What’s happening at the Legislature

February 12, 2019

There were several transportation and telecommunication hearings that took place over the past week that have had a great deal of interest. The first, LB184 is the small wireless facilities deployment act. This bill provides for greater investments by wireless communication providers in new technologies commonly referred to as small cells. The purpose of the bill is to improve wireless and broadband connectivity especially in high density areas. The bill was opposed by municipalities and cable providers and remains in committee.

Broadband deployment was also discussed in committee hearings, LB208 would provide for leasing dark fiber or providing certain telecommunications and related services by a state agency or political subdivision. In addition, LB 549 is a bill that would provide for creation and maintenance of a geographic information system map (ie broadband data information). Both of these bills look to address the lack of wireless and broadband connectivity statewide. They remain in committee.

As a member of the rural broadband task force we are working to bring broadband to rural areas of our state. The major roadblock we encounter when identifying the underserved areas is the process of reporting areas that are covered with broadband service. Companies use census blocks to indicate areas that are covered by broadband. This process of reporting works in dense urban areas but, in sparsely populated rural areas it becomes problematic. To properly identify underserved areas it is necessary to report service coverage down to the address or street level. Broadband is necessary for the growth of our state.

Property taxes remain a key issue for me this session. On February 14th there are two bills being heard in the Revenue Committee. First, LB314 “The Remote Sellers Sales Tax Act” will place a sales and use tax on items purchased from out-of-state businesses over the internet. This was previously unconstitutional but was overturned last year in South Dakota v. Wayfair. Some estimates suggest that instituting a sales tax on online purchases will bring in an additional $30 million in revenue to be used for property tax relief. I am a co-sponsor on the other bill, LB497 “Adopt the School District Property Tax Authority Act”, introduced by Sen. Friesen of District 34. This bill will ensure every school will receive state support equal to 50 percent of basic education funding needs. LB497 also broadens the sources of state aid funding for use in replacing local property taxes, including the elimination of some sales tax exemptions, capturing internet sales tax revenues, increases in cigarette and alcohol taxes, and elimination of the personal property tax exemption. As currently written LB497 needs work to address how the bill will be funded and this will be done through amendments if the bill is moved out of committee.

I appreciate hearing from constituents on issues affecting District 23 and encourage you to contact my office on legislation at 402-471-2719 or bbostelman@leg.ne.gov.

Bruce Bostelman is a Nebraska state senator representing Butler, Saunders and most of Colfax County in Legislative District 23.

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