Transportation and Telecommunications

Transportation updates expanded, advanced

Lawmakers added several bills to a technical update of the state’s transportation laws before advancing the measure from select file April 5.

Sen. Suzanne Geist
Sen. Suzanne Geist

LB138, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Suzanne Geist, is an annual clean-up measure to align state transportation law with federal requirements.

Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer offered an amendment to the bill during select file debate, adopted 38-0, to incorporate provisions of his LB199. The amendment would create a new driving privilege card to serve as a license to operate a motor vehicle for individuals who are assigned parolee immigration status by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Brewer said he introduced the measure to aid the roughly 1,000 refugees from Ukraine who currently reside in Nebraska, as well as other individuals who are in the state for qualifying humanitarian reasons.

“Due to their immigration status, they are not able eligible to be issued a Real ID compliant document,” Brewer said.

Also adopted was an amendment offered by Columbus Sen. Mike Moser to incorporate provisions of his LB465, which would reallocate certain fees collected by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Currently, fees for the issuance of state ID cards, operators’ licenses, replacement ignition interlock permits and 24/7 sobriety program permits are allocated between the county general fund, the Department of Motor Vehicles Cash Fund and the state General Fund.

Under the amendment, the portion of the fee currently allocated to the state General Fund instead would be redirected to the Department of Motor Vehicles Cash Fund.

Moser said the state DMV projects that its cash fund will have a $1.8 million deficit at the end of the current budget biennium without the change outlined in the amendment. He said the change would stabilize the DMV cash fund without increasing fees.

“The DMV is fully funded by cash funds and receives no general fund appropriations,” Moser said. “For the past several years the increases in revenue have not kept up with the [department’s] fixed operational costs.”

The amendment was adopted 36-0.

Sen. Jane Raybould of Lincoln offered an amendment, adopted 30-1, to add amended provisions of her LB738, which would adopt the national, three-tiered classification for electric bicycles and update the definition of traditional bicycles.

Currently “bicycle” is defined as a vehicle propelled solely by human power, upon which a person can ride, with two tandem wheels more than 14 inches in diameter. The amendment would redefine a bicycle as a vehicle propelled by human power with two, three or four wheels, any one or more of which is more than 14 inches in diameter.

The amendment also would define electric bicycles as devices with two, three or four wheels.

Finally, Bennington Sen. Wendy DeBoer offered an amendment to add the provisions of two bills: Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne’s LB796 and Niobrara Sen. Barry DeKay’s LB453.

LB796 would add a duty to the state Department of Transportation to develop and administer a safety oversight program for rail transit systems operated by the state or any local subdivision.

LB453 would allow the Nebraska Department of Transportation to pay the Division of Aeronautics’ administrative expenses, such as salaries and benefits, from the state Highway Cash Fund. The amendment also would lower from 50 percent to 20 percent the required contribution from counties to be eligible for matching funds from the State Aid Bridge Fund.

Lastly, the amendment would increase from $150,000 to $250,000 the estimated cost threshold at which a contract for road purposes must go through a sealed-bid process and allow NDOT to adjust the amount annually.

“Due to inflation, the old threshold is outdated and NDOT believes that the new limit will bring more competitive bids to the state,” DeKay said.

Following the 36-0 adoption of the DeBoer amendment, lawmakers advanced LB138 to final reading by voice vote.

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