That was a long short week. The Legislature’s original agenda called for a four-day week, Tuesday through Friday. However, on Monday, Speaker Scheer responded to COVID-19 concerns and told senators to make like fruit haters and diss a pear until further notice.
Then Friday, the Speaker announced the Legislature would reconvene tomorrow at 1:30 pm. He also intends that they meet on Tuesday and Wednesday. The purpose is specifically to authorize the Governor’s request for $58.6 million in emergency funding. The state cash reserve is healthy, so this appropriation should not have much opposition.
We understand the request covers personal protective equipment, supplies, and additional staffing at Vets Hospitals and Department of Health and Human Services facilities. Increased lab testing by the University of Nebraska Medical Center is also part of the package.
Technically, twenty legislative days remain in this session. However, as stated previously in these convoluted rants, passing the budget is the only “must-do” in a legislative session.
The budget overcame a filibuster on General File and rests calmly on Select File. At some date uncertain, the Legislature will reconvene and take up the budget on Select File. There will likely be another filibuster attempt, but advancing to Final Reading is a certainty.
After laying over a day, Final Reading will be a breeze and the budget will move to Governor Ricketts’ desk. He may sign the budget in toto. Or, he may veto specific line items, at which point the Legislature may reconvene to consider overrides.
That leaves many bills quite literally blowing in the COVID-19 wind. High profile bills, like property tax relief (déjà vu), a business incentive plan (déjà vu, again), and $300 million for UNMC. Waiting in the wings are a host of significant issues that really should be addressed this year. Frankly, there may not be enough time. But then again, what’s time to a pig.
LB803 (Hughes) MONITOR – SPEAKER PRIORITY BILL
- Creates a new promotional checkoff program for pulse crops, including dry peas, lentils, chickpeas or garbanzo beans, faba beans, and lupine. The bill also expands a waiver of a distance limitation for overweight/oversize vehicles transporting crops to include pulse crops.
LB1084 (Kolterman / MONITOR)
- The Nebraska Transformational Project Act would provide $300 million in state funding to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for their NExT Project. Before receiving $300 million, UNMC must show the economic impact to Nebraska is at least $2.7 billion during the planning and construction period and at least $4.9 billion over ten years.
- NExT Project has two components: a state of the art academic medical center facility and a federal all-hazard disaster response military and civilian partnership.
LB1159 (Stinner) SUPPORT
- Extends the initial training period for a noncertified pesticide applicator from 60 to 120 days prior to obtaining an initial commercial or noncommercial applicator license. The bill also authorizes unlimited exam attempts for the noncertified applicator during that training period.
Held In Committee
LB919 (Wayne / MONITOR)
- Hemp cultivator, processor-handler, and broker license and renewal applications shall only be denied if they are incomplete or deficient, including for nonpayment of the required application and registration fees, or if the applicant does not meet minimum qualifications.
LB946 (Briese / MONITOR)
- The bill lowers the sales tax rate and eliminates exemptions on services. Service includes all activities that are engaged in for other persons for a consideration and that involve predominantly the performance of a service as distinguished from selling or leasing tangible personal property.
Failed to Advance
LB974 (Linehan) MONITOR – REVENUE COMMITTEE PRIORITY BILL
- A complex property tax reduction and school funding bill. As amended by AM2433, the bill would reduce property taxes as a significant source of funding for K-12 education. Unless expressly exempt:
- Real property would be valued at 95% of actual value for the tax year 2020, 91% in the tax year 2021, and 86% in 2022 and after that.
- Agricultural and horticultural land would be valued at 65% of actual value in the tax year 2020, for purposes of taxes levied by a school district and 75% of actual value for taxes levied by other political subdivisions.
- Agricultural and horticultural land would be valued at 60% of actual value in the tax year 2021, for purposes of taxes levied by a school district and 75% of actual value for taxes levied by other political subdivisions.
- Agricultural and horticultural land would be valued at 55% of actual value in the tax year 2022, and each tax year after that, for purposes of taxes levied by a school district and 75% of actual value for taxes levied by other