Changes to arts funding amended, advanced

A bill that would make a technical change to the budgeting process of the Nebraska Arts Council was amended to authorize creative districts and advanced from general file March 11.

<a href='' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. John Stinner'>Sen. John Stinner</a>
Sen. John Stinner

LB780, introduced by Gering Sen. John Stinner, would change the level of administrative funding available from the Nebraska Arts and Humanities Cash Fund beginning in fiscal year 2021. Current state law caps that amount at $30,000.

The bill would change the amount by calculating .5 percent of the balance of the Nebraska Cultural Preservation Endowment Fund as it existed on June 30 of the previous fiscal year. The bill would require the Nebraska Arts Council to carry out the annual calculation in conjunction with the Department of Administrative Services budget division no later than Sept. 10 of each fiscal year.

“Due to successful fundraising from the private sector, both the state and private funds [administered by the council] have seen significant growth,” Stinner said. “This has elevated the amount of bookkeeping and oversight the arts council must devote to these tasks.”

Stinner said the cost of administering the endowment fund currently is 43 percent higher than the budget allowance. LB780 would allow the arts council to successfully carry out its mission under its existing funding model, he said.

Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt offered an amendment, adopted 37-0, to add provisions of her LB943. The amendment would require the Nebraska Arts Council to devise a plan for creative districts throughout the state.

The newly formed districts would be certified by the council and distinguished by geography, artistic or cultural activities or facilities, promotion and preservation of artistic or cultural sites, educational uses of artistic or cultural activities or sites and unique or niche areas, activities, events, facilities or sites.

The Legislature would have to approve any plan developed by the council.

Hunt said arts districts embrace a community’s unique characteristics and help revitalize neighborhoods by preserving ethnic heritage and fostering and encouraging community collaboration.

“We know that arts districts can have a significant impact on cities,” she said.

The bill also would allow the council to create a competitive grant program available to a certified cultural district through the Nebraska Arts and Humanities Cash Fund. Money for the grants, Hunt said, would be generated by a separate bill she introduced this session that would authorize a specialty license plate promoting the arts.

Following adoption of the Hunt amendment, senators voted 37-0 to advance LB780 to select file.

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