Senator Dan Hughes

2/14/2018

This past week N-CORPE was in the spotlight again. Senator Groene of North Platte introduced two bills that were heard in the Natural Resources Committee. LB 1123 and 1124 both deal with the N-CORPE project in Lincoln County but could also affect the Rock Creek Project in Dundy County. During the hearing Senator Groene asked the committee to not take any action on LB 1124 because provisions in LB 758 address the concerns that led to LB 1124. However, LB 1123 drew a lot of interest and we had several testifiers expressing their thoughts both in favor of and in opposition to the bill.

LB 1123 would allow the sale of the N-CORPE land to private owners. Currently the land is owned by the N-CORPE group, which is a government entity made up of four natural resources districts. Landowners for a Common Purpose, a Lincoln County group, would like the land to be held by private citizens. One testifier in the neutral position, Professor Anthony Schutz, a law professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law, explained to the committee some of the legal issues with the bill that could cause problems with Nebraska’s compliance with the Republican River Compact. Senator Groene, in his opening, offered an amendment that would completely replace the original drafted language of the bill, but the language in the amendment still did not fix the concerns of those opposed to the bill.

LB 758 is scheduled for its second round of debate before the full Legislature as I am writing this article. Hopefully by the time you are reading this, it will have been passed from Select File on to Final Reading.

I would like to share that the rules and procedures for the letters for the records have changed. If you were planning to testify on a bill and are unable to attend but wish to have a written position letter included in the official hearing record as an exhibit, the letter must be delivered to the office of the committee chair (or emailed to the committee clerk) of the committee conducting the hearing on the bill by 5:00 p.m. on the last work day prior to the public hearing. Additionally, the letter must state a position of for, against, or neutral on the bill in question and include a request for the letter to be included as part of the public hearing record.

I always enjoy hearing from the Nebraskans I represent. Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805.You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch sessions, hearings, and other Capitol events.

2/7/2018

Last week in the Legislature, the Natural Resources Committee and myself had another busy schedule. We were successful in getting the committee priority bill, LB 758, advanced to Select File. After the full six hours of debate, the bill was advanced by a 47-0 vote. I am pleased with the outcome and thankful for my committee’s hard work on this bill. In today’s article I would like to touch base on LB 1080 and LR 266. Both of these will have hearings next week, so I would like to update everyone on them ahead of time.

LB 1080 is a bill that would allow the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles to design three new license plates to be known as Wildlife Conservation Plates.  These plates would reflect support for the conservation of Nebraska wildlife, including sandhill cranes, bighorn sheep, and rainbow trout. A bill similar to this was passed in 2016, which created the mountain lion plate that has helped raise approximately $225,000 in funds for the Wildlife Education Fund. The commission uses this money to provide youth education programs related to wildlife conservation practices. Game and Parks receives $30 for every message plate and $5 for every alphanumeric plate. LB 1080 would follow the same guidelines allowing three new beautifully designed wildlife license plates.

LR 266 is a resolution urging the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation and the Nebraska congressional delegation to work together. We need to a find a solution that allows the people occupying lots around Hugh Butler Lake, Harry Strunk Lake and Swanson Reservoir to freely transfer their permits and to leave non-permanent structures currently in place on existing lots. It also urges the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to consider taking such action as may be helpful to bring about a solution that allows for the transfer of permits and for non-permanent structures to remain on the lots surrounding these lakes. Currently, the Bureau of Reclamation is mandating that trailer home owners vacate the lakes no later than April 30, 2020. This would make for a total of 232 cabins and trailers to be removed.

The Natural Resources Committee held a hearing last Thursday afternoon for LB 1054, introduced by Senator Brewer of Gordon. LB 1054 would change provisions relating to pre-construction hearings before the Nebraska Power Review Board and for electricity generation using wind as its fuel source. There were a lot of people who came out to testify in front of the committee, both as proponents and opponents to the legislation. There was plenty of discussion and information given to the committee. This bill has been designated as Senator Brewer’s priority bill. The committee will take some time to digest the testimony that was given, before making a decision on whether to advance it to the full Legislature for debate or hold it in committee.

