Session Review: Urban Affairs

Measures relating to revenue bonds and building codes topped the list of issues heard by the Urban Affairs Committee and addressed by the Legislature this session.

Lawmakers approved two bills that implement the provisions of recently approved constitutional amendments.

The 2010 Legislature passed LR295CA, which placed a proposed constitutional amendment on the May primary election ballot authorizing any county, city or village to acquire, own, develop and lease real and personal property for use by charitable nonprofit enterprises, and to issue revenue bonds to defray the cost of acquiring, developing or financing such property.

Voters approved the measure, and Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill introduced LB159 to amend the Nebraska Industrial Development Act to reflect the language of the constitutional change.

Any revenue bonds issued pursuant to the bill will not be the obligation of the issuing county or municipality and no taxes may be levied to pay for the bonds.

A nonprofit enterprise must be incorporated or authorized to do business in Nebraska to utilize the bill’s provisions, and any portion of a nonprofit enterprise project used for sectarian instruction or study, or for devotional activities or religious worship, is excluded.

LB159 passed on a 48-0 vote.

Also during the 2010 general election, Nebraska voters approved a constitutional amendment to allow cities to use a greater number of revenue sources for economic or industrial development projects approved by city voters. Previously, property taxes and local option sales taxes were the only revenue sources authorized.

The approved constitutional amendment added to the list of suitable funding sources any general tax authorized by the municipality and revenue generated from municipal utilities, grants, donations, or state and federal funds.

LB471, introduced by Wilber Sen. Russ Karpisek, incorporates the amendment into the Local Option Municipal Economic Development Act. The bill also restricts uses for revenues generated from municipal utilities to utility-related projects or activities associated with a city council-approved economic development program, such as energy efficiency, load management and site development.

LB471 was approved on a 48-0 vote.

A bill intended to make the repayment time frame of a redevelopment bond more closely reflect the life of a project passed this session.

Currently, the 15-year repayment period of development bonds begins on the date that a municipality’s redevelopment plan goes into effect.

Under LB54, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, the repayment period will not begin until the date identified in the project redevelopment contract or in the resolution authorizing bond issuance.

The bill passed on a 46-0 vote.

Lawmakers passed two bills relating to the state’s building codes.

LB329, introduced by Omaha Sen. Tanya Cook, adopts the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code as the Nebraska Energy Code. The bill also updates language regarding existing structures and historic buildings to conform to the 2009 code and provides for training for builders and inspectors.

The bill passed 44-0.

LB546, introduced by Grand Island Sen. Mike Gloor, adopts the 2009 version of the International Residential Code as the state building code, with the exception of the mandatory sprinkler provision for new residences.

The bill also permits state agencies and local political subdivisions to amend their building codes to include a mandatory new-home sprinkler provision.

The bill passed on a 31-9 vote.

Finally, LB335, introduced by McGill, allows cities and villages in Nebraska to waive municipal bidding procedures when required to comply with a federal grant, loan or program.

Senators approved the bill on a 47-0 vote.

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