This year 870 bills, constitutional amendments and legislative resolutions were introduced in the Legislature. We will not know until June how many bills will actually change Nebraska’s laws. If past patterns hold true, a relatively small number of proposals will survive the process.
For incumbent senators, most of the work to create a bill is done in the interim period between legislative sessions. For newly elected senators, an idea may evolve during the campaign season, but work to generate a proposal cannot really begin until the session convenes in January.
This year I introduced 10 bills and a resolution to seek legislative support for an important issue in District 43. All the bills I offered were prompted by ideas to benefit our district.
The hearing on LB 643, the first bill of my legislative career, was held in the Urban Affairs Committee on Feb. 5.
The bill was brought to me by the Nebraska League of Municipalities, and the city manager of Alliance testified in support. LB 643 would grant more local control to first and second class cities as well as villages to regulate nuisances created by excessive growth of weeds and grasses. The bill would also allow the communities to determine how to notify a property owner of the nuisance and clarify the appeal process for the owner.
Between Feb. 19-22, I will introduce bills in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees.
On Feb. 19, LB 647 and LB 654 are scheduled in the Agriculture Committee.
More than 70% of Nebraska is in the brand area representing all or part of 49 counties. The remaining 30% of Nebraska does not have an inspection program. This creates significant inconvenience and confusion for individuals who live on the edge of the brand area, as well as additional expense for inspection when going to and from summer grass. It is also a loophole, through which thieves can easily crawl to steal cattle.
Therefore, I introduced LB 654 which would move the entire state into the brand area.
There is significant interest in this bill, and I have been surprised by the number of supporters who currently live outside the brand area. This bill will also add revenue for Nebraska's beef checkoff, since brand inspectors would be the collectors for cattle in the area which was formerly outside the brand area. At the present time, those collections are based purely on the honor system.
The second and related bill is LB 647. This bill would specify that Nebraska will not require individual animal identification for cattle imported into Nebraska from a state with a registered brand inspection program.
The bill was originally introduced by Sen. Leroy Louden last session but died at the end of the session. Since that time USDA has issued rules that permit states to develop their own programs for importing and exporting cattle. LB 647 would help Nebraska's sale barns and feedlots, since it would not impose a significant ID workload on cattlemen exporting cattle to Nebraska from selected states.
On Feb. 20, the Natural Resources Committee will hear LB 493 - my proposal to allow the Game and Parks Commission to lease or transfer portions of the Cowboy Trail to a political subdivision or a nonprofit organization.
Any entity that assumed responsibility for a portion of the Trail would be required to do so at its own expense. This bill would permit local government entities to develop the Trail in a manner that fits their unique needs or desires, but the Trail must remain available for conversion back to a railroad bed if the need develops.
The Natural Resources Committee will hear two of my bills and Legislative Resolution 40 on Friday, Feb. 22. Concerns have been expressed by District 43 constituents because federal reservoirs are prohibited from storing water when there is an irrigation need upstream from the reservoir.
The concerns were addressed by this committee at a meeting in December 2012.
LB 391 resulted from the meeting. I was asked to introduce the bill this year on behalf of Ainsworth and Mirage Flats Irrigation Districts, which are obligated to release water when upstream calls are made.
LB 391 would address the issues affecting federal reservoirs when the Department of Natural Resources issues a notice to prohibit the storage of water. This bill would not offer a solution to the problem. Rather, it would provide a forum through which the Natural Resources Committee and interested parties could come together to create an acceptable solution.
In general, LB 634 was prompted by the historic fires of 2012. The goals of LB 634 are to significantly improve the protection of life and property in Nebraska, use aerial resources to reduce the size and intensity of future fires, reduce the cost for wildfire suppression, and mitigate fire damage to watersheds.
We are seeking an allocation of approximately $1.7 million for fire suppression, forest thinning, surplus equipment purchases and training.
If passed, legislative bills become law. Legislative resolutions can be used for several purposes but are not introduced to change Nebraska's statutes.
My resolution, LR 40, would ask the Legislature to express its support for the federal government to share the cost to replace fencing destroyed by fire between private and public lands in Dawes, Sioux and Sheridan Counties. Just like a bill, LR 40 will have a public hearing. If approved by the committee, LR 40 would be advanced to the floor for debate by the entire legislature. If it is adopted, a copy of the resolution would be sent to the United States Forest Service in Chadron, to President Obama and to all members of Nebraska's congressional delegation.
When I became a senator, I was advised to consider public hearing testimony, listen to floor debate and consider changes that can alter the original intent of a bill before taking a position on most legislation. This was some of the best advice I received, and I try to heed it every day.
As always, I value your input, and welcome phone calls, emails and personal visits from you.
Al Davis represents Dist. 43 in the Nebraska Legislature, the largest geographic district in Nebraska, formerly represented by Deb Fischer. Contact Davis at: Sen. Al Davis, State Capitol, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509. (402) 471-2628, firstname.lastname@example.org