Bill to update foreign land ownership restrictions advances

A measure intended to modernize restrictions on foreign ownership of land in Nebraska was advanced to the second round of debate March 20.

Sen. Barry DeKay
Sen. Barry DeKay

LB1301, introduced by Niobrara Sen. Barry DeKay on behalf of Gov. Jim Pillen, would add a number of conditions to the right of foreign individuals or foreign-owned companies to own land in the state.

DeKay said most of the state’s laws regarding foreign ownership of land haven’t been changed since 1943. While Nebraska is fortunate to have prohibitions already on the books, he said, updating is needed.

“The bill’s basic intent is to modernize Nebraska’s existing statutes pertaining to foreign ownership of land in this state, provide a mechanism for reviewing land purchases and give the state — not counties — the ability to carry out divestment proceedings,” DeKay said.

An Agriculture Committee amendment, adopted 38-0, replaced the bill.

As amended, individuals and entities would be subject to greater scrutiny and restrictions on land ownership in Nebraska if they are on the sanctions list maintained by the federal Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury or determined by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce as having engaged in a long-term pattern or serious instances of conduct significantly adverse to U.S. national security.

Among other provisions, the bill would allow individuals to report suspected foreign ownership of land by a restricted entity, and the state Department of Agriculture would be required to investigate suspected violations and refer them to the state attorney general or, if necessary, retain outside counsel.

The court could terminate a lease that is in violation of the bill and the state could sell any real estate acquired under the bill’s divestment provisions.

Sen. Brian Hardin of Gering supported the bill and the committee amendment. It is not easy to attempt to keep foreign adversaries from purchasing land in the state, he said, and a great deal of work went into LB1301.

Following adoption of the committee amendment, lawmakers voted 39-0 to advance the bill to select file.

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