Occupation tax amendment advances

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Legislative Bill 862, a bill I introduced to amend the current occupation tax on the activity of irrigation on agricultural land, advanced from General File to Select file last week. I was pleased to see strong support for the bill, with a 43 to 3 vote.

Many of you have voiced your opinion on changing the occupation tax language in our current law that would allow Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) to maintain the use of the funding mechanism to avoid a water-short year and help stabilize our economy. I appreciate hearing from all of you, and your different points of views regarding this difficult issue. Thank you for being involved and well-informed residents of District 44.

As many of you know, I am not the type that wants to avoid difficult issues, but one who likes to face problems head on before they become a crisis. Having options in place for locally elected NRDs to use, if they so choose, to avoid a water-short year is important for flexibility and responsiveness to the demands of the local people within the NRD.

The new language in the Natural Resources Committee amendment, AM2004, describing which NRDs would be eligible for the current bonding and taxing authority, uses the Integrated Management Plans (IMPs) of NRDs as the qualifying factor.

A NRD would need to create or change their IMP to reference and explicitly state their intention to use the four tools listed in section 2-3226.04 to be an eligible NRD for bonding and occupation tax authority. The four tools available to NRDs are vegetation management and removal, retirement of irrigation rights, augmentation of the river flows, and the purchase or lease of ground and surface water.

To make this change to an IMP, the NRD has to work under the current procedures and guidelines described in statute. They are required to work in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources on the development of a new IMP and get their approval. In addition, a public hearing must be held before any final vote by an NRD board.

I believe this allows for local decisions and options to be made in clear view of the people. It also keeps the State and Federal governments from being the sole decider of who the winners and losers will be regarding water in District 44.

LB 862 may come up again for Select File debate this week.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding this bill or any issue please call my office at 402-471-2805 or for more information you can view my legislative Web site at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist44/

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