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Week 10 of the 2nd session of the 105th Legislature consisted of legislative days 37 through 40.
Tuesday, March 6th, was our first work day back at the legislature after a recess day Monday. First on the agenda was the return of General File debate on LB44, a bill introduced by Senator Watermeier in 2017 to collect sales tax from online retailers with no physical presence in Nebraska. Supporters of the bill believe it provides fairness for Main Street businesses who are required to collect sales tax. However, concerns include placing burdensome regulations on businesses. Additionally, the Supreme Court will hear a South Dakota case in April regarding online sales tax regulation that may affect how Nebraska writes legislation in the future.
Also debated was a bill introduced by Senator Groene to exempt equine massage therapy from licensing requirements in Nebraska. When asked, Sen. Groene joked that, among other constituents, he spoke with a few horses in his district and they were strong supporters of the bill.
On Wednesday, we debated a constitutional amendment proposed by Senator Schumacher. The amendment gives the Legislature authority to delegate complete or partial sovereignty, for a period of up to 99 years, to an area not to exceed 36 square miles, the size of a township. This means the Legislature would retain authority to set the initial conditions on which sovereignty is established. The unique proposal failed to advance to Select File.
LB98 made a return this session after failing to advance last session. The bill would extend the sunset date of NRDs in fully or over-appropriated river basins to levy up to an additional 3 cents for water conservation and augmentation projects. The levy authority expires this year but would be extended another eight years under the bill. Consideration of the bill was renewed this session because it was designated a priority bill but LB 98 again failed to gather 33 votes required for cloture.
Our debate on Thursday revolved primarily around LB1090 and LB808. Senator Smith introduced LB1090 to harmonize Nebraska’s state income tax with recent changes to the federal income tax code. The bill preserves Nebraska’s personal exemption tied to a federal provision changed earlier this year. Without the bill, Nebraskans would see a tax increase of about $200 million.
LB 808 was introduced by Senator Harr and made an Agriculture priority bill this session. The bill would update the Nebraska Community Gardening Act allowing for a transfer of $100,000 from the Water Sustainability Fund to a new fund providing matching grant assistance to improve community garden access to water. A proposed committee amendment would have eliminated this earmark and instead provided for community garden purposes to be included among the multiple water supply management goals when assessing applications to the Water Sustainability Fund. The Water Sustainability Fund was established by enactment of LB 1098 in 2014 to provide financial support for programs, projects, and activities to help sustainably balance the use of water for municipal, residential, agricultural, recreational and other purposes with water supply. 10% of the fund is dedicated to helping cities meet federal mandates for sewer separation to minimize potential for contamination of drinking water. During debate, it was suggested that the Environmental Trust was a more appropriate source of funding for community gardening purposes. We are reviewing potential amendments to resolve concerns raised.
At the time of adjournment on Friday only 20 days remained in the 2018 Legislative Session.
Please contact me; my Administrative Aide, Courtney McClellen; my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell; or the Agriculture Committee Research Analyst, Rick Leonard, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit my office, Room 1022, in the Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online please visit netnebraska.org and click on the “Live & On Demand” button or simply follow this link http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government