Sesquicentennial commission advanced

Senators gave first-round approval March 7 to a bill that would establish a planning commission for the 150th anniversary of Nebraska statehood.

Under LB744, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery, the governor would appoint 17 members to the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission. The commission would work with state agencies, boards and commissions to develop programs to celebrate the state’s anniversary in 2017.

The bill would require that no more than eight members be affiliated with the same political party and that all regions and major interests in the state be represented. The commission would terminate June 30, 2018.

Avery said the commission would build on work started by a group – Friends of the Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial – that has been raising money and awareness in preparation for the anniversary. He said the group has laid the groundwork for the celebration but that a statewide commission needs to be established to coordinate their efforts.

“They are dedicated citizens and they have a great deal of enthusiasm for the work they’re doing,” Avery said, “They are committed to making this one of the premier events of the last 25 to 50 years in this state.”

Omaha Sen. John Nelson supported the bill.

“I think it’s wise that we get started on this three years ahead of time,” Nelson said. “There is a lot of work to be done on this.”

A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment, adopted 28-0, places the commission within the Nebraska State Historical Society for administrative and budgetary purposes and empowers the commission to expend appropriations authorized by the Legislature.

“This provision was added because it enables the commission to hit the ground running,” Avery said.

LB744 advanced to select file on a 27-0 vote.

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