NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE

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Mark Kolterman

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24

The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at mkolterman@leg.ne.gov

This week, I’d like to invite interested high school students to participate in the annual Unicameral Youth Legislature being held June 12th through the 15th.  During this event, students take on the role of state senators, who sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation, and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral.

The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate, or public speaking.  Students will learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff.

The Office of the Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature coordinates the Legislature coordinates the Unicameral Youth Legislature.  To learn more about the program, go to www.nebraskalegislature.gov/uyl or call Kate Heltzell with the Unicameral Information Office at 402-471-2788.

This week, we also advanced two bills that deal with educational issues facing the state.  The first bill, LB 888, would require the State Board of Education to adopt standards for education on the Holocaust and other acts of genocide.  While the bill advanced from Select File to Final Reading on a voice vote, the bill advanced without any dissenting votes and I am proud to support the legislation through all rounds of debate.

LB 1218, which was introduced by the Education Committee, advanced from General File to Select File unanimously.  As amended, LB 1218 seeks to address the teaching shortage in Nebraska, creates the Teach in Nebraska Today Program, which provides educators who have a proven financial need up to $5,000 for up to five years, and provides teachers in training with up to $1,000 of student loan forgiveness after completing the Attracting Excellence to Teaching program.

The Legislature also gave first round approval to LB 1261, a bill introduced by Senator Dave Murman of Glenvil, which amends the Nebraska Rural Advantage Rural Development Act.  Starting in 2022, the Legislature will appropriate $25 million dollars to help develop our rural businesses.  This program assists businesses involved with the construction, improvement, or acquisition of depreciable agricultural assets for Livestock Modernization in counties with less than 25,000 inhabitants or a city of a second class.  I am happy to support this legislation on the next two rounds of debate to help our rural areas develop and compete, especially in these difficult times.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

This week, the Nebraska Legislature began debate on LB 873, which was our third attempt this session at providing comprehensive tax cuts to Nebraskans.  After debate began on the bill, the Revenue Committee amendment which contained income tax relief, corporate income tax relief, social security tax relief, and property tax relief was divided and each portion was taken up for debate individually.  Here are the most important provisions that are contained in LB 873:

LB 873 provides that the top tax rate for personal income tax rates would decrease over five years to 5.84%.  This tax cut applies to the following tax brackets.  If you are a single individual or married, but filing separately, if you make over $29,000, you will qualify for this cut.  If you are married and filing jointly, the tax cut applies for those making $58,000 and over.  If you are the head of household, this cut will apply to those making $43,000 and over, you will receive this cut.

LB 873, if fully enacted, would also decrease the corporate income tax rate.  This provision was very similar to the personal income tax cut, decreasing the top corporate income tax rate to 5.84% over the next five years.

LB 873 would also create a new tax credit, mirroring the LB 1107 Nebraska Income Tax Credit for school district taxes paid, that provides an income tax credit for property taxes paid to the local community college.  This year, there are $50 million dollars allocated to providing credits, with that allocation growing to $195 million dollars beginning in 2026.

The last major portion of LB 873 would phase out all social security income taxes over the next three years.  Beginning in tax year 2022, the total exempt amount would be 40% of the income, gradually increasing by 20% each year, until 2025, with 100% of taxes exempted.

I was happy to support LB 873, both on cloture, and for advancement, to give comprehensive tax reform to our citizens.  While LB 873 advanced to Select File on a vote of 44-0, with 3 members present not voting, there are still two more rounds of debate and there may be some members who advanced LB 873 who may not support it on future rounds of debate unless changes are made.  Speaker Hilgers has indicated the next round of debate will be held on Tuesday, April 5th, so all of us will have greater clarity where LB 873 stands next week.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

This week, the Nebraska Legislature began debate on the mid-biennium adjustments to the state’s budget.  There are many components to the state budget that are wonderful and deserve attention, but I want to bring your attention to one provision that was included in the budget that is near and dear to me.

