Session Review: Urban Affairs

Natural gas infrastructure, building codes, utility district elections and economic development were among the urban affairs issues taken up by lawmakers this session.

Senators passed a bill that allows jurisdictional utilities to construct and authorize natural gas pipeline facilities.

Under LB1115, introduced by Norfolk Sen. Mike Flood, a jurisdictional utility may implement a plan to construct rural natural gas infrastructure. Prior to constructing a natural gas facility, the jurisdictional utility will be required to consider factors such as the environmental impact on the area and the project’s economic feasibility.

A jurisdictional utility will be required to file proposed rural infrastructure surcharge tariffs with the Public Service Commission (PSC) consistent with the proposed rate increases negotiated in an agreement with a community prior to undertaking rural infrastructure development.

A rural infrastructure surcharge tariff or gas supply adjustment tariff will become effective immediately upon filing of all required items with the PSC, including a copy of the agreement with the community and a map of the underserved area.

LB1115 passed on a 49-0 vote.

Production film companies are included in the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act (LOMED) under a bill passed this session.

LOMED authorizes incorporated cities and villages to appropriate local sales and property tax dollars – if approved by local voters – for economic development purposes.

Under LB863, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash, LOMED will include the production of films, commercials and television programs as businesses that qualify for the program.

Film companies will be required to acknowledge cities where a production was created as well as the state of Nebraska in a production’s credits, unless prohibited by local, state or federal law or regulation. Film companies will be required to provide notice of such projects to the Nebraska Film Office.

The bill passed 44-0 vote.

LB42, introduced by Kearney Sen. Galen Hadley, adds references to the 2009 Uniform Plumbing Code into current building statutes.

Cities and villages are granted the authority to adopt a plumbing code containing rules and regulations. In the absence of a city or village code, the 2009 Uniform Plumbing Code will apply. If a city code is similar to the 2009 Uniform Plumbing Code, the city ordinance will take precedence.

Senators passed the bill on a 46-0 vote.

A bill requiring that metropolitan utilities district (MUD) board members be chosen by district elections stalled on select file.

Omaha Sen. Brenda Council said she introduced LB190 in the hope of making MUD board membership more reflective of the citizens it serves. Currently, members are elected at large.

LB190 failed to advance from select file on a 23-15 vote. Twenty-five votes were needed for advancement.

Three measures concerning tax increment financing (TIF) regulation in Nebraska were considered by the Urban Affairs Committee but not advanced to general file.

LR376CA, introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, would have placed a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2012 general election ballot to make the following changes to TIF regulations:
• extend the maximum length of TIF bonds from 15 to 20 years;
• allow the Legislature to extend the maximum length of TIF bonds from 20 years to 30 years if more than half of the property was previously state-owned; and
• replace the requirement that property be designated “substandard and blighted” with language stating that property be “in need of rehabilitation or redevelopment.”

Under LB1132, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, a city would have been allowed to develop land within a 3-mile radius of the city for a TIF project that is essential to redevelopment of a substandard or blighted area without acquiring or annexing the land if a county board approves the project.

LB918, sponsored by Bellevue Sen. Abbie Cornett, would have capped at 7 percent the total actual value of real and personal property of any political subdivision that a city or village could designate as blighted.

In addition, the bill would have limited the combination of current and proposed redevelopment projects’ excess value to 7 percent of the total actual value of real and personal property of any political subdivision in which the proposed redevelopment project would be located, including the authorizing political subdivision.

Finally, the bill would have removed a current requirement that cities conduct a cost-benefit analysis of proposed TIF projects.

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