Legislative Update for Transportation Choice Advocates

1 Feb
Here is a rundown of legistlative bills currently in the Nebraska Legislature of interest to transportation choice advocates. Please contact your state senator and the appropriate committtee members designated below NOW to express your opposition or support.
 
TRANSPORTATION BILLS
 
LB 747Revocation of Nebraska’s Involvement in Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Consortium
 
DescriptionLB 747, proposed by Senator Galen Hadley of Kearney, would revoke Nebraska’s signature to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Consortium (MIPRC) and withdraw the State from the authorizing Compact.

Analysis – As the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) commences its feasibility study of high speed rail between Chicago and Omaha, the Nebraska legislature’s action sends a terrible signal.  Nebraska is not being asked to commit any public funds to the study, and is also not required or compelled to follow any conclusion of the feasibility study.

Recommendation for Supporters of Balanced TransportationOppose.  Write the Transportation and Telecommunications chairwoman, Deb Fischer, and your state senator, expressing your opposition to this bill.  Mention that with the Chicago-Omaha HSR feasibility study just beginning, this is exactly the wrong time to be withdrawing from the MIPRC.  We at least need to see what the study says before we send a signal that could lead IDOT and the Federal government to exclude Omaha from a future HSR link to Chicago, especially if it is found to be feasible.

 LB 1030Three-Foot Passing Law

DescriptionLB 1030, introduced by Senator Tom Hansen of North Platte, would introduce a requirement into Nebraska’s “Rules of the Road” that motorists observe a three (3)-foot buffer when passing pedestrians, bicycles, and motorized scooters or wheelchairs. [Public hearing scheduled for Feb. 6.]

Analysis – LB 1030 is a firm step in the right direction with respect to establishing cyclists’ rights to the roadway in our state.  Under current law, the absence of language that protects cyclists as a class means that victims of car-bike collisions have no avenue of legal recourse. Unfortunately, the proposed language change does not address enforcement, but based on a survey of laws passed in other states, there isn’t much guidance on this in any case.

Recommendation for Supporters of Balanced TransportationSupport.  Write the Transportation and Telecommunications chairwoman, Deb Fischer, and your state senator, expressing your support of the legislation.  Mention that 3-foot passing laws are in effect in 19 states throughout the union, including regional peers Minnesota, Kansas, Colorado, Illinois, and Utah.

REDEVELOPMENT BILLS

LB 918TIF Redefinition

DescriptionLB 918, introduced by Abbie Cornett of Bellevue, would change the definition of limits applied to cities’ use of tax increment financing (TIF), an important fiscal tool for urban regeneration and infill.  The standard would shift from the generous 35% of total land area of a municipality, to 7% of the total land value within that municipality.

Analysis – LB 918 represents a dramatic break in series that substantially limits cities’ ability to pursue redevelopment projects.  The rationale offered for limiting TIF – that TIF steals needed money away from school districts – casts urban infill/redevelopment and education as opposing goals. The 7% ceiling means Omaha is only a handful of projects away from reaching its cap, after which it would not be able to use TIF to incentivize urban infill and redevelopment.  With no other tools to use, Omaha’s momentum toward land uses that support active and multimodal transportation could ground to a halt.

Recommendation for Supporters of Balanced TransportationOppose.  Write the Urban Affairs Committee chairwoman, Amanda McGill, and your state senator expressing your opposition to this legislation.  Mention that it is wrong to set education and urban infill/redevelopment against one another and claim that it is zero-sum. Demand that, should the legislature vote in favor of this bill, alternative tools to enable cities to pursue redevelopment projects should be developed. Indicate that hindering cities’ ability to redevelop increases dependency on the automobile and reduced choice in transportation by locking in the land uses and densities of today.

LB 1137Nebraska Municipal Land Bank Law

DescriptionLB 1137, introduced by Heath Mello of Omaha, would create a land bank system to facilitate redevelopment and conservation of land in municipalities.  The law carefully defines the terms by which land banks are formed and overseen. It enables municipalities to create single or joint land banks with other municipalities. [Public hearing scheduled for Feb. 7.]

Analysis – LB 1137 is an innovative law that would put Nebraska among the most progressive states in the union on devolving fiscal and legal redevelopment tools to local jurisdictions. The land bank concept empowers jurisdictions to acquire, aggregate, and hold land that can be redeveloped to a higher and better use. The joint land bank provision is particularly innovative. This would enable cities like Omaha, Bellevue, and La Vista to collaborate on redevelopment projects and possibly set up the framework for transferrable development rights – or TDR – expanding the range of eligible land where development rights can be “swapped” with properties where a higher and better land use can be situated.

Recommendation for Supporters of Balanced TransportationSupport. Write the Urban Affairs Committee chairwoman, Amanda McGill, and your state senator expressing your support for this legislation. Highlight its innovative aspects.  Mention that giving cities more tools and greater flexibility to encourage infill development and redevelopment of existing neighborhoods and districts is good for long-term fiscal health and for the quality of life in our state’s urban areas. Higher densities that accompany good redevelopment bolster the market for alternative modes of transportation, which will improve our choices to meet mobility needs while reducing environmental impact.

LR 376CAConstitutional Amendment to Change TIF Designation Criteria

DescriptionLR 376CA, introduced by Heath Mello of Omaha, would amend the State Constitution, removing the “blighted and substandard” requirement for declaring a TIF district, replacing it with “areas in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation.” It also lengthens the timeframe of the TIF instrument from 20 years to 30 years. [Public hearing scheduled for Feb. 14.]

Analysis – LR 376CA gives urban areas greater flexibility in using the TIF instrument. The “areas in need of redevelopment or rehabilitation” language frees cities from the need to designate an area “blighted and substandard,” which engenders fierce opposition from landowners over perceived negative impacts to property values (though these are generally only observable in the short run). The longer time horizon of TIF gives developers more certainty on the soundness of the investment and facilitates longer-term, phased redevelopment projects.

Recommendation for Supporters of Balanced TransportationSupport. Write the Urban Affairs Committee chairwoman, Amanda McGill, and your state senator expressing your support of this Constitutional Amendment. Mention that it is important to give cities more tools and greater flexibility to encourage infill development and redevelopment of existing neighborhoods and districts.  Redevelopment into higher densities encourages utilization of alternative modes of transportation for meeting mobility needs.

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