Session Review: Urban Affairs

Lawmakers approved two ballot measures this session seeking to amend the state constitution.

LR295CA, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, will place a proposed constitutional amendment on the May 2010 primary election ballot that would authorize any county, city or village to acquire, own, develop and lease real and personal property for use by charitable nonprofit enterprises, and to issue revenue bonds to defray the cost of acquiring, developing or financing such property.

Any revenue bonds authorized under the measure would not be the obligation of the issuing county, city or village and could not be repaid from any property of the county, city or village. Bonds would be satisfied from the project and from revenues received; no taxes could be levied to pay for the bonds.

The measure passed on a 42-0 vote.

LR297CA, sponsored by Wilber Sen. Russ Karpisek, will place on the November 2010 general election ballot a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would change the powers of municipalities relating to funding sources for economic or industrial development.

Currently, the Legislature may authorize cities and villages to use funds raised from general taxes for economic or industrial development, subject to approval by voters.

The proposed amendment would allow the use of funds derived from property tax, local option sales tax or any other general tax levied by a municipality, or funds generated from utilities owned by the city, to be used to issue revenue bonds for defraying the costs of development projects.

All projects would be subject to voter approval and the measure would allow a city to use funds received from grants, donations or state and federal funds.

The measure passed on a 47-0 vote.

Senators also approved a measure allowing certain cities of the first class to retain that designation despite a population decrease.

Under current law, a city of the first class is one with a population between 5,000 and 100,000.

LB919, sponsored by Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, allows a city to attempt to retain the first class designation if it has at least 4,000 residents following the most recent federal census.

If the mayor and city council determine that it is in the best interest of such a city to remain a city of the first class, they must submit a plan for increasing the city’s population when filing census certification documents with the secretary of state’s office.

If, following the next census, a city remains below the population threshold and wishes to retain first-class status, the mayor and city council again must notify the secretary of state’s office. A first class city that remains below the population threshold following a third consecutive federal census will be designated a city of the second class.

LB919 passed on a 49-0 vote.

A bill originally advanced from the Urban Affairs Committee was returned from general file to the Legislature’s referencing committee, the body responsible for determining to which of the Legislature’s 14 standing committees a bill is sent for public hearing.

LB381, sponsored by Tekamah Sen. Kent Rogert, would have allowed the creation of community improvement districts with the ability to set a separate sales tax or special assessment within their boundaries to pay for services or improvements within the district.

LB381 was rereferrenced to the Revenue Committee for a public hearing and was not returned to general file.

The Urban Affairs Committee advanced a bill to general file related to energy efficiency that was not scheduled for debate.

Under LB977, introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, two types of state buildings would have been required to receive certification at the silver level through the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design:

  • new state buildings larger than 5,000 square feet; and
  • renovations of state buildings larger than 5,000 square feet for which the cost of the renovations exceeds 50 percent of the building’s value.

Finally, LB1099, also introduced by Mello, would have amended the state’s Solid Waste Management Act to allow metropolitan class cities to establish a voluntary, fee-for-service recycling program.

The bill failed to advance from committee.

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