the Nebraska statutes

LR 156 (Urban Affairs Committee)

Interim study to examine issues under the jurisdiction of the Urban Affairs Committee

Unlike bills heard during session, not all interim study resolutions will have a public hearing.  Often the “heavy lifting” of interim studies is done by committee staff during the summer months, and committee legal counsel Trevor Fitzgerald is already hard at work researching a variety of topics, including handicapped parking statutes, energy codes, and the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act (commonly referred to as LB 840).

Earlier this month, the Urban Affairs Committee officially scheduled its initial interim study hearings to be held this fall.  On September 25th, the committee will hold a hearing on two economic development-related interim studies – LR 155 & LR 152.  On October 23rd, the committee will hold hearings on LR 278, dealing with neighborhood revitalization, and LR 174, which examines the Nebraska Energy Code.  Both sets of Friday hearings will be held in the State Capitol in Room 1510, and will begin at 1:30 p.m.

The Urban Affairs Committee’s 2015 Session Summary report is now available on the Urban Affairs Committee reports page: http://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/reports/urban.php
The report includes summaries for all bills heard by the Urban Affairs Committee this session, as well as a breakdown of bills by subject matter, a detailed index and status update for all bills, and a list of interim studies referred to the Urban Affairs Committee.

LB 324, a bill introduced by Senator John McCollister, would allow sanitary and improvement districts (SIDs) to contract for solid waste collection services, aka garbage collection.  An Urban Affairs Committee priority bill, the bill as amended also includes the provisions of two other SID-related bills heard by this committee this session, including LB 420, a bill I introduced to provide new homebuyers with information about SIDs when they purchase a home located in an SID.  LB 324 passed on a 44-3 vote.

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