NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Lydia Brasch

Sen. Lydia Brasch

District 16

Week eleven of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 45 through 49 of the 90-day session.

On Monday and Tuesday the Legislature debated LB 368. This bill would have repealed Nebraska’s motorcycle helmet law. It would have allowed individuals, 21 years of age and older, to operate a motorcycle or a moped on any highway in Nebraska, provided they are wearing eye protection, such as sunglasses, that covers the orbital region of a person’s face. This year’s bill removed a provision – which was in last year’s bill – that would have required an extra $19 for those purchasing a motorcycle license to fund a brain injury trust fund. This bill did retain, however, on my insistence, the provision that prohibited children six years old and younger from being a passenger on a motorcycle. A motion for cloture to end debate fell one vote short.  I voted for the cloture motion (to end debate) and would have voted to advance the bill if the cloture motion had been successful.

On Wednesday and Thursday we debated LB 62, which was on its second round of debate. This legislation repeals a statute, which was passed in 1919, that prohibits teachers in all public schools in the state of Nebraska from wearing any religious garb in the school or while engaged in the performance of their duty. Garb not only includes all types of clothing, but also any adornments such as necklaces, bracelets, or earrings. The bill overcame an attempted filibuster by a vote of 38-3. I voted for cloture and the bill.

On Thursday and Friday we debated LB 46, the bill that allows Nebraskans to purchase a specialty license plate. These specialty plates are designed to reflect support for the protection of unborn children and will be available in 2018. Seventy-five percent of the fee for these license plates will go to the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund. This bill also overcame an attempted filibuster and advanced to Final Reading by a vote of 35-8. I voted for cloture and in support of the bill.

On Thursday the Legislature also advanced LB 10 and 11 to Final Reading. LB 10 increases, by one, the number of judges of the separate juvenile courts in counties having 400,000 inhabitants or more, which have established a separate juvenile court. This increase will help with the backlog of juvenile court cases that has occurred in Douglas County. The intent of LB 11 is to make clear in our statutes that Nebraska’s young people, who are going through the juvenile court system, do not have to wait so long before they receive rehabilitative treatment. They sometimes have to wait up to a year or longer before they receive the help they need. That should be fixed under this bill. I voted to advance both bills.

On Friday we adopted the permanent rules, with no changes or amendments from last year’s rules. This was done so that we could end debate on the cloture rule and finish the session by focusing on the people’s business.

On Wednesday, March 15th we were pleased to welcome the fourth graders from Arlington Elementary School to the state capitol building. It was a joy to have them in my office and have the opportunity to speak with them about issues important to them. By their suggestion, we discussed extending a 4th graders’ recess time – not something the legislature can help with though.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, two doors south of  previous office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Last week, we completed day 44 of the 90-day session. As day 45 began on Monday, March 13, we experienced the pains of the clock-changing routine of daylight saving time. However, if LB 309 passes, then next year we can benefit from having a full night’s sleep, while still enjoying relatively late sunset times in the summer given the geographic location of Nebraska in the central time zone – just something to think about.

On Monday, LB 46A, the appropriations component of the Choose Life license plate bill, received 36 votes to advance to Select File. That was enough votes to overcome a filibuster by those in opposition. This bill does not appropriate any money from the state’s General Fund, but rather from the Department of Motor Vehicles Cash Fund to the Department of Motor Vehicles to aid in carrying out LB 46. I voted in favor of LB 46A.

The Legislature also debated LB 447 last week. This bill would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for Class 1C and 1D felonies, which includes certain gun crimes, assault in the first degree of a law enforcement officer, assault of pregnant women, the creation, possession, or distribution of child pornography, the manufacturing or dealing of cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine, among other offenses. The bill was amended down so as to eliminate mandatory minimums only for individuals caught dealing heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine to minors and within 1,000 feet of a school, and includes dealers in possession of guns, as well as individuals who use juveniles to sell drugs, which is a common method used by members of gangs. The proponents of the amendment claimed that it would save the state $3.5 million per year in reduced prison costs and reduce prison population. However, the fiscal note for the original bill states that the Department of Corrections estimates a savings of only $182,000 to $260,000 per year. The amendment eliminates only a single category of mandatory minimums in contrast with the bill, which is why many questioned the accuracy of the $3.5 million in savings. The amendment became the bill which advanced to Select File with only 25 votes in favor and 22 in opposition. I voted with the opposition.

