West central Nebraska’s five state senators were busy Wednesday, introducing most of the leading bills on their personal agendas on the 2022 Legislature’s opening day.
They included North Platte Sen. Mike Groene’s proposed update to his “microTIF” program, Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer’s “constitutional carry” handgun bill and Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman’s latest version of his constitutional amendment to replace major state taxes with a “consumption tax.”
Sens. Matt Williams of Gothenburg and Dan Hughes of Venango also offered initial batches of bills Wednesday. The 49 lawmakers can introduce bills until Jan. 20, the 10th day of the 60-day session.
Groene’s Legislative Bill 790, which lists Williams as a co-sponsor, broadens the scope of his microTIF concept that lawmakers unanimously passed 49-0 in August 2020.
MicroTIF resembles regular tax increment financing in allowing owners of older homes or commercial buildings to recover property taxes generated when they’re rehabilitated, repaired or replaced.
Such buildings must be in areas designated “substandard and blighted” — like regular TIF — and must be at least 60 years old to qualify for microTIF.
LB 790 would lengthen the maximum time for older buildings’ owners to recover those refunds from 10 years to the 15-year period applying to regular TIF.
It also would authorize microTIF in redeveloping vacant lots in TIF-eligible areas. Such lots would have to have been platted at least 60 years ago under the bill.
Finally, LB 790 would raise microTIF’s limits on estimated post-project taxable values to gain the refunds.
They’d be set at $350,000 for rehabbing single-family homes, $5 million for multifamily homes or commercial buildings and $15 million for buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Brewer’s LB 773 would let most Nebraskans carry handguns in ordinary circumstances — whether concealed or in the open — based on the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Cities, villages and counties could not regulate concealed handguns under Brewer’s bill, which lists Groene and Erdman among 14 original co-sponsors.
But LB 773 still would forbid possession of concealed firearms or other weapons by people who are convicted felons or otherwise ineligible under other state or federal laws.
People who are drinking alcohol or under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances could not carry concealed handguns under LB 773.
Brewer’s bill wouldn’t alter an existing list in state law of places where concealed handguns are banned, including bars, schools, courtrooms and election polling places.
If Nebraskans allowed to carry concealed handguns are contacted by law enforcement officers or first responders, LB 773 also would require them to tell them of that fact and present formal identification.
Erdman’s latest proposed consumption-tax amendment, Legislative Resolution 264CA, streamlines his 2021 version (LR 11CA) that fell two votes short of first-round approval in the last Unicameral session.
LR 264CA says only consumption taxes and excise taxes could be imposed upon Nebraskans starting Jan. 1, 2024, if the measure clears the Legislature and voters adopt it in November’s general election.
Erdman last year introduced LB 133, which spells out how state and local consumption taxes would work. It remains alive for consideration for 2022 should it advance from the Revenue Committee.
LR 264CA includes Brewer among seven co-sponsors.
Among other bills introduced Wednesday by west central Nebraska state senators:
» Groene’s LB 783 would set aside $75 million from Nebraska’s share of federal COVID-19 relief funds for a $75 million grant program to build beef processing plants.
Given the pandemic’s impact on beef supplies, Groene says, Sustainable Beef LLC should have a chance to tap those funds to help it build its planned 1,500-head-a-day plant in North Platte. Williams co-sponsors LB 783.
» Another Groene bill, LB 788, would fund the full $50 million in state matching funds for building industrial “rail parks” allowed under Groene’s previously enacted LB 40.
Lawmakers provided initial funding of $10 million when they voted 49-0 to pass LB 40 last May. Brewer is co-sponsoring LB 788.
» LB 703, introduced by Williams, would tap the state’s COVID-19 funds for $25 million as matching funds for a U.S. Department of Agriculture “agriculture innovation” program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Innovation Campus.
USDA funds would cover the rest of the project’s $250 million construction cost at Lincoln’s former State Fair Park, Williams told The Telegraph.
» Two bills jointly sponsored by and Brewer would limit executive sessions by public bodies (LB 743) and strike the Nebraska Brand Committee’s authority to accept electronic or nonvisual ownership identifiers for livestock (LB 744).
LB 743 would reduce the legal reasons for closed sessions to six categories already in state law — such as negotiations, security, criminal investigations and job performance — and apply them to full boards and subcommittees.
LB 744, meanwhile, would pull back the Legislature’s agreement to allow such alternatives to “hot-iron” cattle brands when lawmakers approved LB 572 last year.
Erdman said the bills respond to reports that Brand Committee members have held closed sessions to discuss the alternative ownership methods that LB 572 authorized.
» Another Brewer bill, LB 774, would limit the state’s authority to forbid or limit attendance at religious services beyond what it imposes on other businesses.
Erdman is among six co-sponsors of the “First Freedom Act,” which Brewer said was brought to him by Nebraska church groups.
» Brewer and Erdman are among 10 co-sponsors of Groene’s LB 785, which would cut the length of “early voting” to 22 days before primary and general elections and 15 days before special elections.
Five stories that sum up Unicam's 2021 session
From Sen. Mike Groene's rail park bill to raising non-resident park permits prices at Lake McConaughy, here are some highlights from the last Nebraska Legislature session.
State Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte was principal sponsor of LB 40, which allows state matching funds for communities wanting to build rail parks, and a co-sponsor of LB 156, which permits up to five “inland port districts” in Nebraska.
Also adopted 49-0 Thursday was LB 185, a bill by Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer appropriating state funds for “federally qualified health centers” owned by Native American tribes in urban areas.
State senators have sent a cattle brand-reform bill partly reflecting industrywide meetings last fall in North Platte to the final stage of co…
Gov. Pete Ricketts, who had been kept closely informed during the negotiations, swiftly signed the bills into law.
Groene will serve on the Natural Resources, Agriculture and General Affairs committees as part of the final list of committee assignments senators approved Friday.