NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE
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Sen. Lydia Brasch

Sen. Lydia Brasch

District 16

Week sixteen of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 66 through 69 of this 90-day session.

On Friday we began debate on LB 461, our Revenue Committee’s tax package. A significant portion of it is the Agricultural Valuation Fairness Act, LB 338, which I introduced at the request of the Governor. After much discussion and work, LB 461 contains LB 338 as AM 954 and 1095 – as well as many portions of LB 602 sponsored by Senator Steve Erdman – which utilizes an income potential approach for valuation of agricultural and horticultural land. This is an essential part of the complete tax reform package. Moving away from the market approach to an income potential approach will be fairer, more sustainable, and more predictable over the long term in valuing agricultural and horticultural land. LB 461 creates an Agricultural Valuation Fairness Committee that will develop income and expense estimates for all agricultural and horticultural land in Nebraska, as well as capitalization rates necessary to produce uniform and proportionate assessed valuations. LB 461 would also add an additional $30 – $40 million a year to the state aid formula for schools. Three hours of full debate took place and we adjourned for the weekend. LB 461 will return to the floor for the remaining three hours of debate before a vote is taken.

On Tuesday we debated LB 640. There were a lot of moving parts in this bill. First, it split the school districts’ budgets into two components. In one, only 55% of a school’s budget could come from property taxes. The other 45% was again split into two components. In one, 75% of the remaining 45% would come from state aid, and the other 25% of the remaining 45% could come from local property taxes, but only by a two-thirds vote of the local school board. The bill would have also lowered the assumed amount of a school district’s resources, which is used to determine how much state aid school districts receive via the TEEOSA formula. The bill also lowered the maximum levy rate for school districts from 1.05 to 1.00. The intent of this bill was to equalize a grossly unequal method of funding schools via state dollars. If LB 640 is passed, most property taxpayers in Nebraska would see their property tax burden significantly decrease, especially those in the unequalized districts. However, no action was taken on this bill as it did not have the 33 votes necessary to break a filibuster. The Legislature may debate it again in the future if a compromise can be reached. I support this bill.

We also debated LB 661. This bill protects the identity of any person or entity that manufactures or supplies compounds, medical supplies, or equipment, or prescribes the substance or substances utilized to carry out an execution. This is a necessary step in helping to ensure that capital punishment can and will be used in Nebraska. Senator Kuehn, who introduced the bill, persuasively made the point during floor debate that the reason a measure like this has become necessary is because extreme anti-death penalty activists harass, intimidate, and bully drug manufacturers and others involved in assisting the state in carrying out justice. Last November, the citizens of Nebraska had a chance to show the Legislature where they stood on the death penalty when they voted at the polls. The citizens of Nebraska showed – by an overwhelming majority – they want to keep the death penalty. It is now up to the Legislature to ensure that the death penalty can be utilized. Three hours of debate did not result in a vote, but it will return for a vote with three more hours of debate remaining. I will vote in favor of this bill.

Please contact me, or our staff with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at lbrasch@leg.ne.gov; or stop by Room 1022 if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online please visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.

Week fifteen of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 62 through 65 of this 90-day session.

On Friday, April 21st – day 69 – LB 461 is scheduled to be on General File. This is the first time the full Legislature will debate and possibly vote on the tax proposal bill from the Revenue Committee. My column last week described this bill at length and the great importance of moving it forward. In a state where one in every four jobs is tied to agriculture, lowing valuations of agricultural land is key to growing our economy. Statewide needs and inequity in funding and taxes must be addressed, and LB 338, my agricultural valuation bill that was amended into LB 461, would help to address the inequity.

Budget discussions are likely to dominate much of the remainder of the legislative session.  According to legislative rules, the Appropriations Committee is required to report its budget recommendations to the Legislature no later than April 24th this year. I am anticipating that the budget recommendations will be presented this week, and that we will begin budget debates during the final week of April.  Our budget discussions are shaping up to be some of the most contentious we have faced in recent times. A preliminary budget projection prepared by the Appropriations Committee earlier this session indicates that we started the session with a budget shortfall of $134 million. The fiscal status deteriorated even further when projections of state revenues over the next two years were revised downward in February.  That revenue forecast added another $153 million to the imbalance. The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board will provide a final revenue projection before the end of the month, and it is possible that the revenue projection that we will base the budget on will be revised downward again.

It will be a difficult discussion, since to balance the budget it will be necessary to make actual cuts in general fund commitments to many ongoing programs while still meeting obligations in corrections, school funding, and other areas.  I am also committed to leaving room in the budget for achieving much needed reform of the method of valuing agricultural land for property tax purposes. We do have the option of utilizing some of the state’s “rainy day fund” to help us balance the budget in the short term, but we will not be able to achieve long-term budget stability without reducing the state’s budget commitments and a return to more normal revenue growth in the years ahead.