This year, I introduced LB 766, a bill that allocates $15 million dollars of Federal ARPA dollars to create a Center of Excellence at the University of Nebraska Medical Center that would focus on pancreatic cancer research.  LB 766 had strong bipartisan support and was cosponsored by 20 of my colleagues.  Before any state dollars are appropriated from Nebraska’s share of the Federal ARPA dollars, the University must raise $15 million dollars in private funds for this same purpose, thus creating a public/private partnership to research this terrible disease.   While the introduced copy of LB 766 asked for ARPA dollars, the Appropriations Committee decided to fund this request using money from the Health Care Cash Fund.

As you know, my involvement in this proposal is based on personal experience.  I lost my wife Suzanne to pancreatic cancer four years ago. Her diagnosis came without warning, as she was the picture of health until she began noticing symptoms after the cancer spread throughout her body.  Unfortunately, this could happen to anyone of us, or our families without warning until it is too late.

In visiting with medical professionals on how to screen for this cancer, it quickly became evident that there is no such screening available and that there is little they can do to prevent the onset.   One day as Dr. Jim Armitage, a highly respected oncologist who also lost his first spouse to pancreatic cancer, and I were talking, he shared the idea establishing a Pancreatic Cancer Center for Excellence at UNMC and I told him I wanted to help.  This idea was endorsed by the Board of Regents and now we are working on funding the Center.

The reality is that currently there is inadequate focus on this specific type of cancer, and it is considered underfunded in research, largely because of how rare it is and its high mortality rate. While it is a relatively rare type of cancer, approximately 62,000 Americans, or 170 people every day, are diagnosed with the disease each year.  Sadly, I am certain each one of you knows somebody who has died from this horrible disease or is currently undergoing treatment.

I believe in UNMC and the great work they are doing, and I wish them the best as they look for a screening, new treatments, and maybe someday a cure.  I am proud that the Appropriations Committee included this project in this year’s budget and it is my hope that this new Center will help many in the generations to come as UNMC focuses on pancreatic cancer research and treatments. Our goal is that one day they will discover a screening for this disease and eventually, find a cure.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Senators passed a bill March 11 regulating pharmacy benefit managers in Nebraska.

LB767, introduced by Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, establishes licensure and regulation standards for pharmacy benefit managers — companies that manage prescription drug benefits on behalf of health insurers — by the state Department of Insurance.

Among other provisions, the bill:

• establishes an audit process for pharmacies;
• allows the DOI director to audit a PBM and assess penalties of up to $100,000 per violation;
• prohibits a PBM from charging any fee, chargeback or other adjustment to any pharmacy participating the federal 340B drug discount program;
• requires PBMs to update the maximum allowable cost price list at least every seven days;
• prohibits PBMs from excluding a pharmacy from participating in the PBM’s network if the pharmacy holds a specialty pharmacy accreditation; and
• prohibits a PBM from restricting certain actions by a pharmacist, including disclosing to a client the risks of treatment, informing a client of alternative treatments that may be available, describing the process used to authorize or deny a service or benefit and disclosing the financial incentives used by a health carrier.

LB767 passed on a vote of 48-0 and takes effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Pharmacy benefit manager regulations passed

For this week’s column, I would like to discuss LB 698, a proposal directing Nebraska Medicaid to cover diabetes patient access to continuous glucose monitors, commonly referred to as CGM’s.  LB 698 was debated and advanced to Select File unanimously this week after the bill was selected as a Speaker Priority Bill by Speaker Hilgers earlier this year.

As you may know, CGM’s allow individuals with diabetes to track their glucose levels at regular intervals, generating readings every 5 minutes, to help patients with diabetes more accurately dose insulin.  The American Diabetes Association have stated that CGMs are recognized as a Standard of Medical Care for effective diabetes treatment for those patients on insulin therapy.

All commercial insurance plans, Medicare, and over 45 state Medicaid programs provide coverage for CGMs.  While one out of three of the MCO’s in Nebraska does provide coverage for CGM’s in Nebraska, we are just one of 5 states that where the Medicaid program itself does not require any type of coverage for CGMs.

