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Legislation on the menu during Chamber fall forum

State Chamber officials, Sen. Wightman speak.

Legislation affecting business in Nebraska, and other issues still brewing, was the entree Monday at the Randazzle Cafe.

Barry Kennedy, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and state senator John Wightman talked about business climate and upcoming legislation during the Chamber’s annual fall forum which was also a local Rotarian meeting.

Kennedy highlighted pro-business bills passed this session, noting that budget concerns loom because of lower state revenue projections.

He also mentioned that the Nebraska Advantage Act, which took effect in 2006, has brought about 88 projects in Greater Nebraska, 50 projects in Lincoln and Seward and 125 projects in metro Omaha.

Jamie Karl, state Chamber vice president of public affairs and policy, said Nebraska has climbed the rungs in several categories of favorable business climate.

Karl pointed out a No. 5 ranking in the top states to do business and a No. 6 spot in the cost of doing business but a 36th finish in local tax burden.

He noted that average Nebraskans pay $4,000 per capita for state and local taxes.

However the state ranks third for favorable legal climate for business, Karl said.

About recently passed legislation, Wightman said:

Commission of Industrial Relations reform involved much compromise and fortunately was not as contentious as it was in other states.

State aid to local governments (non-school) was virtually eliminated in Dawson County because of budget tightening at the state level.

Issues likely to come up in the 2012 session, he said, include the budget which will be affected by declining exports and financial instability in Europe and China

A scathing report about the privatization of Nebraska’s child welfare system will bring about more changes, Wightman said, noting that Nebraska’s electoral voting system will also be discussed.

Wightman said he didn’t think the governor, or enough state senators, would support a special session to talk about a controversial pipeline route through the Sandhills.

Chamber officials said they support building the pipeline for economic boost to the area.

Water sustainabillity and alternative energy, especially wind power, will be on the legislative plate as will attempts by national groups to eliminate livestock production in the state, he said.

“That would be the death knell to many in the Sandhills,” Wightman said.

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