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As summer break begins for many schools in our district, so too draws near the end of the legislative session. This year’s session will come to a close earlier than expected. It was announced last Thursday that the final day of session will be May 31, rather than June 6. The decision to adjourn early is not uncommon during the long, 90-day sessions, and the decision is left to the Speaker of the Legislature’s discretion. Speaker Scheer attributed the early dismissal to our efficiency in handling bills and debating the major issues of this year. The most pressing issue left on the table is property tax relief, which will be debated in an amendment to Senator Briese’s LB 183 this week.
Another bill introduced by Senator Briese that was discussed on the floor last week and impacts our district was LB 592, which aims to ease rigid regulations faced by Nebraska farm wineries. Southeast Nebraska is home to the largest share of farm wineries in the state. It was referred to in decades past as the “Napa Valley of Nebraska.” LB 592 served a dual purpose as a clean-up bill for the Liquor Control Commission and as a vehicle for LB 584, which relaxed the regulations for Nebraska farm wineries. LB 584, introduced by Senator Hilgers and as adopted in the committee amendment, lowered the percentage of grapes, fruit, or other suitable agricultural products that must be grown in the state from seventy five percent to sixty percent, offering wineries more flexibility if severe weather or a late freeze were to strike the state. The bill also raised the limit on tasting rooms permitted for farm wineries from one to four, bringing it in line with current regulations for craft brewers.
One issue that was not addressed in LB 592 was the regulatory red tape required for our Nebraska wineries to host events with an open bar. To break it down, for every wedding, concert, party, any event a farm winery hosts in which their clients have requested alcohol in addition to wine, Nebraska farm wineries must apply for a temporary SDL, which is a Special Designated License, through the Liquor Control Commission. For many wineries, this leads to stacks upon stacks of paperwork to fill out repetitive SDL applications several times per year. Senator Lowe and I will be working during the interim to craft a compromise which streamlines the process while maintaining the three-tier system for alcohol distribution.
As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at: Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.