Legislative approval proposed for moving state services

The relocation of state services or agencies costing more than $15 million would require legislative approval under a bill heard by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Feb. 13.

Under LB935, introduced by Grand Island Sen. Mike Gloor, the Legislature would have the authority to approve or deny a major relocation from one community to another. Gloor said the bill would add a layer of justification, validation and transparency to the process.

The bill would apply retroactively to any move of a state service or agency proposed on or after Jan. 1, 2013.

“It’s no secret that the impetus [for the bill] comes from the proposed relocation of the Grand Island Veterans’ Home,” Gloor said. “I’m working to fix what I consider a flawed process. It would provide necessary oversight for a process with no public input from the residents of the Grand Island home.”

A request for relocation would be submitted to the Legislature’s Executive Board and must include:
• a description of the proposed relocation;
• justification for the relocation;
• a review of the long-term costs;
• measurable goals for improving the quality of the service;
• an assessment of the feasibility of alternatives within the state agency to moving the service;
• any known or foreseeable legal, environmental or other issues related to the proposed move; and
• a description of economic development efforts to use any facility abandoned by the move.

The approval process would not apply to the University of Nebraska, the Nebraska state colleges, the courts, the Legislature or any officer or state agency established by the state constitution.

Duane Hodge, a former administrator at the Grand Island Veterans Home, testified in support of the bill, saying there needs to be more strategic planning involved in a move of this magnitude.

“The economic consequences will have a ripple effect throughout the city and surrounding areas with the loss of jobs,” he said. “Evoking authority at the executive level at the expense of our veterans is irresponsible.”

Kearney Sen. Galen Hadley testified in opposition to the bill, saying the process used to determine the veterans’ home location was open and fair. He said each of the interested cities agreed to be scored in nine different categories, with Kearney scoring 16 percentage points higher than Grand Island.

“We have a responsibility to do the best we can for the people of Nebraska,” Hadley said. “If we’re going to change the rules and go back and change the decision that was made, we’re going to have to answer to citizens as to why the decision that was made was incorrect.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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