On Tuesday, March 22 the Legislature began all day floor debate on priority bills. LB 698, introduced by Senator Christensen, was debated first. LB 698, with the Agriculture Committee’s amendment, repeals labeling requirements for gasoline containing more than 10% ethanol. This change is compelling because of Ethanol’s 30+ year sound track record as a “green” and “ag friendly” fuel at our pumps, the estimated 80% of consumers currently fill up with Ethanol, and supportive testimony from the Ethanol Association of Nebraska Ethanol Producers and Nebraska Grain and Feed Association stating a need for new marketing. As your rural senator, it’s also my view that given Nebraska’s strong agriculture roots and economic reliance on the industry, ethanol should be considered the norm in our state when it comes to fueling our vehicles. It is time we label what is NOT ethanol. Understood, it is also important to meet the consumer need to have an identifier at the pumps for different gasoline options, just like the Diesel pumps. An amendment will be considered to reverse current labeling requirements and require displaying a label at pumps containing no ethanol. LB 698 is on Select File.
The major focus of debate last week was LB 84, introduced by Senator Fischer, to ensure that roads funding is a priority for our state for safe infrastructure and economic development. LB 84 creates the Build Nebraska Act and designates a half cent of existing sales tax for roads construction beginning in 2013 for the next twenty years. I have heard from many of you supporting this, especially to offer some hope for an expressway promised 23 years ago. Although a number of amendments have yet to be considered during debate, I do support LB 84, recognizing that safe and accessible roads are a priority in our state, as well as education and providing essential services to citizens in need. Good roads are important for safety and a strong economy. A strong economy is vital for schools and funding critical programs.
I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify LB 385 from last week, which eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Conservation Act. This is not administered by the Nebraska Energy Office (NEO), but the Department of Revenue with certain local utilities. The basis for eliminating the program is duplication of services. NEO has stimulus funds remaining and receives annual federal funding for a similar program, the Low Energy Weatherization Program, administered in a collaborative effort with Local Community Action Agencies. Information is available at www.neo.ne.gov.
Last Wednesday, three students visited from West Point-Beemer High School who are taking a stand against smoking. It’s good to see our youth involved and making wise choices. Wednesday evening the Northeast Nebraska Legislative Day reception provided an opportunity to visit with several area chambers of commerce and economic development professionals.
Thursday evening I enjoyed conversations with broadcasters from our district at the Nebraska Broadcasters Association event. Over the weekend I relaxed at the Oakland Spring Fling Craft Show. As always, it is wonderful to come home; it gives us an opportunity to visit on legislative issues and learn what’s news on our Main Streets.
Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to keep the good life growing,
Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16