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Upcoming Property Rights Bills in Legislature

There are two bills relating to property rights that will have a hearing on Tuesday, March 5th at 9:15 AM in room 1113 of the State Capitol.

The first is LB 520, introduced by Sen. Mark Christensen.  LB520 would allow surveyors to lawfully access private property without securing permission of the landowner.  In the case of pipelines, companies such as TransCanada would be given the right to access private property to survey in preparation for obtaining easements, as long as the surveyors made a “good faith attempt” to obtain permission from the landowner.  This good faith attempt can include in-person notification or notification by regular mail.  There are no other guidelines as to what constitutes a “good faith attempt.”

While the bill requires a surveyor to have a license, it does not require a permit for a project.  It would also make it illegal for a landowner to attempt to stop a surveyor, and the surveyor could petition for an order so a landowner would have to allow the survey to take place.

Bold Nebraska opposes this bill, and we think anyone who truly values property rights would not propose such legislation that basically legalizes trespassing.

Again, the hearing for this bill will be in the Judiciary Committee (see information below) on Tuesday, March 5th at 9:15 AM in room 1113 of the State Capitol.  We encourage landowners to testify in opposition (see testifying tips below).

The second property rights bill is LB533, introduced by Sen. Bill Avery.  LB533 is an eminent domain bill pertaining to oil and gas pipelines in Nebraska. 

LB533 would require that pipeline companies must provide at least 10 days notice to property owners that their property is under consideration for a pipeline project.  This would help prevent the “element of surprise” that so many landowners can feel when being propositioned with easement offers at the same time that they are notified that their property could be condemned through eminent domain.  In the past, TransCanada has threatened the use of eminent domain during initial negotiation meetings with landowners, even for a pipeline that has not been permitted.  This causes undue stress on landowners and is seen by most as a bully tactic aimed at obtaining easements as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

The bill would require several components to be present in the notice, including:

1) a description of the property desired for the pipeline project

2) reasons for selecting the property location for use in the project, including a map

3) a list of the property owner’s rights

These elements are necessary in order for landowers to make informed decisions about their property and to give them enough time to prepare for the negotiation process.  We support this bill and encourage landowners and citizens to testify at the hearing.

The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 5th at 9:15 AM in room 1113 of the State Capitol.   

If you can not join us in person, you can watch the hearing live on NET’s website.

Some testifying tips:

1) Remember, you are the expert.  Your experience and your opinions are necessary in order for lawmakers to know what to do.  As a citizen, you are part of the “second house” of the legislature.  Don’t be intimidated by the senators across the table.  They work for you!

2) Keep it short and to the point.  You will only have 3 minutes to testify.  Stick to 2 or 3 main points and deliver them with clarity and feeling.  Make it memorable to the senators and to those listening and watching in the room.  

3) Bring back-up information.  Any sources you cite in your testimony can be submitted for the record and can provide information to the senators.  Make sure your written testimony has your name, address and contact information, and bring 10 copies for the committee if you can.

It would be great if we could get as many landowners as possible, especially those who have had experience with TransCanada’s threats of eminent domain in the past, to testify.  Even if all you do is say, “I’m a landowner and I support this bill.”  

We need to send a clear message to our lawmakers that we expect them to stand with us for our rights.

Please let Sen. Avery know that you support his bill (LB533), Please let Sen. Christensen know that you oppose his bill (LB520), and please contact the members of the judiciary committee and tell them the same:

Bill Sponsors: 

LB533: Sen. Bill Avery: Phone: (402) 471-2633, Email: bavery@leg.ne.gov

LB520: Sen. Mark Christensen: Phone: (402) 471-2805, Email:mchristensen@leg.ne.gov

Judiciary Committee:

Sen. Brad Ashford (Chair): Phone: (402) 471-2622, Email: bashford@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Ernie Chambers: Phone: (402) 471-2612

Sen. Mark Christensen: Phone: (402) 471-2805, Email:mchristensen@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Colby Coash: Phone: (402) 471-2632, Email: ccoash@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Al Davis: Phone: (402) 471-2628, Email: adavis@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Steve Lathrop: Phone: (402) 471-2623, Email: slathrop@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Amanda McGill: Phone: (402) 471-2610, Email: amcgill@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Les Sieler: Phone: (402) 471-2712, Email: lseiler@leg.ne.gov

 

Other Eminent Domain Bill of Interest:

On January 11, 2013, District 34 Senator Annette Dubas introduced LB152, which deals with eminent domain in our state.  The simple 2-page bill, though never specifically mentioning pipelines, could have huge implications when it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline and TransCanada.  

The hearing for LB 152 was held on Wednesday, January 30th, and a significant number of landowners and citizens testified in favor of the bill.

The common-sense bill would require:

  1. Complete and accurate information regarding the purpose of the condemnation to be given to landowners.  This would prevent TransCanada from telling landowners their tarsands oil pipeline would be carrying conventional crude, a misleading statement that has beenchallenged in a Texas court.
  2. All permits to be in place, including a present plan and public purpose.  This would prevent TransCanada from repeating their past bad actions when they threatened Nebraska landowners with eminent domain condemnation, telling landowners to sign an easement or TransCanada would take their land for nothing, before they had a Presidential permit to build their pipeline.
  3. Entitlement to injuctive relief, attorney’s fees, and damages for landowners abused by violation of #2 above.  This gives the law “teeth” and enacts punishment on bad actors, which is a needed element when dealing with companies like TransCanada, who has a history ofusing their power and money to strong-arm landowners

Unlike last year’s LB1161 proposed by TransCanada-loving Sen. Jim Smith (and which is being challenged in court by a citizen lawsuit), LB152 would not allow TransCanada to have immediate eminent domain powers upon approval of a pipeline route through Nebraska.  Because Gov. Heineman failed to stand by his word to keep the pipeline from crossing a significant portion of the aquifer and approved the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route, under current law, TransCanada has immediate powers of eminent domain and could begin to bully landowners once again, without a Presidential permit to build their pipeline.

We at Bold Nebraska support LB152.  It is exactly the kind of common-sense legislation that our lawmakers should have enacted long ago that would have prevented the bullying many Nebraska landowners have endured at the hands of TransCanada’s land agents.  We say better late than never, and applaud Sen. Dubas for her work.  Please let her know you feel the same, and let members of the Judiciary Committee know that you support the bill.

Bill Sponsor:
Sen. Annette Dubas: Phone: (402) 471-2630, Email: adubas@leg.ne.gov

Judiciary Committee:

Sen. Brad Ashford (Chair): Phone: (402) 471-2622, Email: bashford@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Ernie Chambers: Phone: (402) 471-2612

Sen. Mark Christensen: Phone: (402) 471-2805, Email:mchristensen@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Colby Coash: Phone: (402) 471-2632, Email: ccoash@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Al Davis: Phone: (402) 471-2628, Email: adavis@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Steve Lathrop: Phone: (402) 471-2623, Email: slathrop@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Amanda McGill: Phone: (402) 471-2610, Email: amcgill@leg.ne.gov

Sen. Les Sieler: Phone: (402) 471-2712, Email: lseiler@leg.ne.gov

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BOLD Nebraska
208 S. Burlington Ave., Ste 103, Box 325, Hastings, NE 68901