Session Review: Urban Affairs

Economic development, annexation, utilities and city ordinances were among the urban issues taken up by lawmakers this session.

LB66, introduced by Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, creates a process for a city to use tax increment financing (TIF) for formerly used defense sites outside of city limits, but within the same county.

A formerly used defense site is defined as real property that was formerly owned by, leased to or otherwise possessed by the United States and under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Defense. Missile silos are excluded from the definition.

Under the bill, an area to be developed must be inside a sanitary improvement district (SID) and the city must file an ordinance declaring intent to annex the formed SID. The city then may use TIF to create a redevelopment project.

Currently existing service areas of electric and natural gas utilities and communications companies will be preserved.

The bill passed on a 40-0 vote.

LR29CA, introduced by York Sen. Greg Adams, would place a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2014 general election ballot. If approved by voters, the amendment would make two changes to how cities and villages are able to use TIF to rehabilitate substandard properties.

The measure was advanced to general file by the Urban Affairs Committee on a 6-0 vote but was not scheduled for debate.

LB377, introduced by Wahoo Sen. Jerry Johnson, amends existing Nebraska law to clarify that the authority held by a county board over a county road, including any easements, are transferred to the governing body of an annexing city or village.

The bill passed 46-0.

Lawmakers also passed a bill that makes several technical changes to state law governing metropolitan utilities districts.

LB208, introduced by Omaha Sen. Burke Harr, makes the following changes:
• allows the board to decrease the president’s salary;
• eliminates a requirement that the district obtain a bond of not less than $10,000 on the president’s performance;
• allows the board to establish its own standards for fire hydrant placement, as long as such standards do not violate any state Department of Health and Human Services regulations; and
• removes a requirement that an employee first must have been made a permanent employee by a unanimous vote of the full board of directors in order to be removed from his or her position.

The board still will be able to remove an employee for cause by a two-thirds vote.

The bill passed on a 46-0 vote.

Senators approved four bills that modify provisions for primary, first and second class cities and villages. All were introduced by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill.

LB87 provides that an appointee filling a vacancy on an airport authority board may serve the unexpired term of a vacated board member. The bill passed on a 49-0 vote.

LB111 allows cities of the first and second class and villages to file biennial budgets with the state auditor’s office and county clerk.

State law classifies incorporated cities, villages and municipalities by their population. The city is classified as:
• first class if its population is 5,001 to 100,000;
• second class if its population is 801 to 5,000; and
• a village if its population is 100 to 800.

The bill passed with an emergency clause on a 49-0 vote.

LB112 transfers record keeping and reporting on bonds from the city clerk to the city treasurer in first and second class cities and villages. The bill also requires the treasurer to prepare lists of and collect all special assessments.

The bill passed on a 49-0 vote.

Finally, LB113 authorizes the mayor of a second class city to vote when it would create a number equal to a majority of the members elected to the council.

Senators passed the bill on a 47-0 vote.

Certain cities and villages are authorized to determine at what height weeds and grasses become nuisances under a bill passed this session.

LB643, sponsored by Hyannis Sen. Al Davis, allows cities of the first and second class and villages to determine the height limit of weeds, grasses and worthless vegetation. Current law sets the nuisance level at 12 inches in height.

The bill also allows a city or village to develop a property owner notification process. If a property owner files a written appeal of a nuisance citation within five days of notification, the bill requires a city or village to hold an appeal hearing within 14 days.

LB643 passed 44-1.

Lawmakers voted to strike the enacting clause of a bill that would have required development of a regional housing authority plan for the Omaha area.

Introduced by Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford, LB49 would have created a joint committee to develop a plan for creation of a single housing authority in a county with a metropolitan class city. Currently, Omaha is the only metropolitan class city in Nebraska.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers filed a motion to return LB49 to select file from final reading for consideration of an amendment to strike the enacting clause. The amendment was adopted 39-0, effectively killing the bill.

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