On Thursday I introduced LB 67 – right to repair – to the Judiciary Committee. There seemed to be some confusion about whether this is a federal or state issue. To address this concern, as well as give you more background on this issue, consider that in 2015 U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, and Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, petitioned the United States Copyright Office to conduct a study about the concerns surrounding right to repair. One of the points of interest was to “identify key issues in how copyright law intersects with other areas of law in establishing how products that rely on software to function can be lawfully used.” The copyright office released their report in December of 2016. The copyright office essentially concluded that the problems that consumers run into with respect to having the ability to maintain, repair, or legally modify their equipment are problems that should be addressed at the state level through contract law & consumer protection, not at the national level, since the problems are not with copyright law. I will be meeting with members of the Judiciary Committee to discuss concerns raised by those opposed to LB 67.

We would like to recognize and congratulate the Guardian Angels Central Catholic High School girls’ basketball team for winning the class D1 state championship, and Riley Berg from West Point-Beemer High School for winning the class B state wrestling championship in the 138-pound weight division.

Please contact me; my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst; with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, two doors south of previous office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Week nine of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 36 through 40 of the 90-day session.

Monday, February 27 was the start of a full and hectic week in our office that included morning floor debates, afternoon committee hearings, an executive session in the Agriculture Committee, and my introduction of two bills on Friday, March 3: LB 309 to the Government Committee and LB 466 to the Health and Human Services Committee. LB 309 exempts Nebraska from participating in daylight saving time. LB 466 seeks to eliminate one of the barriers (the integrated practice agreement) for certified nurse-midwives to practicing in Nebraska. This change would bring Nebraska in agreement with 28 other states who do not impose this burden on certified nurse-midwives. Introducing two bills in the same day can be logistically difficult. Sometimes a senator will have their legislative aide introduce one of their bills for them, but the timing worked out so that that was not needed. Due to me introducing two bills on Friday, I was present in the Revenue Committee for only one bill presentation. It made for a late evening, and my drive home to the farm on Friday was with the setting sun.

On Wednesday, March 1 Nebraska celebrated our 150th birthday as a state. The celebration took place in the Norris Chamber. All committee hearings were held in the morning so the afternoon would be available for the celebration. To begin the ceremony, the head of Nebraska’s Executive Branch, Governor Pete Ricketts, the Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court, Mike Heavican, and Nebraska’s Secretary of State, John Gale, were escorted into the chamber. Governor Ricketts gave a speech honoring Nebraska’s rich cultural heritage and our people’s work ethic, the Chief Justice discussed our people’s longstanding dedication to equality before the law, and Secretary Gale praised Nebraskans’ commitment to their free and fair election process. Grade school students sang songs, and Hannah Huston, a finalist on the Voice, sang the National Anthem. A poem written by Twyla Hansen — a native of Lyons, Nebraska, located in District 16 — was also read aloud for all to hear. Celebrations will continue throughout the year. For more information go to: https://ne150.org.

On Thursday I will be introducing LB 67 to the Judiciary Committee. This bill is titled the “Fair Repair Act.” Put simply, this bill is about ownership. When you, the consumer, purchase equipment, no matter what it is, you should have the right to maintain, repair, and legally modify the equipment, and no license agreement should restrict your access to do that. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are selling equipment in the sale contract and then essentially “un-selling it” in their end use license agreement or something similar. Anything that is sold to you that is subject to a license is not solely your property — it is basically a bag of parts wrapped in a license dictating where, when, and how you can maintain, repair, or legally modify it. If LB 67 passes, Nebraska will be the first state to pass this legislation, and it would have a domino effect nationwide. This legislation will positively impact all consumers, of all ages and income levels, by adding competition to the electronic repair market, and by paving the way for more innovation. I did not realize how important this legislation is nationally, until Apple sent lobbyists to my office to oppose it. In fact, a reporter from The Guardian flew in from San Francisco on Wednesday to interview me about the legislation. Reporters from Reuters, Popular Mechanics, the Boston Globe, Motherboard, Inc. Magazine, BuzzFeed, and the Journal Star have also interviewed me. I invite you to come testify on Thursday.

