Wednesday, was Budget Day. It’s always filled with anticipation for state department heads, state employees, state contractors, grant recipients, the Governor, taxpayers and your favorite lobbyist.
Unicameral aficionados, who religiously tune-in to NET, anticipate budget debate as well. Liken them to General Hospital devotees, hooked on policy debate. They know the budget brings drama and controversy to their living room, so they writhe at spending choices and revel at comments by their favorite senators. However, these regular viewers most anticipate the possibility of a tussle like those on C-SPAN where “My Esteemed Colleague” uses $10 words to call “My Good Friend” a complete jerk.
Didn’t happen. Senators quizzed the Appropriations Committee about spending motives, and Committee Chairman Stinner only used his “Dad voice” once. Late in the day, the state’s $9.3 billion biennial budget advanced to Select File.
A win for property owners came in the form of a $51 million hot potato. The Governor’s original budget request contained that potato in the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund, for each of the next two years. “My good friends” on the Appropriations Committee halved the potato and sent $26 million to the Rainy Day Fund. An amendment by “my esteemed colleague” Senator Linehan, made that potato whole again, fully funding the Governors original request. The total property tax credit, which is refunded to all property taxpayers, increases to $372 million in FY2020-21.
Property tax relief bill, LB289, did not fair as well last week. Facing strong opposition, the bill was removed from the agenda after three hours. The Speaker has a rule. If a bill does not advance within three hours, it’s gone, unless the bill introducer shows him at least 33 votes to overcome the debate filibuster. Sen. Linehan is lobbying her good friends to get to 33.
BIG DEAL BILLS THIS WEEK
- All Seven Budget Bills – Select File and Final Reading.
- LB720 – Nebraska ImagiNE Act. 115-page, $150 million kitchen sink business incentive bill.
- LB686 – $49 million, 384-bed facility in Lincoln to reduce (not fix) prison overcrowding.
- LB630 – Judiciary Committee assorted criminal acts.
- LB110 – Medical cannabis bill. Likely not to pass, but sets-up drama for 2020 ballot initiative.
NeABA Bills In Play
- LB303 (Lindstrom) Would transfer $51 million each year from the General Fund to the Property Tax Credit Fund.
- LB184 (Friesen) Creates the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act for the next generation of wireless communications – 5G.
Approved by the Governor
- LB227 (Hughes) Nuisance bill. 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) 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) Internet sales tax 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) 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.