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Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

Cannabis goggles

The view through one brand of cannabis goggles, which simulate the effect of using marijuana.

Anything called fatal vision marijuana goggles deserves a little explanation.

The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office has ordered three sets of goggles — which mimic the impairment caused by marijuana — as a training tool for deputies and the public.

The sheriff’s office will use the goggles to teach deputies, including the drug-recognition experts and the county’s school resource officers, what marijuana impairment looks like, in part so they can make decisions on traffic stops, said Deputy Jeremy Schwarz.

The deputies will also be able to use the goggles for community events, to help educate the public that marijuana does affect driving ability. State law prohibits driving under the influence of drugs, but arrests and convictions rely on recognizing the impairment.

The marketing information says a fatal vision goggle is a "complete package ... to help you teach about the potentially dangerous consequences of recreational marijuana use. Lessons and activities demonstrate the loss of visual perception, short-term memory loss, altered visual perception and slowed reaction time and decision-making."  

The goggles and training will cost about $6,500 and will be paid for with S.T.O.P. funds, paid by people who take a class that wipes away minor traffic tickets.   

The department sometimes borrows similar alcohol goggles, owned by the state Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for educational programs.

SouthPointe tax is not a tax

Two years ago the City Council allowed the SouthPointe Pavilions developer to use a 1 percent occupation tax to pay for a new multi-level garage at the shopping center, but the council said, "do not call this a tax."

Council members, at the suggestion of Councilwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird, wanted to make sure everyone knew the revenue from this “tax” was not going to government, per se.

They didn’t want the word "tax" to be used in connection with the tax/fee that is being assessed on all purchases from stores at SouthPointe with the exception of food and beverage.

So they decreed the 1 percent fee, requested by the developer, should be called a "parking assessment" or "parking fee" on sales receipts.

However, that is not happening. A citizen sent Councilman Jon Camp a receipt from Scheels that uses the dreaded word — "tax." The 1 percent charge is listed as “occup tax” on the receipt.

City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick says he has notified the developer that stores must use the description required by the city ordinance. He expects the sales receipt language to change this week. 

State gets mistaken sales tax revenue

Last week there was much uproar about businesses that continued to collect the city’s quarter-cent sales tax after it ended Oct. 1.

Some people, including City Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm (who may run for mayor next year), said the city and Mayor Chris Beutler, who is seeking re-election, should have notified every company that the quarter-cent tax was ending. 

The city administration pointed out it is the state’s responsibility to let companies know about sales taxes beginning and, very occasionally, ending. And the city has no list of sales tax-paying businesses and no way to easily get one from the state.

But no one asked who benefits from the mistake of collecting the tax after it ended.

The error enriches the state, not the city nor the businesses that erroneously continued to collect the tax. 

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Retailers are required to send the money collected to the state, according to Department of Revenue officials.

And the state keeps the money, unless customers ask for a refund. The money is not sent to the city after the sales tax ends.

Few people are likely to seek a refund. For starters, the customer must be owed at least $2 in sales taxes. On a quarter-cent sales tax, that’s $800 in purchases.

Prairie Corridor purchase

The city has purchased another piece of the 10-mile Prairie Corridor, the park that city leaders hope will one day connect Pioneers Park with Conestoga Lake and the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center south of Denton.

The city recently bought 163 acres, near Southwest 70th and West Rokeby Road, which is adjacent to another parcel called the Bobcat Prairie. 

By being adjacent to Bobcat Prairie, this property helps protect some virgin prairie, said Nicole Fleck-Tooze, special projects administrator with the Parks and Recreation Department.       

The $692,000 cost of the property, minus some credits, came from several sources: $331,000 from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, $193,000 from the city (from the sale of other property), and $150,000 from the J.A. Woollam Foundation. 

The Prairie Corridor is a multi-decade project that will eventually include about 7,800 acres of prairie, either purchased or accessed through easements, and is designed to preserve prairie, promote ecotourism and provide environmental education.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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