Please contact me; my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst; with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, two doors south of  previous office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Week eight of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 32 through 35 of the 90-day session. Monday, February 20th was a recess day in observance of President’s Day.

On Tuesday, the Agriculture Committee had a hearing on LB 617, a bill that would legalize and regulate the production of hemp as an agricultural product in Nebraska.  LB 617 is modeled after a similar law in Kentucky.  Both the Kentucky law and LB 617 take advantage of a provision of the 2014 Farm Bill, passed by Congress, which allows industrial hemp to be grown for research by either state universities or a state’s Department of Agriculture.  LB 617 would establish a commission within the Department of Agriculture that would license growers.  Although there seems to be increasing desire to grow industrial hemp as an alternative crop, there is concern that the Kentucky industrial hemp program, replicated by LB 617, allows commercial production of hemp beyond what is allowed under the 2014 Farm Bill.  Furthermore, as defined in the Federal Controlled Substances Act, industrial hemp falls under the umbrella of marijuana because both contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a schedule 1 controlled substance.  Until Congress removes industrial hemp from the controlled substances list, there remains considerable risk in allowing it to be grown for commercial purposes.

On Wednesday, the Revenue Committee heard public testimony on LB 312, 313, and 563, all of which either eliminated many sales tax exemptions or increased the sales tax rate by 1 percent. I stated in my previous column that I do not support eliminating tax exemptions, and that I do not support raising the amount of sales tax imposed by the state of Nebraska. My position has not changed. A focus on fixing the problems that are inherent in the valuation of agriculture land is, I believe, the better path to take, which is why I introduced LB 338. This bill would require that agricultural land be valued by an income-based potential rather than market value.

Last week the Legislature advanced LB 62 to Select File by a vote of 36-1-8. This bill repeals two sections of statute that prohibit teachers in our public schools from wearing any religious garb. The statutes were written in such a way, however, that clothing which conveys some type of secular message was not prohibited, such as political speech or slogans. Because of this, there is a strong argument that these statutes are in violation of the First Amendment, specifically the Free Exercise clause. The lifting of the ban will apply to all religions, thereby ensuring that the Establishment clause of the First Amendment is not violated. I voted in favor of this bill.

On Friday, March 3, I will be presenting two bills to two different committees, namely LB 309 to the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee, and LB 466 to the Health and Human Services Committee. If you are able I encourage you to come to our public hearings to testify on these bills and others. LB 309 would exempt the state of Nebraska from participating in daylight saving time. State representatives in Iowa, Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, and the big state of Texas, as well as representatives from many other states on the east and west coasts, have introduced legislation to exempt their states from daylight saving time.

LB 466 would eliminate the requirement that certified nurse-midwives be required to be overseen by a physician – what is known as the integrated practice agreement. This change would allow certified nurse-midwives to practice in areas where there may not be a physician in their geographic area, thereby allowing greater mobility in the practice of nurse-midwives and more access to the kind of specialized care that many pregnant women desire.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, two doors south of  previous office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Week seven of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 28 through 31 of the 90-day session. Friday, February 17th was a recess day.

Last week the Legislature took a break from debating the filibuster rule when the Speaker proposed a motion that was adopted by a majority of senators. The Speaker moved that the body adopt the temporary rules until the 50th day of the session, so that in the meantime, we can get on with the work that the people of Nebraska sent us here to do.

On Monday the General Affairs Committee heard LB 632, a bill that many craft brewers believe would severely harm their industry. Currently, distributors can transport beer directly from the craft brewery to locally-owned bars, restaurants, and grocery stores. LB 632 would require that beer distributors first collect beer from a craft brewery, then store it at the warehouse of the distributor, and only then could it be transported to locally-owned bars, restaurants, and grocery stores. This change would require that a craft brewery sell beer to a distributor and then purchase it back from the distributor at a higher price. Proponents of the bill say the change is meant to prevent bars from buying a small percentage in a craft brewery so that the bar could self-distribute. There is perhaps a better solution than the one proposed in LB 632 to prevent something like this from occurring. I do not support this bill.

