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The Legislature is at the half-way mark of this 90-day session. This past week marked the priority bill designation deadline. Senators have the ability to designate one bill as their personal priority bill. Committees can designate two bills as committee priority bills and the Speaker of the Legislature is given the authority to designate up to 25 bills as speaker priority bills. After this point in the legislative session, generally only bills with priority status are debated by the Legislature.
I chose LB 106 as my priority bill. LB 106, the Livestock Operation Siting and Expansion Act, was recently advanced from the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. It directs the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, with advice from experts representing the Nebraska Association of County Officials, livestock production agriculture and the University of Nebraska, to develop an assessment matrix for use by county officials when determining whether to approve an application for a livestock operation siting permit. Nebraska’s agricultural industry has not grown in the past two decades at rates comparable to our neighboring states. LB 106 would provide for consistent standards, based on factual, objective criteria to be used by local governing bodies when granting permits, thereby allowing for more predictability and uniformity in the process.
As chair of the Performance Audit Committee, we chose LB 538 and LB 598 as committee priority bills. LB 538, introduced by the Performance Audit Committee, creates a process for ongoing evaluation of Nebraska’s tax incentive programs, in order to give legislators information to draw clear conclusions about whether tax incentives are benefitting Nebraska’s economy and meeting program goals. LB 538 requires the Legislative Audit Office to conduct a performance audit of each tax incentive program at least every three years.
LB 598, introduced by Senator Paul Schumacher, addresses the use of segregation in our prisons. Rules would be developed to guide the level of confinement, conditions, behavior, and mental health status of inmates. The legislation contains recommendations from an interim study conducted by the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigative Committee of the Legislature, which incorporated results from an audit conducted by the Performance Audit Committee.
Other bills designated as priority bills by individual senators include:
LB 350, introduced and prioritized by Senator Lydia Brasch, reduces the valuation of agricultural land for purposes of property taxation from 75% to 65%. As of this time, LB 350 has failed to advance from the Revenue Committee.
Another bill that was prioritized but has not advanced from the Revenue Committee was LB 357, introduced by Senator Jim Smith. It proposes to reduce the individual and corporate income tax rates and increase the amount of funding to the Property Tax Credit program. The tax relief would be funded through transfers from the cash reserve and reductions in spending.
LB 586 prohibits discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. This bill was introduced by Senator Adam Morfeld and designated as a priority by Senator Patty Pansing Brooks.
LB 610 was introduced by Senator Jim Smith and prioritized by Senator Curt Friesen. It would increase the gas tax by 1.5 cents every year for four years, with revenue being used by cities, counties and the state for road and bridge projects.
LB 643 proposes to legalize marijuana for medical use. It was introduced and prioritized by Senator Tommy Garrett.
Among the bills designated as priorities by committees include:
LB 259, which as amended by committee amendments, would exempt the first $15,000 worth of personal property value for each personal property tax return. This bill was designated as a priority by the Revenue Committee. Although this will provide some property tax relief, many senators were disappointed that the committee did not offer a more comprehensive solution.
LB 472 was prioritized by the Health and Human Services Committee. It is Senator Kathy Campbell’s third attempt at Medicaid expansion, which was ruled optional for states after the Affordable Care Act was challenged in court.
If you have any comments on the bills that have been given priority status, I encourage you to contact me. I can be reached at District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My telephone number is (402) 471-2733 and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past week marked the deadline for priority bill designation. Every senator is allowed to designate one bill as a priority bill, every committee can designate two bills, and the speaker is authorized to choose up to twenty-five bills as speaker priority bills. Typically after the deadline date, only bills with priority status are debated by the Legislature.
Topics of bills chosen as priorities include proposals to lower income taxes, reduce the valuation of agricultural land, authorize the issuance of highway construction bonds, restructure the process used when releasing inmates from prison, and to expand Medicaid to newly eligible adults with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level. A priority designation does not assure that a bill will advance from committee, meaning that some of the bills designated as priority bills may not be debated by the Legislature.
I designated LB 916 as my priority bill. LB 916, which was introduced by Bellevue Senator Sue Crawford, would eliminate the integrated practice agreement (IPA) between a nurse practitioner and a physician. Under the 407 review process, which studies proposals for change in scope of practice for health professionals, both the Technical Review Board and the State Board of Health supported this proposal for nurse practitioners. As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, I heard about the difficulties nurse practitioners face in securing an IPA, particularly in rural communities.
