Last week, the Legislature strolled past midpoint of their 90-day session. With 44 legislative days remaining (until June 6), and a smattering of hearings this week, we approach the time when hundreds and hundreds of completely unpassable concoctions are removed from the conversation. Go ahead, wipe your collective memories of those 750+ mind-numbing public hearings.
By May 2, the Appropriations Committee must deliver their recommendation for the biennial (7/1/19 – 6/30/21) budget. As previously discussed, and largely due to a flump in the agriculture economy, state revenues continue to sag below predictions. Piling on, the State rainy day fund has dropped from $746 million (2015) to somewhere near $330 million (Nov 2018). Voters approved expanding Medicaid, and prison overcrowding will not go away.
Then, like a wedgie from Nelson Muntz, came the blizzards, rains and widespread flooding. Governor Ricketts called it the “most widespread disaster we have had in our state’s history.” There was that Dust Bowl / drought / grasshopper thing in the Dirty Thirties, but let’s choose to agree. Top to bottom, the Governor’s administration is performing at an exhaustively high level in response to this disaster. Infrastructure damages have generally been assessed, but the cost to the State is an unresolved matzah ball on the Appropriations Committee plate.
We will dive into State spending next week. It roughly breaks-down into three major categories: Agency Operations (35.2%), Aid to Local Government (32.4%) and Aid to Individuals (31.5%). No, it’s not 100%. If you simply cannot wait for more information, this Appropriations Committee Preliminary Report should keep you busy until then.
Check the “Bills Prioritized” link below. These are practically all the bills in play.
- LB227 (Hughes) General File Nuance bill. As amended by the committee, if a farming operation existed prior to changes in surrounding land use remains unchanged a farm or warehouse could retain right-to-farm protections for changes to the farming operation or public grain warehouse operations. A farm or warehouse shall not be found to be a nuisance if reasonable measures are employed to minimize dust, odors, etc. and the farm or grain warehouse complies with applicable laws and regulations, including zoning; and there is no significant change in the operation, the farm or warehouse has been in operation more than 1 year and was not a nuisance when it began.
- LB243 (Gragert) Moving to Select File / PRIORITY BILL Creates the Healthy Soils Task Force to develop a comprehensive healthy soils initiative, and an action plan to carry out the initiative using specified standards as measures to assess improved soil health. With the assistance from outside resources, the task force shall examine how to provide farmers with research, education, technical assistance, and demonstration projects; examine options for financial incentives to improve soil health; and examine the contribution of livestock to soil health. The task force is to create a timeline to improve soil health within 5 years after completion of the action plan. The task force shall submit its action plan, as well as their findings and recommendations, by January 1, 2021. There are two slots on the committee for agribusiness members.
- LB284 (McCollister) APPROVED BY THE GOVERNOR Internet sales collection bill requires remote sellers (those without a physical presence in the state) and/or “marketplace facilitators” to collect and remit sales tax beginning July 1, 2019 if their gross revenue from sales into the state exceed $100,000, and sales into the state exceed 200 or more separate transaction in the same time period.
- LB320 (Albrecht) General File / PRIORITY BILL Brings provisions of the Pesticide Act into alignment with revisions to the Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule, which establishes standards for state programs to certify persons applying restricted use pesticides (RUPs), training/competency to be demonstrated by applicators to obtain certification and licensure, and related record keeping. The revisions increase Federal applicator certification program standards, enhance pesticide safety training and standards for supervision of noncertified applicators, and establish a minimum age requirement for noncertified applicators using RUPs under the direct supervision of a certified applicator. States have until March, 2020 to submit to EPA revised certification plans that comply with the updated rule requirements.