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2011 Legislative Session at halfway mark PDF Print E-mail

Telephone conference report to Palisade, Grant on Tuesday, March 15.

By Jan Rahn
Managing Editor

The Nebraska Legislature is halfway through the 2011 Legislative Session, with public hearings wrapping up today (Thursday), March 17.
Senator Mark Christensen’s  focus for the day on Tuesday  following his call-in conference was on the Water Sustainability Task Force held in Lincoln.
Senators are trying to define, “What is sustainability?” said Christensen.  
The concern is over what will be decided and come out of legislation in a year or two, he said.
The first report is due before this year’s session ends. The next meeting is scheduled in McCook to go over the first letter to be sent to the Legislature.
He said there was an interesting speaker from the University of Nebraska on Monday, who has worked with geological survey people.
Christensen said the speaker did a very nice job and used Imperial’s stream gauge. The data was complete only through 2008, however.

LB655 Received Well
Christensen said his bill (LB655) to change provisions relating to an occupation tax imposed by natural resource districts was received very well last week.
He would like to tweak the bill, perhaps attach it to another, and get it out of committee.
“I think if I ask for a vote I can get the bill out,” he said. No one has testified against it, and it qualifies for the consent calendar—Christensen said he just needs to decide what to do.
Senator Prioritizes LB648
Christensen’s priority bill for this session is LB648 which provides changes to notification requirements within foster care proceedings, along with other practical changes that he believes will be beneficial to the foster care system as a whole.
Christensen said over a dozen bills were introduced this session to address a wide variety of foster care issues that constituents across Nebraska have expressed to their elected officials.
The bill was advanced by the Judiciary Committee with some changes.
Christensen said the bill would address problems conveyed to him regarding the lack of updated contact information given to the courts for all the interested parties in a foster child’s case.
Secondly, the bill requires notice of a review or hearing be sent five days in advance to interested parties.
Additionally, an amendment would allow foster parents to have input in a hearing regarding removal or placement of a child.

Other Bills
• LB391 to create the Nebraska Invasive Species Council is not moving forward, but Christensen is hopeful it will be brought back next year.
• Christensen’s LB698 motor fuel bill was on Tuesday’s agenda. The measure would require that any gas with 11 percent or more ethanol must be marked. E10 would not require notification unless the business owner chooses to do so.
• LB512 introduced by Christensen has a shot at getting passed this year. The act relates to changing provisions relating to mental health determinations regarding purchasing and possessing handguns.    
• LB595, a Natural Resources Committee bill relating to water resources, could be attached to another bill to get it accomplished, said Christensen. The bill would adopt the Water Resources Revolving Loan Fund Act and change provisions relating to the use of property tax and proceeds from occupation tax and river-flow enhancement bonds.
• LB40CA which would offer constitutional protection of all Nebraskans and their right to hunt, fish and trap is a priority of the Natural Resources Committee, said Christensen. The bill would push back against the Humane Society coming after Nebraska to try to eliminate something, he said.
“It will take a valiant effort (by the Humane Society) to keep this from passing,” said Christensen.
• Christensen will try to put a sunset on LB388, get an amendment written and filed, try to improve it and bring it back next year.
The measure would transfer $3 million out of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to be placed into a new economic development fund to help communities develop and fund economic development sites.
Opposed to the bill is Ann Burge of Grant, administrator of Southwest Nebraska Community Betterment Corporation, who said housing and economic development go hand in hand.
Burge says it’s difficult to create new jobs without having places for people to live, noting this area has made good use of money from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and does not want money taken away, which she feels would erode progress.