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It is tough to find a better place in Nebraska to chow down than Downtown and South Omaha. Our district is home to a diverse array of dining options, representing the vibrant, multicultural community that we are. However, that diversity is not just present in the variety of foods, but also, in the dining experience. While our brick-and-mortar restaurants are some of the best in the state, we are also the home to some of the best food trucks in Nebraska. Unfortunately, today local municipalities and our state government have placed a patchwork of regulations on food trucks, making it difficult and costly for owners and operators to navigate and comply. This is why I introduced LB 732, a bill that my colleague Senator Carol Blood from Bellevue has cosponsored, that standardizes and streamlines permitting and inspections processes, encourages entrepreneurship, and maintains dining choices for consumers.
LB732 was created in partnership with the Omaha Food Truck Association, a group of local food trucks dedicated to serving Omahans a wide variety of cuisines from around the globe. I am grateful for their cooperation in creating common-sense legislation that maintains public safety and public health while bringing Nebraska up-to-speed with the rest of the nation.
Today, food trucks looking to operate in Omaha face different regulations and costs to do business than those that operate in Lincoln or Bellevue. The same food truck often operates in multiple cities, so these differences greatly impact their ability to conduct business and remain profitable. For instance, a permit to operate in Lincoln or Bellevue can be hundreds of dollars more expensive in Omaha. This can be too big of a hurdle for small business owners looking to get their feet off of the ground. This legislation will standardize the permitting process, setting the maximum fee that municipalities can charge at $75, in addition to a maximum of $40 health and safety inspection fee.
For consumers across the state, LB732 increases your opportunities to enjoy the food trucks that frequent Downtown and South Omaha. For example, this legislation ensures a city cannot place restrictions on hours of operation that are different than constraints on brick-and-mortar restaurants. In other words, a city cannot mandate that food trucks close at 2:30am, or what would otherwise be some of their peak business hours, leaving willing consumers without many options for some late-night grub. Additionally, LB732 grants food trucks the freedom to operate on public and private property, just like any other small business would have the authority to do.
It’s important to me that cities maintain some autonomy and aren’t completely constrained by regulations handed down by the state legislature. There are several provisions in LB732 that allow local governments to regulate food trucks to the extent that they would any other operating business. It is important that as the food truck industry continues to blossom, we do not limit its opportunities within our state.
All in all, it is my belief that food trucks all over the state will benefit when we streamline regulations and level the playing field for all operators. I am so excited for the opportunity to expand the vibrant dining scene in our district and across the state, with both brick-and-mortar restaurants and mobile businesses like food trucks.