Process Used to Move Vets Home Part of LB 935 Debate
Some people against moving the veterans home from Grand Island to Kearney say the way the state made that decision was unfair. That's why Senator Mike Gloor says his bill that would get the Legislature more involved in those big projects is necessary.
The retroactive part of LB 935 that could send the vets home move to the Legislature for approval is causing its own debate. But the bulk of the bill spells out what steps should be followed when a costly state service is moving between communities.
Gloor says it's about fixing transparency in state government, not just trying to halt the move.
"It didn't just become something we began looking at after the [vets home] decision was made," says Gloor.
But others who spoke to the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday say the bidding and scoring process the state used to pick a new site in Kearney was open.
Senator Galen Hadley, the Kearney representative, says six central Nebraska mayors, including the tri-cities, signed a letter saying they were okay with the governor's chosen bidding method.
"'Cities within the coalition are prepared to compete.' Let me repeat that – ‘prepared to compete and provide local incentives to ensure completion of this facility,'" Hadley read from the letter.
Supporters of reform say making sure the full Legislature gets a final say in these situations will lessen economic loss for a community.
"I'm not here to sit here and say which way it would go, I think that the true will and the wisdom and the voice of the people happen there [in the Legislature]," says Grand Island Area Economic Development President Randy Gard.
Opponents argue that the process works, and has worked before when the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home moved.
"We did not come back to the Legislature for approval when we decided to move it from western Douglas County to eastern Sarpy County," says John Hilgert, director of the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs.
Kearney leaders say they followed the rules and now worry that LB 935 is holding up progress on a new vets home.
"Our citizens deserve an answer and the other communities that we work with – Hastings and North Platte – we all followed the same process, we expected to be treated fairly, and in their eyes and our eyes, the process worked," says Kearney Mayor Stan Clouse.
Gloor has made this his priority bill for the session.
Now that they've held a public hearing, it will be up to the committee to advance the bill or not.