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Water funding bill clears hurdle in Legislature PDF Print E-mail

Telephone conference report to Grant, Palisade on Tuesday, April 5.

By Jan Rahn
Managing Editor

In its 57th day of the 90-day session, the Nebraska Legislature was facing a busy day Tuesday, as outlined by Senator Mark Christensen of Imperial during his early morning teleconference.
Christensen recapped the senators’ compromise on first-round approval to LB229, a bill aimed at providing funds for water management.
In a 41-3 vote following much discussion, the bill introduced by Sen. Deb Fischer of Valentine advanced to the next round.
The bill calls for transferring $7 million a year for 11 years from the Nebraska Environmental Trust into the Nebraska Water Resources Cash Fund, which is controlled by the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources.
A compromise was reached by the senators in the form of an amendment that would require the Department of Natural Resources to apply to the trust for a grant to fund projects like the Platte River Basin Project, just as other projects are funded by the trust.
Before the bill comes up for the next round of approval, details will be added for extension of the grant if certain criteria were met.
The Natural Resources Committee will set up some interim studies and meetings to try to come up with criteria, with part of that effort directed toward trying to find sustainable funding for water.    
Christensen said he was puzzled over what brought the environmental trust people to the table at the last minute to reach a compromise, wondering if they “didn’t want dirty laundry on the floor,” and made this an“11th hour attempt” due to some senators asking for a legislative audit, and an interim study directed at misinterpretation of rules.
Responding to a listener’s comment about Game and Parks wanting to use Environmental Trust money to buy real estate that includes Snake River Falls, Christensen said there is a huge opposition from the senators in buying any more land.
“Environmental trust knows senators don’t want them buying any more land,” said Christensen.

Other Bills
• LB84 advanced to the second round of debate in a 32-8 vote, including Christensen’s support, following a cloture motion to cease an eight-hour debate.
The bill addresses the expected revenue shortfall to meet Nebraska’s needs for road maintenance and construction in the future by using a half percent of the current 5.5 percent state sales tax and provisions to allow for bonding.
In support of an amendment to remove the provisions allowing for bonding, Christensen said, “We cannot afford to kick this can down the road and ignore a major priority of state government to provide safe and appropriate road infrastructure to maintain and grow Nebraska’s economy into the future.”  
• LB512 introduced by Christensen for the Nebraska State Patrol advanced to Select File last week.
The bill would help close some of the potential information gaps regarding the checking of mental health records for the purchase, possession, transportation and transfer of firearms.
• LB648 introduced by Christensen was on the afternoon agenda for Tuesday, April 5.
The bill addresses notification issues amongst interested parties of a foster child in Nebraska’s foster care system.
“I believe this bill will help improve communication between the parties regarding court reviews and hearings improving due process rights for all involved,” he said.
• LR40CA on fishing, hunting and trapping right could take the whole morning, Christensen said on Tuesday. He said senators expect a fight with the U.S. Humane Society.
The aim of the measure is to ensure freedoms to hunt, fish and trap are not weakened or eliminated for future generations.
• LB391 to create the Nebraska Invasive Species Council advanced out of committee.
• Pipeline: Concerning the pipeline bills, Christensen said all three bills are held in committee. “The legislature will do nothing,” he said.

Constituents with questions, comments or concerns may contact Christensen at 402-471-2805.
Other information is also available at his legislative website:
SENATOR MARK CHRISTENSEN holds a weekly teleconference at 7 a.m. MT each Tuesday with sites at the Imperial Republican, Midwest Electric in Grant and Southwest Public Power in Palisade. The teleconferences are open to the public and Christensen encourages constituent participation.