The Columbus Area Chamber Legislative Committee was a partner on Northeast Nebraska Day at the Capitol.
During the event Senator Jim Scheer, Speaker of the Unicameral, related that work on the budget will begin on the floor of the Legislature in a couple weeks as the Appropriations Committee releases their budget proposal.
University Regent Jim Pillen gave us a great “tour” around the University’s budget and the difficult choices facing the University. Kyle Schneweis, director of Nebraska Dept. of Transportation, confirmed the next phase of Highway 30 Expressway will be starting construction by fall to take the 4-lane to North Bend, assuming that funding sources such as Build Nebraska Act stay in place. The work on Highway 275 will begin in 2019, another long-awaited project in northeast Nebraska.
Steve Wellman, new director of Nebraska Dept. of Agriculture, talked about trade. He is seeing great demand for Nebraska products globally, with Nebraska beef exports up 12% last year and pork up 20% in 2017. He said NAFTA has been good for Nebraska and while supportive of re-negotiating the agreement, he hoped the U.S. government would take an approach of “do no harm” to the current benefits of that agreement.
Barry Kennedy of the Nebraska Chamber said he would not expect a long list of controversial or significant legislation to come out of this short session of the Unicameral. He said the State Chamber will be working to protect business incentives and support tax reform proposals this session.
After these sessions, we enjoyed some one-on-one conversation with a great group of State Senators and other state leaders at a reception. It was a record crowd of attendees and Senators as well, which led to some great interactions between our region and our state’s leaders.
Northeast Nebraska Day is a great example of success through a collaborative effort. In this case, local Chambers of Commerce from Blair, Columbus, Fremont, Norfolk, South Sioux City, O’Neill, Wayne & West Point hosted and we stretched the definition of “northeast” by welcoming guests from the South Platte United Chamber to join us as well.
Locally, Loup Public Power District and Cornhusker Public Power support our delegation so Columbus Area Chamber members attended at no cost.