1/31/2018

Last week was another busy week in the legislature. The Natural Resources Committee had its first priority bill debated on the floor, LB 758. I had another bill on General File this week as well, LB 275, and there was some debate on other issues that are important to the citizens of southwestern Nebraska. I have been advocating for the rural communities in Nebraska this past week and will continue this effort as the session progresses.

LB 758 was heard on General File early last week, we had three hours’ worth of debate. As of Tuesday at 9am LB 758 will be up for debate again. By the time you read this there may be more information on this bill, but in order to get this article to the publications in time the most recent update is, there will be more debate. It is an important bill to southwest Nebraska to have this issue between the NRDs and the counties cleared up. Especially for the local school districts, counties, and other property tax funded agencies this legislation directly affects.

LB 275 is a bill that would allow private property owners to have abandoned vehicles towed from their property. A vehicle is considered abandoned after being left for 7 days. On January 22 we discussed this bill on the floor and it was advanced to Select File. This bill is important to owners of any private parking areas and for you on your own personal property.

This week another big item of debate on the floor was Senator Chambers’ bill, LB 449. This bill would repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act. The Management Act can be adopted by a county and allows them to remove or control the spread of the prairie dogs from one property to another. Currently under the Management Act if a colony spreads from a neighbors land onto your own, you could contact the county and have them help assist you in addressing the problem. Only Sheridan County has made use of this law, but it important to allow other counties to do the same. Prairie dogs are destructive to property, cause damage to crops, as well as, put livestock in danger. I opposed to this bill and in the end it failed to garner enough votes to advance.

I always enjoy hearing from the Nebraskans I represent. Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805.You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch sessions, hearings, and other Capitol events.

1/24/2018

Last Thursday was the final day to introduce bills for this legislative session. There were still plenty of bills being brought to the legislature up until the last day. We ended up with an additional 469 new bills being introduced, making the total 1136 for the 105th legislative session. Some new bills that were introduced could have a negative impact on southwestern Nebraska. I have already received some calls and emails regarding a couple of these new bills. LB 1021 and LB 1022, are both bills that I will oppose. I would like to give a short explanation of each bill and my opinion on them.

LB 1021 would remove the tax exemption on agricultural machinery and chemicals, as well as, water for irrigation and manufacturing and other agricultural resources. This bill would take away multiple tax exemptions used by farmers each year. One of the main exemptions is water for irrigation and manufacturing. Taking away this exemption would have a direct negative impact on farmers in southwestern Nebraska.

LB 1022 this bill would add a tax to water used for irrigation. Any well used for irrigation that is capable of producing at least five thousand gallons of water per day, would be taxed at one cent for every ten gallons of water pumped. Irrigated land will be valued the same as dry land under this bill. LB 1022 would also create a school aid fund. This fund would consist of irrigation tax revenue credited to the fund and would be administered by the state board of education. The funds shall be used to provide payments to school districts that did not receive equalization aid, under Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA). This is an enormous tax increase on farmers, one cent for ten gallons will add up quickly.

LB 762 is a bill I introduced, it would push back the sunset date to apply for grants under the Department of Environmental Quality Scrap Tire Management Program. This has been a very popular program, especially rural areas. Through 2013-2016 there were 22,883.09 tons of tires collected through the scrap tire project.  I want to make sure these projects continue. The funds for this comes from a $1 fee collected on the sale of a new tires.

I always enjoy hearing from the Nebraskans I represent. Please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns that you might have. My email address is dhughes@leg.ne.gov and my phone number is (402) 471-2805.You can read more about bills and other work of the Legislature at www.nebraskalegislature.gov, and you can click on the Live Video Streaming NET logo to watch sessions, hearings, and other Capitol events.