Urban affairs omnibus bill advanced with land bank provisions intact

A bill that was amended on general file to become an omnibus Urban Affairs measure was given first-round approval April 3.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist13' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Justin Wayne'>Sen. Justin Wayne</a>
Sen. Justin Wayne

As introduced by the Urban Affairs Committee, LB873 would make a variety of clean-up changes to state law related to the governing of cities, including clarifying terms and eliminating antiquated and unnecessary language.

Debate focused on provisions related to expanding land bank authority statewide, which were added to the bill by an Urban Affairs Committee amendment adopted during general file debate March 20.

The provisions, originally introduced by Grand Island Sen. Dan Quick as LB854, would allow any Nebraska municipality to create a land bank under the Nebraska Municipal Land Bank Act and clarify that land banks may enter into agreements under the Interlocal Cooperation Act for the joint administration of multiple land banks.

Currently, only municipalities in Douglas and Sarpy counties are eligible under state law to create land banks, or tax-exempt political subdivisions that acquire, manage and develop vacant and tax-delinquent properties.

Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln had offered an amendment to strike the land bank provisions from the bill, saying she was hesitant to give extensive authority to an unelected entity. The amendment was pending when the Legislature moved to another item on the agenda after three hours of debate.

When debate resumed April 3, Geist said her concerns remained that the land bank provisions were too broad and would increase the size of government. She said the pilot program in Omaha may not be right for all of Nebraska.

“I believe the jury is still out on whether this is a helpful program or not,” she said. “I think we need to give that more time before we push this across the entire state.”

Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, chairperson of the Urban Affairs Committee, opposed the amendment. He said land banks provide a valuable public service by dealing with vacant, abandoned and delinquent properties in an attempt to return them to the tax rolls.

The amendment failed on a vote of 17-20.

The previously adopted committee amendment also contained provisions of five additional bills:
• LB735, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Carol Blood, which would clarify that municipalities have the authority to enter into an interlocal agreement with a county in which the extra-territorial zoning jurisdiction of the municipality is located to provide for joint and cooperative action to abate, remove or prevent nuisances within the ETJ;
• LB748, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, which would clarify references to municipal population thresholds, providing that such thresholds are met based on either the most recent federal decennial census or the most recent revised certified count by the U.S. Bureau of the Census;
• LB765, introduced by the Urban Affairs Committee, which would amend sections of law governing first class cities to clarify that they apply only to first class cities;
• LB768, introduced by Quick, which would authorize first- and second-class cities and villages to make grants and loans under the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act for early childhood infrastructure development; and
• LB880, introduced by Hansen, which would require cities to include an early childhood element in their comprehensive plans no later than Jan. 1, 2022, either when adopting a new or updating an existing comprehensive plan.

LB873 also was amended March 20 to include provisions of LB756, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, which would prohibit municipalities from adopting or enforcing an ordinance or regulation that prohibits the use of a property as a short-term rental, unless necessary to protect public health and safety.

The provisions authorize an online hosting platform to enter into an agreement with the state tax commissioner to collect and pay applicable sales taxes imposed under Nebraska law on behalf of short-term renters.

The bill advanced to select file on a vote of 26-4.

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