Urban Affairs

Inland port measure, child care grant programs approved

Lawmakers passed a bill April 11 intended to give community members greater say in the development of a proposed inland port district in Omaha.

Sen. Terrell McKinney
Sen. Terrell McKinney

LB164, introduced by Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney, makes several changes to the Municipal Inland Port Authority Act, which the Legislature created in 2021.

It allows qualifying cities and counties to create an inland port authority with the power to plan and develop an inland port district. Up to five inland port districts may be designated throughout the state.

LB164 allows no more than one district to be created in a metropolitan class city. Omaha currently is the state’s only metropolitan class city.

The bill requires an inland port authority within the boundaries of a metropolitan class city to create and operate an innovation district, conduct quarterly public input meetings, create and maintain a community advisory committee and meet several other requirements.

LB164 requires the state treasurer to transfer $30 million from the Economic Recovery Contingency Fund to a new Inland Port Authority Fund. The treasurer also will transfer a certain amount of interest earned on federal coronavirus relief funds, as well as on funds related to the Perkins County Canal Project and the construction of a new state prison, to the Inland Port Authority Fund for the next two fiscal years.

The treasurer will use the new fund to provide grants to an inland port authority created within the boundaries of a metropolitan class city.

The bill also requires the state Department of Economic Development to meet certain requirements before releasing approximately $90 million in grant funds it recently awarded to a nonprofit to develop a North Omaha business park.

Before releasing the funds, the department must require the grant recipient to attend all meetings of the community advisory committee and establish a separate bank account for the funds.

The recipient also must submit a financial pro forma, hold two public meetings to receive input on economic development initiatives within the business park and receive a letter of support from the inland port authority managing the inland port district where the park is located.

The bill also requires the state treasurer to transfer $7 million from the Economic Recovery Contingency Fund to the Museum Construction and Maintenance Fund for the construction of a new museum at Fort Robinson State Park. The state Game and Parks Commission is required to build and manage the museum.

Finally, LB164 includes provisions of LB1416, introduced by Sen. Eliot Bostar of Lincoln at the request of Gov. Jim Pillen. They create two grant programs intended to increase Nebraska’s child care capacity.

Under the first program, the state Department of Economic Development will award grants to cities, villages, counties, nonprofits and other eligible recipients identified by a statewide organization that supports children and families.

Applicants are required to provide a one-to-one match before receiving a grant. They may use the funds to provide financial support to a licensed child care program or a license-exempt provider serving children enrolled in a child care subsidy program, among several other uses.

Under the second program, the department will provide grants to certain new and existing licensed family child care programs and to regional hubs that will provide administrative and technical support to those programs.

LB164 passed on a vote of 37-6 and takes effect immediately.

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