Last week the Legislature debated LB 44, which would require online retailers to collect and remit sales taxes for purchases made by Nebraskans over the internet.  As online shopping grows in popularity, it is impacting state and local sales tax revenues as well as being unfair to retail businesses located in the state.  While the concept of asking online retailers to collect sales tax is appealing, and by some estimates could result in $30 – $40 million additional state revenues annually, there are many problems surrounding LB 44.

During floor discussion it was noted that, even if passed, LB 44 would likely be challenged and enjoined and therefore would not help us with our budget situation for the foreseeable future. A 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision barred states from requiring out-of-state businesses to remit sales taxes if that business lacked a substantial nexus with that state. That decision has not stopped states from continuing to pass legislation requiring out-of-state businesses to remit online sales taxes. The best solution would be for Congress to intervene, and there are bills in Congress to allow and assist states in collecting online 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, 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 fourteen of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 58 through 61 of this 90-day session.

On Wednesday, LB 338, the bill that would change the method of agricultural land valuation to an income-potential based system, advanced from the Revenue Committee on a 6-2 vote. This is the bill I introduced at the request of Governor Ricketts, and the bill I also designated as my priority bill. LB 337 (the Governor’s income tax relief bill) and 338 were both amended into LB 461, which received a priority designation by the Revenue Committee for this session. LB 338 would begin to go into effect this year. The Agricultural Land Valuation Committee would meet for the first time in November 2017, and agricultural land valuations next year will be done by income-potential.

It was decided by the Revenue Committee that LB 337 and 338 would come out of committee in one bill as a tax relief package. According to the Tax Foundation, Nebraska is a high tax state for certain categories of taxes relative to other states. The income tax cuts will be phased in over an eight year period beginning in 2020, but will begin only if the expected rate of growth in net General Fund receipts is 3.5 percent or greater for the following fiscal year. The Tax Rate Review Committee shall meet in November of each year to make this projection. In November 2019, if it is projected that tax receipts will exceed expenditures by 3.5 percent or more, then the first tax cut of the top bracket would be implemented, decreasing the top bracket from 6.84 percent to 6.73 percent. This process will continue until the top bracket reaches 5.99 percent. Single individuals filing taxes who make $29,000 or more are in the top tax bracket, and married couples filing jointly who make $58,000 or more are also in the top tax bracket.

On Wednesday, Governor Ricketts signed LB 46 into law, which was the “choose life” license plate bill.  It passed Final Reading by a vote of 35-8. This legislation is the first pro-life legislation signed into law in Nebraska since 2011, when the Legislature passed LB 690. That was a bill I introduced that required parental consent in order for a minor to have an abortion, except in cases of a medical emergency.

On Tuesday, the Legislature advanced LB 427 to Select File by a vote of 29-11. The intent of this bill is to help ensure that girls, who become pregnant and have yet to graduate from high school, can still be successful in their schoolwork despite their difficult circumstance. It requires all school districts to adopt a policy that the Department of Education shall create, which identifies procedures to provide for student absences due to pregnancy; provide alternative methods to keep a pregnant or parenting student in school by allowing coursework to be accessed at home or accommodating tutoring visits, online courses, or a similar supplement to classroom attendance; identify alternatives for accommodating lactation by providing students with private, hygienic spaces to express breast milk during the school day; and establish a procedure for schools which do not have an in-school child care facility to assist student-parents by identifying child care providers for purposes of placing their children in child care facilities. All public, private, denominational, or parochial day schools shall provide for private or appropriate facilities or accommodation for milk expression and storage.

On Monday, LB 641 advanced to Final Reading. This legislation directs the Department of Economic Development to establish a Bioscience Innovation Program under the Business Innovation Act and creates the Biosciences Innovation Cash Fund. Proponents of the bill argued that it will help encourage the development of new technologies and create new startup businesses in the bioscience sector. The fund will have available $2 million in grant money for which bioscience businesses can apply. This program terminates when the fund runs out.

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 thirteen of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 54 through 57 of the 90-day session.

On Monday, the Legislature debated LB 339, a bill that would merge the Department of Aeronautics into the Department of Roads and create the Department of Transportation. Through this consolidation, there will be a savings realized by the state of Nebraska in your tax dollars. This legislation advanced to Select File by a 40-0 vote. I voted in favor of this bill.

Both of the Agriculture Committee’s priority bills for this session were debated last week. On Tuesday, the Legislature gave first round approval to LB 600, which makes revisions to the Nebraska Brand Law. On Thursday, LB 276 was advanced to select file.  LB 276 updates statutes that define hybrid seed corn. The standards in current law have remained largely unchanged since they were first put in place eighty years ago. We added an amendment to answer questions regarding the existing enforcement in statute. The amendment used longstanding language applied in many other areas of legislation related to agriculture.