On Tuesday the Agriculture Committee took public testimony on LB 499.  This bill, modeled after a law in South Dakota, would require that whenever owners of large commercial beekeeping operations bring hives from outside Nebraska into the state, that the hives not be placed within three miles of an existing apiary, if that apiary has registered its location with the Department of Agriculture. The problem is that out-of-state beekeepers, who maintain hundreds of hives for pollination services, store their hives in Nebraska during part of the year. These hives end up overstocking foraging resources which negatively impacts local bee operations. According to Nebraska’s beekeepers, the situation is analogous to overstocking a pasture with too many cattle from outside Nebraska.

The Agriculture Committee did not take any action on LB 499; but did vote to kill LB 348, the bill that proposed terminating the excise tax which funds potato research and promotion. The program assesses the tax on only a small number of the state’s largest potato producers. Those who testified from the Nebraska Potato Development Committee (they assess the excise tax) before the Agriculture Committee said they wished to continue the program. Although the committee is willing to accommodate the requests of potato producers, LB 348 had been introduced, at least in part, because resources had not been used in over four years, and there would be no purpose in continuing to collect an excise tax if it was not being utilized. We expect the Potato Development Committee to take full advantage of the revenue from the excise tax, collected from the potato growers, to develop worthwhile programs to benefit their industry.

On Wednesday the Revenue Committee heard several bills for eliminating sales tax exemptions. It is my belief, however, that the Legislature should be very aware of the negative impact that any type of tax increase may have on the household budgets of families and individuals. We are currently experiencing an economic downturn across Nebraska, and this is not the time to ask anyone, anywhere to pay more taxes. I do not support either eliminating any sales tax exemption or increasing any sales tax.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, 2 doors south of  previous office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Week six of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 23 through 27 of the 90-day session.

Many of you have been frustrated, and rightfully so, by our lingering debates in the mornings on the floor of the Legislature.  Apart from adopting adjustments to the current state budget and advancing it to the third round of debate known as Final Reading, we continue to be at a stalemate.  Indeed, we are in the middle of a filibuster begun by those who are opposed to making a rule change that would make it easier to end a filibuster, a motion known as invoking cloture.  The rule, first put in place in 1991, established the number of votes required to adopt a cloture motion at 33 votes.  That means, that if just 17 senators did not vote yes for cloture, the motion failed.  What is being proposed is to lower the number of yes votes needed to end a filibuster to 30, but with the caveat that the cloture motion fails if 17 or more senators vote no.  Many senators believe that requiring 30 votes to pass a cloture motion makes sense.  That is the same number of votes required to override a veto by the Governor, as well as the same number of votes needed to suspend the rules to disallow more amendments or debate.  The proposed rule change would make it easier to invoke cloture so that policies favored by the majority will not be so easily stopped by a small minority.  It is essential to good government that an elected majority be capable of passing legislation.  We are perhaps, I believe, much closer to ending this particular filibuster and will then be able to begin debating legislation.

On Tuesday, the Agriculture Committee held a public hearing for LB 600, which makes changes to the Livestock Brand Law.  The Brand Committee, a self-supporting cash fund agency, has encountered much turmoil over the past year which resulted in a critical audit of the agency, and resignations of a member of the Brand Committee, its director, and other key staff members.  Because of past problems, the agency placed an emphasis on selecting a new director based on administrative ability. The primary purpose of LB 600 is to give the brand committee the flexibility to do that.

The Revenue Committee held a public hearing for LB 338 on Wednesday that lasted well into the evening.  LB 338 is the bill I introduced in partnership with Governor Ricketts to reform the method of how we value agricultural land for property tax purposes.  It would adopt an income-based approach, a method already used in the states of Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and other states, to better align assessed values with farm incomes.  LB 338 would help stabilize valuations, and make property taxes more predictable and more in line with the ability to pay.  I believe it will provide a fairer solution — over the long term — to the property tax burden without raising or imposing additional taxes, something desired by a few other rural senators.  I understand that we must balance the need for reform of ag land valuation with the needs of local governments that rely on property taxes.  The Revenue Committee will consider many property tax bills this year and will work toward putting together a package of property tax bills, which I hope includes LB 338, that can be debated on by the whole body.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, two doors south of previous office) if you are in the State Capitol.  If you would like to follow the Legislature online, you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government.  Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Week five of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 18 through 22 of the 90-day session.

