Where’s Ernie Live?
All week was Groundhog Day (without Bill Murray and I Got You Babe). Each day began with a prayer; then a morning filibuster; then lunch; then afternoon committee hearings; then leave; then repeat. Tedious? While this schedule appears tedious to those unfamiliar with the intricacies and technicalities of the unicameral process, be assured, the word tedious is most inadequate.
By Thursday, each senator had identified her/his priority bill – 49 in total. Committees prioritized 34 bills as well. Speaker Scheer will announce his 25 priority bills on Monday. Priority status merely guarantees these 108 bills have agenda order precedence over the remaining 559 bills.
There’s trouble a brewin’. In last November’s General Election, longest serving, longest talking, longest everything, Ernie Chambers drubbed his latest opponent. CEPT, this guy filed a petition claiming Ernie actually lives in Bellevue, not the North Omaha district he represents. A legislative committee was formed (because that’s what they do) to investigate the allegation. The committee, in a CYA move, retained a retired Supreme Court Justice as special counsel.
Last week, the judge found the petition filings in order and advised that the committee could move forward and hold a hearing. So they did. Can you hear it? Someone just plugged-in the calliope.
The Nebraska Visitors Development Act, LB 222 (Stinner) is the only Priority Bill on our Tracking Sheet. However, this one is important and it is on General File. Highlights:
- Promoting Nebraska as a tourism destination and increasing the number of visitors to the state are purposes of the Tourism Commission.
- Changes the composition and terms of the Nebraska Tourism Commission.
- Terms of the current Tourism Commissioners expire 30 days after the effective date of the act.
- Expands the Commission from 7 to 11 members.
- Four members must have professional, volunteer, or public service experience that contributes to fiduciary and governance duties.
- Seven members must be affiliated with the tourism industry.
- One member must be from each of the 11 Tourism Commission Districts:
- District 1 – Douglas County
- District 2 – Lancaster County
- District 3 – Richardson, Pawnee, Nemaha, Johnson, Otoe, Gage, Saline, and Jefferson Counties
- District 4 – Cass and Sarpy Counties
- District 5 – Saunders, Washington, Dodge, Colfax, Stanton, Cuming, Burt, Thurston, Wayne, Cedar, Dixon, and Dakota Counties
- District 6 – Butler, Polk, Platte, Merrick, Nance, Boone, Madison, Pierce, Antelope, Knox, Holt, and Boyd Counties
- District 7 – Thayer, Nuckolls, Webster, Adams, Clay, Fillmore, Seward, York, Hamilton, Franklin, and Harlan Counties
- District 8 – Kearney, Phelps, Hall, Howard, Greeley, Wheeler, Buffalo, Sherman, Valley, and Garfield Counties
- District 9 – Lincoln, Keya Paha, Rock, Brown, Loup, Blaine, Custer, Logan, McPherson, Arthur, Grant, Hooker, Thomas, and Cherry Counties
- District 10 – Furnas, Red Willow, Hitchcock, Dundy, Chase, Hayes, Frontier, Gosper, Dawson, Perkins, and Keith Counties
- District 11 – Deuel, Garden, Sheridan, Cheyenne, Morrill, Box Butte, Dawes, Sioux, Scotts Bluff, Banner, and Kimball Counties
- All contracts are subject to a bidding process.
- The Commission shall comply with all rules, regulations, procedures, and guidelines established by the Department of Administrative Services.
- Gives sole authority to the Tax Commissioner to collect lodging taxes.
- Changes the Commission’s grant giving authority by establishing two different categories of grants:
- Marketing assistance grants. A community or organization can apply for these grants if they are hosting national or international-caliber events in Nebraska that have the potential to attract a significant percentage of out of state visitors and generate favorable national or international press.
- Innovative tourism grants. The grants are available to communities or organizations that provide tourism and visitor promotion services, host events, or promote attractions which result in either an increased number of nonlocal, instate visitors or an increased number of both nonlocal, instate visitors and out of state visitors. Innovative tourism grants may include marketing assistance, planning assistance, basic support, and regional cooperation, but shall not be used for equipment or capital facility development or improvements.