LB 916, as amended by committee amendments, requires that in order to practice as a nurse practitioner, such person shall submit a “transition-to-practice agreement” or evidence of completion of 2,000 hours of practice. Under the “transition-to-practice agreement”, a nurse practitioner and the supervising provider shall practice collaboratively within the framework of their respective scopes of practice. A supervising provider could be a physician or a nurse practitioner with 10,000 hours of practice.
Nurse practitioners have full practice authority in nineteen states, including neighboring Iowa, Colorado, and Wyoming. Kansas currently has a collaborative agreement for the first year of practice, similar to what is proposed in the amended version of LB 916.
I believe that nurse practitioners are providing safe and effective health care and that they will continue to consult with other professionals when needed. I also believe that this change will help alleviate the current health care shortage problem that many rural areas of the state are experiencing.
The public hearings were held before the Appropriations Committee this past week on LB 1046, which would appropriate $50 million annually in general funds for water projects, and LB 940, which proposes a one-time transfer of $50 million from the cash reserve to fund projects this first year. Many testifiers expressed their support for the bills and stressed the importance of achieving water sustainability. Only one person testified against the bills. However, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee made it clear that this proposal would be competing against other requests, including increasing the property tax credit, income tax cuts, state park maintenance, and prison reform.
The public hearing process will be completed by the end of February. Beginning March 4, legislators will meet in full-day session. The Appropriations Committee must present their recommendations for mid-biennium adjustments in the budget to the Legislature by March 10. We have just hit the half-way mark in this legislative session and will have a full agenda for the next thirty days.
If you have any comments on the legislation that has been designated as priority bills, I encourage you to contact me. I can be reached at District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My e-mail address is email@example.com and my telephone number is (402) 471-2733.
This past week marked the deadline for the designation of priority bills. Every senator may designate one bill as his/her individual priority bill. Every committee can designate two priority bills and the Speaker of the Legislature has the authority to designate twenty-five bills as speaker priority bills. After this point in the session, bills without priority status do not stand a good chance of being debated unless they are noncontroversial and meet the criteria for consent calendar. Consent calendar is a tightly structured process whereby noncontroversial bills without opposition have a chance at passage.
I selected LB 308 as my personal priority bill because it will provide tax relief. LB 308 proposes to repeal Nebraska’s alternative minimum tax (AMT). Nebraska is one of only nine states with its own AMT. This tax was originally designed to capture revenue from high-income earners, but over the last decade, it has been a threat to more middle class taxpayers. The AMT adds complexity to our tax code, due to its own set of rates and rules for deductions.
LB 308 was recently advanced from the Revenue Committee, with committee amendments that contain the provisions of LB 457. LB 457 addresses the Net Operating Loss (NOL) carry forward tax policy, which allows losses to be deducted against past and future profits to measure profitability over a period that more closely corresponds to a business’s investment horizon. The amendment would extend the carry forward deduction period for ordinary operating losses, lengthening the provision from 5 years to 20 years. All but 5 states have a NOL carry forward time-frame greater than 5 years. The committee amendments to LB 308 would bring Nebraska in line with the federal corporate income tax policy and the majority of states on loss carry forwards. This will help improve Nebraska’s business tax climate, allowing small businesses, new ventures, high-tech businesses and manufacturers additional time for investment and employment growth.
Other bills that have been given priority designation include: LB 96 exempts repair or replacement parts for agricultural machinery and equipment from the sales tax; LB 362 changes the fee for state park permits to a registration fee on motor vehicles; LB 393 repeals the helmet law for motorcyclists 21 years of age and older; LB 439 increases the cigarette tax; LB 543 repeals the death penalty; LB 561 restructures the juvenile justice system; LB 517 creates the Water Sustainability Project Task Force; LB 577 expands Medicaid as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act; and LB 613 creates a committee to conduct a comprehensive study of our tax system, including sales, income and property taxes.
In February, I held open houses in several locations in the eastern portion of Legislative District #1. On Saturday and Sunday, March 23 and 24, I plan to hold open houses in the western part of the district. At 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, I will be at the Little Brown Jug Coffee Shop in Pawnee City; at 10:00 a.m. at Frazier’s Cafe in Tecumseh; and at 1:00 p.m. at Scott’s Cafe in Sterling. On Sunday, I will be at the Palmyra Activities Center at 1:00 p.m. I encourage you to stop by on March 23 or 24 so that I can get the chance to meet you and to hear your thoughts on issues that are before the Legislature.
My contact information is District #1, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln NE 68509. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my office telephone number is (402) 471-2733.