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Groene at the Legislature: Governing the ‘water farm’ TIF, and other billsTell North Platte what you think
 
Photo by Nebraska Unicameral
Mike Groene

Wednesday was the last day for senators to introduce legislative bills.

I have introduced 22 bills this year -- 15 on various topics related to District 42 and seven education bills as chairman of the Education committee.

The entire list of introduced bills are on the Legislature’s website (www.nebraskalegislature.gov).

All of these bills are important, but a few of them should provide a greater amount of interest in the district. It is critical that people from the district show up in Lincoln to testify at the hearings in favor of proposed legislation.  This is one of the ways that you can show others in the state what is important to us.

 

N-CORPE

LB 218 provides that the NRDs involved in the N-CORPE shall sell the land associated with the project, while retaining water rights and easements.

The proceeds of the sale must be used to pay down related indebtedness. And, every five years, NCORPE must present a report for the continued need of the project at a public hearing. Selling the land should allow for the elimination of the N-CORPE office and its budget of more than $1 million. Plus by paying down the debt, the NRDs should be able to drastically lower the current $10/acre occupation tax on irrigated land.

This is a common sense approach to the N-CORPE fiasco. It is not a new approach. Colorado also has a water mining project to satisfy its obligation to Kansas in the Republican River compact. They have acquired the water rights to 55 irrigation wells in eastern Colorado from a farmer, while the farmer remained the owner of the land.

Colorado has no project manager or offices. They have one employee that maintains the well sites and turns them on and off.

LB 488 is another N-CORPE bill that would attempt to satisfy Kansas by voluntarily reducing irrigation water consumption, by paying farmers $50/acre if they are in the riparian area within five miles of the Republican River or its tributaries. And it would exempt them from the occupation tax for a year, if they agree to farm dryland for the year.

The program would be controlled by the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and funding for the program would come from the already annually appropriated $11 million to the existing Water Sustainable Fund.

The bill earmarks $3 million to the new Water Conservation Grant Act. That amount could generate nearly 60,000 acre-feet of water conservation to be used to satisfy Kansas’s demands.

Kansas has recently showed a desire to work with Nebraska on alternative settlement practice. There will be those who directly benefit from the N-CORPE project, who will not like changes to the project and will testify against changes to the program, but they will be those who do not live in Lincoln or Red Willow counties where the N-CORPE project directly affects our natural resources and our tax base. 

We need local citizens to testify at the hearings.

 

TIF

We also introduced three bills related to the abuse of Tax Increment Financing and have tailored the bills to address the concerns of a recent state audit on the use of TIF by cities and towns.

• LB 489 - Eliminate ambiguous language in allowable expenses paid by TIF proceeds.

• LB 262 - Clarify that TIF not allowed on undeveloped vacant land outside city limits, or within city limits if the land has been undeveloped for less than 40 years.

• LB 597 - Give State Revenue Department oversight of statewide TIF projects.

 

Also

Other bills to address concerns of constituents:

• LB 478 -- to provide possession of archery equipment for recreational purposes by ex-felons.

• LB 404 -- to provide two-person crews on certain trains.

• LB 127 -- Add requirements to open meeting act to increase transparency.

• LB 596 -- Allow for Equine Horse Massage without state licensing.

We will attempt to keep you informed on hearing dates for these bills.

We are also presenting major legislation to address property tax concerns. We are finishing the language of the bill as I write this column.

I will discuss the proposed legislation in next week’s column.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact my office mgroene@leg.ne.gov or 402-471-2729 with any comments, questions, or concerns.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 1/19/2017
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