Due to concerns expressed by constituents residing along the Missouri River in Burt and Washington Counties, I was asked to share the following important announcement. There will be an informational meeting hosted by the Responsible River Management Organization and other related groups about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed changes to the management plans for the Missouri River. The meeting is Thursday, February 9 at 6:00 p.m. at the Iowa Western Community College (in Looft Hall). The address is 2700 College Road, Council Bluffs, IA 51503, I-80 and US HWY 6 Exit #8. For information contact Leo Ettleman at leo_ettleman@hotmail.com or (712) 313-0287.

On Wednesday, February 8 at 1:30 p.m., I will be presenting LB 338 in the Revenue Committee at the request of the Governor. This legislation would change the valuation method for agricultural land from the market approach to the income-based approach. This method is used by many neighboring states such as South Dakota, Iowa, and Kansas. Under LB 338, some land may still experience an increase in property valuation but at a lesser rate than currently; a small number of counties will see no overall change; and no county will experience a faster rate of increasing property valuations than currently.

On Tuesday the Agriculture Committee held a public hearing for LB 348, which would eliminate a licensing requirement for potato shippers, the potato checkoff program, and the Potato Development Act. LB 348 transfers any unused funds to the state’s General Fund. The Potato Development Act created a relatively small program, generating around $75,000 annually. That money was deposited into a cash fund and used by the Director of Agriculture in consultation with an industry advisory board made up of potato growers to finance potato promotion and research projects. Typically the cash fund has a minimal balance at the end of each fiscal year, but in recent years the fund has grown to nearly $200,000. During the public hearing for LB 348 we learned that, although the collection of the checkoff assessment has continued, only minimal expenditures have been made from the fund for the past three years, which explains the rapid rise in the cash fund balance. Members of the Potato Development Board spoke in opposition to the bill and expressed interest in continuing the program. While there may be questions about whether it is appropriate to transfer fees to the state’s General Fund that were originally paid by potato producers for the checkoff program, I believe it is important for the potato industry to have a clear consensus on the value of continuing this checkoff program, as well as a clear vision on what they wish to accomplish with the program in the future.

On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday the Legislature debated LB 22. This bill was introduced by Speaker Scheer at the request of the Governor. This is the Governor’s expedited fiscal year 2016-17 budget adjustment recommendations. LB 22 makes adjustments to appropriations and re-appropriations for state operations in the current fiscal year which ends on June 30, 2017. Detailed information regarding the Governor’s budget recommendations can be found in the document entitled “Governor’s Budget Recommendations, FY 2016-17 Budget Adjustments” dated January 5, 2017, and may be viewed on the Administrative Services, State Budget Division’s website at http://budget.nebraska.gov/assets/governor_fy2016-17_expedited_budget_book.pdf.

Thank you to Chaplain Gregg Gahan from Craig who led the Legislative body in prayer on Monday. We are very grateful to those who travel here from our district to pray before we face difficult decisions each day.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, 2 doors south of  previous office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Week four of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 13-17 of this 90-day session.

On Monday of last week I had a motion filed from the previous week to withdraw LB106. The purpose of this bill was to terminate the parental rights of the biological parent who sexually assaulted the other biological parent if such sexual assault resulted in the conception of a child. Withdrawing this bill was a difficult decision, as I firmly believe that victims of sexual assault should be provided as much protection as possible from having any interaction with the person who sexually assaulted them. However, there was another bill introduced this session with the same intent—LB188, which I have co-sponsored. This bill was introduced by Senator Howard, an attorney with experience in children and family services. I believe her education and background will be of great benefit in debating the technical details of this particular issue in the Judiciary Committee.

On Tuesday the Legislature debated Senator Watermeier’s LB45. This bill allows veterans who serve in the United States Reserves to be eligible for military honor license plates. A concern was shared by numerous senators that a provision in the bill extended this honor to members of trusts, which could perhaps diminish the honor of possessing such a plate and the dignity that goes with serving in the military. Such a provision would allow those who have never served in the military to purchase such license plates. Senator Watermeier agreed to amend LB45 so that trusts will be struck from the bill. LB45 advanced to Select File.

