That’s All Folks!
Before adjourning the session, Speaker Scheer reminded senators of their accomplishments…and their failures. Senators held public hearings on every darned one of the 739 bills and seven constitutional amendments that were introduced. Many of the 294 bills they passed are of negligible consequence to the average Nebraskan. Unless, the new ornate box turtle license plates tickle your fancy. Several that rise to some level of importance:
- LB293, LB294, LB295, LB296, LB297, LB298, LB299 Heavy lift $9.3 billion balanced budget (FY2019-20 / FY2020-21) passed without a single line-item veto by the Governor. Well done Appropriations Committee.
- Statewide disaster relief was funded.
- Medicaid Expansion, approved by voters, was funded.
- Annual Property Tax Credit Relief Fund increased by $51 million to $275 million.
- LB284 Online retailers must now collect and remit state and local sales taxes.
- LB149 Raises smoking or vaping nicotine to 19 years of age.
- LB657 Legalizes industrial hemp and cannabidiol (CBD).
- LB184 Paves the way for small cell (5G) wireless deployment.
Failures are more entertaining, so let’s begin with the big one…collegiality. This year’s 49 were more polarized, on more issues, than any former body in recent memory. Lines were drawn early and often. Rural vs. Urban. Republican vs. Democrat. Liberal vs. Conservative. Sometimes, floor debate was so difficult, it made a few senators cry. What? “There’s no crying in baseball the chamber!”
Senators performed most poorly on two issues: significant property tax relief (LB183 or LB289) and a revitalized business incentive package (LB720). For years, meaningful property tax relief has been the #1 issue that senators hear on the campaign trail, at town hall meetings and in local coffee shops. Yet, they can’t pass a bill. Attracting new business to Nebraska is critical to growing the state. Yet, senators can’t pass a bill. Shhh, here’s a little secret. The path to success for both issues runs straight through the state school aid formula. The key is to how to equitably distribute 60% of our property taxes and over $1 billion a year in sales and income taxes to 244 public school districts.
Senators introduced more than 140 requests for Interim Studies. These are easy to introduce, but hard to move forward. Unless, the matter is of pressing importance for Nebraskans, or to the chair of the Legislative Committee to whom the study was referenced. Frankly, examining the replacement of Native American mascots in schools; a review of food deserts to increase access to healthy affordable food; and examining the practice of mindfulness to reduce the number of those in crisis just don’t crank up the needle on the old passion meter.
Probable Interim Studies: eliminating sales tax exemptions (to reduce property taxes); public school funding; rural broadband; public employee retirement funds; and incarceration – both facilities and programs.
We thank you so much for your patience this session. We look forward to resuming these weekly rants next January. Sine Die!
NeABA Bills In Play
Approved by the Governor
- LB184 (Friesen) Creates the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act for the next generation of wireless communications – 5G
- 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.