Three New Laws that Move Nebraska Forward in Positive Direction
The Nebraska Legislature may have fallen short of its main priority to pass a property tax reform bill this year, but that does not mean the Legislature had an unproductive session. In fact, there were several bills passed this session that LIBA testified in support of that will protect the interests of Lincoln businesses by promoting good governance.
One under the radar bill that passed early on in the session is LB103. This bill will provide much needed transparency when political subdivisions set their levies and decide how much in property taxes they plan to take. Oftentimes, political subdivisions will claim that they are not raising your taxes when they keep their tax levy the same, despite the fact that they are receiving more revenue from higher property tax reevaluations. LB103 will put an end to this practice by requiring political subdivisions to automatically reduce their levy a commensurate amount when property values go up. Political subdivisions will still have the option to take the windfall from higher property reevaluations, but they will have to set a public hearing and vote in order to do so, which will put politicians on the record for supporting higher property taxes.
Another bill that will have a significant impact on Lincoln is LB616. This bill creates a new build-finance process to accelerate the construction of the South Beltway. It is estimated that LB616 could save as much as $10 million from the project costs for the South Beltway, and move up the timeline for the completion of the project by four years. This is great news for Lincoln. The confluence of commercial heavy truck traffic and local traffic on a stretch of Nebraska Highway 2 with multiple signalized intersections has resulted in serious safety issues. Over the past two decades, there have been 6,101 accidents along Highway 2, and 22 accidents involving one or more fatalities. Of these, five directly involved semi-trucks.
Finally, the Legislature scored another victory with the passage of LB184, the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act. The wireless industry is planning to deploy hundreds of thousands of small cells across the country to boost the performance of current wireless services and prepare for the introduction of fifth generation wireless technology (5G). However, they have been slowed down by overburdensome government regulations and fees. Wireless companies have to negotiate with individual cities and municipalities to pay varying fees to access rights of way to attach these small cells. The annual small cell fee in Lincoln is $1,995 per device. In comparison, the fees to attach small cells in Des Moines, Denver, and Kansas City are $50 or less per small cell installation. LB184 streamlines the permitting process and caps fees that municipalities can charge wireless companies for access to rights of ways, which will pave the way for crucial investment from the wireless industry and the full benefits of 5G in Nebraska.
These bills are just three examples of the positive work the Nebraska Legislature was able to accomplish in 2019. Property tax reform will once again be front and center when the Legislature reconvenes in 2020, but there will still be other opportunities to pass legislation that will improve the lives of Nebraskans. LIBA will continue working with Senators to identify and support bills that will hold the line on property taxes, create a safer environment in Lincoln, and spur private investment.