This week the Legislature advanced LB134, which updates provisions of the Nebraska Pure Food Act. One of the purposes of LB134 is to repeal the Graded Egg Act and transfer authority for regulating egg handlers to the Nebraska Pure Food Act. The Graded Egg Act is an archaic and inefficient regulatory mechanism. It was primarily designed to oversee commercial scale producers and packagers of eggs who send their products to wholesale markets. Nebraska has not licensed egg producers or packagers who sell whole eggs for eventual purchase by consumers or businesses such as restaurants or bakeries. Under the bill there would be an exemption from licensure for small producers and retailers of eggs sourced from local producers, similar to the current exemption from licensure under the Graded Egg Act. The bill does not impose any new regulations on small egg producers or sellers. LB134 also defines food delivery services to clarify that the annual license and inspection fees apply to them. However, the bill lowers the fees so they are more appropriate for this type of business.

On Thursday the Revenue Committee held a public hearing on LB295. This legislation allows individuals and corporations to qualify for non-refundable tax credits when they contribute to scholarship-granting organizations. The scholarship-granting organization must receive certification from the Nebraska Department of Revenue, and must also provide education scholarships to assist eligible students to attend a qualified, nonprofit, private elementary or secondary school. An eligible student is defined as a dependent member of a household where the gross income—the amount earned before any deductions—does not exceed two times the required level for the federal reduced lunch program; criteria for which is found at the following website: https://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/income-eligibility-guidelines. My office has received dozens of emails in favor of this legislation, many of which are from District 16.

On Friday morning we were pleased to welcome the Pastor of the Day, Nathan Henschen, from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church located in Bancroft in District 16. Pastor Henschen offered prayer before the Nebraska Legislature convened. As the session advances we continue to encourage pastors from our district to volunteer as Chaplain of the Day.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, two doors south of  previous office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Week three at the Legislature, like most of Nebraska, was off to an icy start across with many closings of schools and businesses. We did not convene on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; although it was business as usual on Tuesday, which was day nine of the 90-day legislative session. We convened at 10:00 a.m.

The Legislature spent a considerable amount of time last week discussing the process for referencing legislative bills. The discussion was prompted by a sequence of motions to re-reference certain bills. Simply stated, the Reference Committee determines which standing committee a bill will be directed to for a public hearing.  Each standing committee has jurisdiction over bills addressing certain topic areas.  Legislative rules allow any senator who disagrees with the decision of the Reference Committee to offer a motion to change the referencing to a different standing committee.

One such motion was filed on LB 267, which was initially referenced to the Agriculture Committee.  The primary purpose of the bill is to update the definition of hybrid seeds within a statute that prohibits misrepresenting seed as hybrid seed if the seed does not meet the standards of the definition.  LB 267 also proposed updates to the authorities of the Department of Agriculture to enforce this provision.  Because of these new enforcement provisions in the bill, it was believed by some that the referencing of the bill should be changed to the Judiciary Committee.  As chair of the Agriculture Committee, I opposed the motion to re-reference the bill to the Judiciary Committee. After much debate, the motion to re-reference the bill eventually failed.  I believe the discussion of what constitutes accurate representation of hybrid seed, which is of vital importance to farmers and the seed industry, should take place in the Agriculture Committee, not the Judiciary Committee.  I pointed out that the enforcement provisions were identical, or at least very similar, to enforcement provisions of a number of regulatory programs administered by the Department of Agriculture, and that previous bills containing those same provisions were referenced to the Agriculture Committee without any challenge.

On Tuesday of last week I introduced LB 466, a bill that will eliminate the integrated practice agreement between certified nurse-midwives and physicians. Eliminating this requirement will give certified nurse-midwives the freedom to practice in areas where there may not be an attending physician in the geographical area. The bill also contains a transition to practice agreement that would require certified nurse-midwives to have 1000 hours of training before they could practice on their own. However, since no other state requires a transition to practice agreement, we are going to offer an amendment that strikes that burdensome requirement.

On Friday afternoon I presented LB 105 to the Judiciary Committee at a public hearing. This legislation updates the statutes that specify how much a debtor can exempt when they file bankruptcy. LB 105 increases the amounts, something that has not been done in 20 years. The bill seemed to be well-received by the committee and therefore may have a good chance of passing this year, but we’ll see. This is the third time I have introduced this bill and the third time it has been well-received. It keeps making it to General File, but then the session runs out of time.

