Natural ResourcesSession Review 2020

Natural Resources

The Natural Resources Committee this session considered measures to create a statewide flood mitigation plan, prohibit cities from banning single-use plastics and allow certain landowners to apply for a permit to hunt deer before the regular firearm deer hunting season.

Omnibus bill

LB632, introduced by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango and passed on a vote of 46-0, includes the provisions of four bills heard by the committee this session.

The provisions of LB769, introduced by Creighton Sen. Tim Gragert, require that each member of the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission be a Nebraska resident.

The amended provisions of LB861, introduced by Hughes, prohibit a county, municipality or agency from adopting, enforcing or administering an ordinance or resolution that prohibits the use of or sets standards, fees, prohibitions or requirements regarding the sale, use or marketing of containers.

It defines a container as a single-use, recyclable or reusable bag, cup, can, pouch, package, container, bottle or other packaging made of cloth, paper, plastic, cardboard, aluminum, glass or certain other materials and that is “designed for consuming, protecting or transporting merchandise, food or beverages from or at a food service or retail facility.”

The prohibition does not apply to county, municipality or agency recycling or solid waste collection programs so long as those programs do not “prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the sale, use or marketing of any containers.”

The amended provisions of LB933, introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue, prohibit a public or private utility company from charging a fee for the discontinuance or reconnection of service that exceeds the reasonable costs of providing such service.

Crawford’s proposal also makes several changes to current law prohibiting most public and private utilities from discontinuing service to subscribers for nonpayment unless it first notifies them.

The amended provisions of LB1201, introduced by Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, require the state Department of Natural Resources to create a statewide flood mitigation plan that will be included in the state hazard mitigation plan maintained by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency.

Among other tasks, the department will identify opportunities to implement flood hazard mitigation strategies, identify potential funding sources for flood mitigation and post-flood disaster recovery and compile a list of critical infrastructure and state-owned facilities and identify those at the highest risk of flooding.

Game and parks

Certain landowners may apply for a permit to hunt deer before the regular firearm deer hunting season under a bill passed by lawmakers on a vote of 30-7.

LB126, introduced last session by Hughes, requires the state Game and Parks Commission to issue up to four limited permits to hunt deer during the Saturday through Monday preceding the opening day of firearm deer hunting season to qualifying landowners and their designated immediate family members.

The $5 permits will be in addition to any limited permit to hunt deer issued to a qualifying landowner. Of the four permits that may be issued, no more than two may be issued to individuals younger than 19, and no more than two may be issued to those who are 19 or older.

For a Nebraska resident landowner, the number of permits issued may not exceed the total acreage of the farm or ranch divided by 80. For a nonresident landowner, the number of permits issued may not exceed the total acreage divided by 320.

Certain disabled veterans may apply for a free lifetime state park entry permit under a bill advanced by the committee this session.

LB770, introduced by Gragert and passed on a vote of 48-0, requires the commission to issue resident motor vehicle park entry permits to qualified disabled veterans in addition to the current annual and temporary permits.

To qualify, a veteran must be a Nebraska resident who has been honorably discharged and either rated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as 50 percent or more disabled as a result of service in the U.S. military or be receiving a pension from the department as a result of total and permanent disability not connected to military service.

The permits are free, perpetual and become void only if a veteran no longer meets the eligibility criteria.

LB770 also increases the maximum fee for a nonresident motor vehicle annual park entry permit from $55 to $65 and increases the maximum fee for a temporary nonresident motor vehicle park entry permit from $10 to $12.

Other measures

Senators voted 47-0 to pass a bill updating governance of the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska.

LB858, introduced by Hughes, reorganizes, simplifies and streamlines MEAN’s governing document, the Municipal Cooperative Financing Act.

Among other provisions, the bill specifies how a municipality may terminate participation in an agency, makes a variety of changes to board of director qualifications and specifies that construction, maintenance or remodeling of an agency’s headquarters is not a “power project.”

LB858 includes provisions of three additional bills:
• LB367, also introduced by Hughes, which extends the sunset date of the Nebraska Litter Reduction and Recycling Act to Sept. 30, 2025, and eliminates fund transfer language;
• LB855, introduced by Columbus Sen. Mike Moser, which removes the legislative confirmation process for the appointment of board members to the Niobrara Council; and
• LB856, also introduced by Moser, which extends the sunset date for the Petroleum Release Remedial Action Cash Fund from June 30, 2020, to June 30, 2024.

Nebraska’s public power districts may develop, manufacture and sell certain biofuels in an effort to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under another bill passed by lawmakers.

LB899, introduced by Hughes and passed on a vote of 45-0, authorizes public power districts to develop, manufacture, use, purchase or sell at wholesale “advanced” biofuels and biofuel byproducts and other fuels and fuel byproducts so long as those activities are done to help offset greenhouse gas emissions.

The Legislature also voted to urge Congress and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make flood control a top priority when managing water systems under their authority in the Missouri River basin.

LR288, introduced by Sen. Julie Slama of Peru and adopted on a vote of 43-1, states that the Corps should prioritize flood control over fish and wildlife protection when creating future master water control manuals and updating levee standards.

A copy of the resolution will be sent to the Corps and to each member of Nebraska’s congressional delegation.

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