The Legislature also advanced LB 289 to Select File. This bill would place into statute harsher penalties for individuals convicted of sex-trafficking and those who solicit trafficking victims. Also, the bill provides immunity for trafficking victims so that they cannot be prosecuted as participants, as they were coerced into trafficking. LB 289 was designated by the Judiciary Committee as one of its priority bills, and the committee had four other bills related to sexual assault or domestic violence amended into it. One such bill, that I was a co-sponsor of, is LB 188. This legislation allows victims of rape to terminate the parental rights of the perpetrator if the child was conceived as a result of a sexual assault. LB 289 advanced to Select File 42-0. I voted in favor of this bill.

The Legislature also advanced LB 444 to Select File. This bill would prohibit cities and counties from canceling health insurance coverage for first responders who suffer serious bodily injury from an assault that occurs while the first responder is on duty, and as long as the first responder continues to be employed by the city or county. As defined in the bill, a first responder is a sheriff, deputy sheriff, police officer, firefighter, or an individual who is licensed under a licensure classification in section 38-1217, who provides medical care in order to prevent loss of life or aggravation of physiological or psychological illness or injury. Currently, a first responder could suffer serious bodily injury from an assault while on duty and then fall below the minimum number of hours of employment needed to maintain health insurance. Proponents maintained that first responders selflessly sacrifice their own well-being to secure the safety of the community and should not be in danger of losing health care for themselves and their family while carrying out their job. While opponents did not disagree with that argument and also lauded the sacrifices of first responders, they were concerned about passing more unfunded mandates onto less populated counties and townships, who rely on already overburdened local property taxpayers for their budgets. Nothing prevents a county or township from implementing a policy that extends health insurance for injured first responders on its own, and Nebraskans throughout our rural communities are outstanding in demonstrating their generosity to assist those in need without it being state-mandated. For those reasons I was hesitant to support this bill on the first round of debate.

We want to extend a thank you to Dr. Natalie Tymkowych of West Point for serving again as the Family Physician of the day at the Legislature. Lastly, the Tekamah-Herman fourth graders visited their state capitol building on Wednesday and had the opportunity to witness their Legislature in action.

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 twelve of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 50 through 53 of the 90-day session.

Last week was National Agriculture Week – a perfect opportunity for Nebraskans to recognize and celebrate their number one industry. In honor of National Agriculture Week, President Trump signed a proclamation on Tuesday declaring that day as National Agriculture Day. We want to congratulate Terry Rasmussen and his wife, Betty, for being named the Farm Family of the Year by the Fremont Area of Chamber of Commerce. Terry and Betty reside in District 16!

As Chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee I was invited to join Governor Ricketts and Greg Ibach, the Director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, in traveling to Fremont, West Point, and Wakefield to meet with various agriculture groups and producers. We discussed the many opportunities for the future of agriculture, but also the many challenges that it faces. Governor Ricketts and Director Ibach continued traveling to an additional seven communities across the state, but I had to get back to Lincoln to fulfill my duties on the Revenue Committee. The two biggest challenges facing agriculture producers right now is trying to find a way to pay their exorbitantly high property tax bills, coupled with low commodity and livestock prices. This type of economic environment is threatening their sustainability; which is why I prioritized LB 338, the Agriculture Valuation Fairness Act.

LB 338 will change the method of valuation for agricultural land from the market based valuation method to the income-potential based valuation method. The bill has a provision that has a cap of 3.5 percent on statewide aggregate increases of agricultural land valuations. The Governor released a study which showed that, had this bill been enacted in 2007, valuations would be $60 billion less this year. Illustrated another way, since 2007, agricultural land valuations have increased over 250 percent. However, had LB 338 been in place since 2007, agricultural land valuations would have increased only 36 percent – a staggering difference. LB 338 seeks to add long-term stability and better predictability to agricultural land valuations.

On Monday I presented two bills to the Education Committee: 155 and 308. LB 155 would require that, to graduate from a public high school in Nebraska, students must correctly answer seventy percent of the questions on the U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Test. One reason I introduced this bill was because of a letter to the editor by three high school girls from Elm Creek, Nebraska. They asked five Nebraska high schools to give the Citizenship test to their juniors and seniors and over 80 percent of them failed. If a large majority of students in five Nebraska high schools, who are currently immersed in a curriculum of American government, cannot pass this test that America requires for immigrants, then I believe we have a problem that needs to be addressed legislatively. Currently, 15 states require this basic test to graduate from high school.

LB 308 would strengthen the Committee on Americanism. The Committee on Americanism is an important, ongoing subcommittee of local school boards. The purpose of the committee is to ensure that kids are developing an understanding of and appreciation for American history and the American republic, and to ensure that the history and government curriculums in Nebraska’s public schools is taught in such a way that it instills loyalty, devotion to justice, and a love of liberty into the next generation of Americans. LB 308 would help to ensure that the committee is properly performing its job in conformity with statutory requirements and to allow for more transparency in the operations and decisions of the committee.

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 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.

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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