Pastor Brian High from First Baptist Church in Tekamah was at the Legislature to open the day’s session with prayer on Thursday. We appreciate it when pastors statewide volunteer to pray before our session day. There are several days that remain open; please contact our office if your pastor is available and interested in joining us this session. We were also grateful to have Dr. Natalie Tymkowych from West Point to volunteer a morning to serve as doctor for the day. This is also an important service to help ensure we are able to maintain good health during our time in Lincoln serving our state.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, 2 doors south of  pervious office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Week two was a full week of introducing legislation of this 90-day session (known around the Legislature as the “long session” of the biennium). On Thursday Governor Ricketts delivered the State of the State Address. His recommendations to the Legislature include his vision for the state budget, as well as bills to be introduced on his behalf by senators. I have been invited to introduce LB 338, the Agricultural Valuation Fairness Act. I encourage you to request a copy of the Governor’s State of the State Address or read it online at: https://governor.nebraska.gov/press/governor-ricketts-state-state-address-0

Legislation I am introducing:

  • LB 338 would change the way agricultural land is valued for purposes of property taxes. It would require that agricultural land be valued based on the potential income from agricultural use of the land and would also be tied to what the commodity prices are at the time the land is valued. Eight states, many of which are around Nebraska, use this method.
  • LB 67 would make it possible for individuals who purchase equipment with embedded software, that controls the hardware of the equipment, to maintain, repair, or personally customize such equipment. This is a fundamental property rights issue. LB 67 would  require original equipment manufacturers to make available for purchase the necessary software so that maintenance, repair, and legal modification can be performed and any newly installed hardware can communicate with the hardware that came with the equipment. Nothing in this bill violates copyright or patent law, which is a federal issue, not a state issue.
  • LB 105 would increase the bankruptcy “wildcard exemption” from $2,500 to $5,000. The “wildcard exemption” allows a debtor to exempt personal property, other than wages, that has not been otherwise classified. This has not been updated in 20 years. This legislation also increases certain bankruptcy exemption amounts of “household items” from $1,500 to $3,000 and the “tools of the trade” exemption, which is used for items other than a motor vehicle, is increased from $2,400 to $5,000.
  • LB 106 would require the termination of the parental rights of a biological parent whom a court determines by clear and convincing sexually assaulted the other biological parent which resulted in the conception of a child.
  • LB 155 would require a successful completion of a high school civics examination as a prerequisite to high school graduation. The test would consist of the 100 questions from the Naturalization Test given to immigrants before they become United States Citizens. High School students would be expected to get 70 questions correct before they could graduate from high school.
  • Currently, for any termination or nullification of marriage, or any modification of child support or custody issue filed by previously married parents, a mediation fee is required of them. However, no fee is charged to never married parents. LB 307 is meant to correct this inequity by requiring never married parents to pay for the same services that previously married parents are required to pay for.
  • Local school boards are currently required to form a three-member subcommittee on Americanism. LB 308 would require this subcommittee to hold three public meetings where at least one meeting accepts public testimony. The bill would require the subcommittee to keep all minutes about which members are present and absent at each meeting while also recording the details and substance of all matters discussed. Any curriculum recommendations by this subcommittee to the local school board must be readily available to the public.
  • LB 309 would eliminate daylight savings time in Nebraska. This desire has been expressed to me by many constituents in District 16 and others outside our district including Omaha, Lincoln, and others statewide.

Currently, there is a light load of bills before the Agriculture Committee.  New bill introduction ends on Wednesday, January 18.  Some of the items that have been referred to the Agriculture Committee to date include:

  • LB 134 was introduced by Senator Brasch on behalf of the Department of Agriculture.  It would repeal the Graded Egg Act and transfers authority to regulate egg handlers via the Pure Food Act with other clarifications of the Department’s duties and authorities under the Pure Food Act.
  • LB 135 was introduced by Senator Lowe and would clarify the authorities of the Department of Agriculture with respect to an agricultural promotion program.
  • LB 276 was introduced by Senator Albrecht and relates to standards for hybrid seed corn.
  • LB 260 was introduced by Senator Hansen. It authorizes the Department of Agriculture to participate in the federal Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program.

I am also anticipating a bill to make a number of cleanups to the Brand Law to respond to issues raised in an audit of the Brand Committee last summer.

Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, 2 doors south of  pervious office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Sen. Lydia Brasch

District 16
Room #1022
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2728
Email: lbrasch@leg.ne.gov
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