With a third of the session behind us in the Legislature, only 17 bills have progressed, and all were non-controversial issues.The 2014 legislative session is progressing at a glacial pace.
Debate has begun on senator's priority bills.
Sen. Dave Bloomfield's priority bill was the first debated on the floor. That bill revoked the requirement that motorcycle operators wear helmets when driving on state highways. Debate consumed eight hours, but Bloomfield was unable to secure 33 votes to end debate and force a vote, which kills the bill.
We heard lots of statistics and facts about head injuries and the associated costs, but I was not convinced that the public health costs outweigh the freedom to take risks and make decisions on your own.
I introduced two bills on Tuesday.
• LB 846 offers optional brand inspection to ranchers living in counties which abut the brand inspection line. The idea for this bill arose following public hearings held in Ainsworth and West Point to expand the brand area to the entire state. While this is still the most logical and proper application of the law, opposition from residents of the non-brand area have kept the bill bottled up in committee.
Offering brand inspection to producers in counties bordering the brand area may develop an appreciation for the benefits of brand inspection in those counties which could translate into enlarging the brand area at a future time. The bill will benefit purebred ranching operations and ranchers who are shipping livestock into states that require brand inspection for entry into their state. Currently those individuals must load their animals in trucks, bring them into the brand area and then unload them for inspection.
• I introduced LB 1095 in the Urban Affairs Committee. LB 1095 develops an oversight mechanism for community redevelopment projects under tax increment financing and gives other property tax stakeholders a seat at the table.
I requested an interim study during 2013 to evaluate the ramifications of Tax Increment Financing on the State Aid Formula.
TIF freezes property valuations on the designated property for 15 years and was designed to renovate “blighted and substandard” areas of urban communities. The interim study found that an additional $22 to 32 million was needed to replace revenue lost to TIF projects, and two-thirds of that revenue went to schools in the Omaha area.
We had significant support for the bill, but also predictable opposition from city managers. However, several questionable TIF projects have taken place in portions of Omaha which are far from blighted, and taxpayers should not be on the hook to enrich developers or bankers.
I intend to push this issue as hard as I possibly can. We were helped significantly by the Omaha World Herald over the weekend that ran a lengthy story on plans to renovate the Crossroads area of Omaha. The project will require $50 million in bond payments and an additional $53 million in TIF tax-deferment, which puts Omaha taxpayers on the hook for over $100 million.
• I also introduced LB 1115 which directs the Power Revue Board to commission a study examining the opportunities and needs for power transmission from Nebraska. Nebraska lags behind many of its neighbors in development of wind energy, despite having tremendous wind potential.
NPPD does an excellent job providing power to Nebraska's producers, but they do not have the need for future wind energy, so our best hope for development of this natural resource is to look outside Nebraska. Construction of a direct current line to large urban markets would be a boon to Nebraska, and this study will examine our ability and needs for such a project.
If LB 1115 is moved from committee, I will blend it with LB 402 and prioritize it. The benefits to District 43 from the development of a wind industry are enormous and too important to let languish for another 10 years.
As always, I value your input, and welcome phone calls, emails and personal visits from you.
Sen. Al Davis, State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509. (402) 471-2628. firstname.lastname@example.org