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This column covers legislative days 55 through 58.
It was a great week at the Capitol as we moved through a good amount of committee and senator priority bills. As I mentioned in an earlier column, the rest of the 2019 session is going to be made up bills senators have chosen as their priority bills or bills the different committees have identified as priority bills for the session. I really felt like we were able to make some progress this week, taking action on some big issues.
We kicked off Monday with debate on my priority bill, LB 304. As a reminder, the bill would allow individuals and families to sell the same cottage foods sold at farmers markets from their homes. We made some changes to the bill to require producers have their water tested if using a private well, register with the Department of Agriculture, and to clearly label the foods they sell. On the floor I talked about how selling cottage foods could help a family make ends meet or could help kick start a small business, giving them the experience and funds to expand. Nebraskans produce food for the rest of the world so it makes sense that these same producers should be able to sell food directly to consumers from their homes. It’s a pure form of farm-to-table food production and one that we should encourage. My priority bill passed the first round of debate with 41 votes.
Another major bill passing the first round of debate was LB 512 introduced by Senator Linehan. The bill is the Department of Revenue’s annual cleanup bill, making changes as needed to Nebraska tax law. Senator Erdman brought an amendment to include parts of his LB 482, introduced to make changes in assessment of destroyed property. Sen. Erdman’s bill was introduced on January 22nd, long before the floods ravaged our region and even before they were predicted. The new changes would allow for a reassessment of damaged property for tax purposes. For example, if a building was damaged by a natural disaster, a landowner could request the building to be reassessed while it is being rebuilt or repaired. Once the building is restored it would then be assessed again for tax purposes. This bill, although not its original intent, could provide tax relief to victims of the flood and I was happy to vote yes on the bill along with 41 other senators.
On Thursday I and other senators on the Health and Human Services and Appropriations committees received a brief from state officials on the expansion of Medicaid, set for an implementation date of October 1st, 2020. There’s a lot of work to do and I expect to be a part of many more hearings and briefs about expanded Medicaid as the year goes on.
The Revenue Committee is expected to release its proposals for property tax relief next week. I’ve spoken about property taxes many times on the floor, and I’m excited to begin in-depth discussions about the #1 reason I ran for the legislature – property tax relief.
If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org