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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 firstname.lastname@example.org; 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.