Numerous studies have shown that patients who manage their diabetes better have better outcomes, a higher quality of life, and cost significantly less to the state. Without proper care, diabetes patients are at increased risk of blindness, limb amputation, kidney failure, and heart disease.

Real-time CGM systems have been proven to improve glucose control through reductions in A1C and time spent in hypoglycemia which is when an individual’s when blood sugar is too low.  The alerts provided from real-time CGM systems help prevent hypoglycemia, especially when these individuals are sleeping because their blood sugar is trending too low, an alert will sound to wake the person up so they can treat it.

As was explained during the Health and Human Services Committee hearing, these devices are extremely important because not only do they save money with reduced hospitalizations, but they also save lives.  The Committee heard from multiple individuals who either have diabetes or provide care for those who do.  These devices can send alerts to multiple people at once, whether it is a parent, a school nurse, or a babysitter if blood sugars are getting too high or too low at all times of the day.

With everything, as the technology improves, the cost for CGMs decreases with an average system generally costing around $1300 per year.  Since these systems replace the need for traditional finger-sticks, the incremental cost per patient who elects to make the change is only about $88.  But the cost-savings are tremendous.  Numerous published studies correlate CGM use to reduced hospitalizations with an average savings of $3800 for each avoided hypoglycemia hospitalizations and $8500 for each avoided hospitalization for diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal condition resulting from a patient’s extremely high blood sugar levels.

I am proud to carry this important bill that will save lives and I look forward to working with my colleagues this year to make sure this legislation gets enacted into law.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

 

This week, I would like to discuss my personal priority bill this year, LB 767.  LB 767, if adopted will adopt the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Licensure and Regulation Act.

Before I begin with the discussion on the bill itself, it is important that we discuss what a Pharmacy Benefit Manager, also known as a PBM, are and what they claim to do.  A PBM is often a middleman between health insurance plans, Medicare Part D plans, or large employers who are contracted to negotiate with pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies to control drug spending.

Each PBM will develop different lists of covered pharmaceutical drugs for each individual plan they are contracted to negotiate for, which helps decide what drugs individuals will be given and to help determine the out-of-pocket cost for consumers.  The PBM also can utilize its purchasing power to help negotiate lower prices from the pharmaceutical industry, and some PBM’s will even contract directly with mail-order pharmacies to provide covered drugs to consumers.

While PBM’s are described to be middlemen, this isn’t always the case.  There are some truly independent PBM’s who contract with other entities to provide these services, however, there are other instances where an insurance company owns its own PBM, a PBM owns its own pharmacy, or a pharmacy owns a PBM and insurance company, so each individual situation can often be quite murky. This has led to numerous complaints about the industry because, as of right now, PBM’s are not regulated by the State of Nebraska, which is why I’ve introduced LB 767.

I’d now like to discuss some of the most important provisions of LB 767.  This bill contains model language from the National Association of Insurance Commission that establishes the standards and criteria for the licensure and regulation of PBMs.  The model language serves as a framework for the Legislature to enact legislation to address issues and concerns our Nebraska pharmacies are encountering daily.

LB 767 also prohibits discrimination against 340B entities and 340B contract pharmacies.  The 340B Drug Pricing Program requires pharmaceutical manufacturers participating in Medicaid to sell outpatient drugs at discounted prices to healthcare organizations that care for many uninsured and low-income patients.  The health entity then must invest these savings they receive from buying drugs at discounted rates into providing care for uninsured and underinsured patients.

LB 767 also further regulates what can qualify as a Specialty Pharmacy.  Prior to LB 767, a PBM could pick and choose which, or how many accreditations they would require a local pharmacy for these pharmacies to provide specialty drugs to its members.  Arguably, this practice allows each PBM to freeze out competition by the locally owned pharmacies and redirect these drugs to be provided by a pharmacy owned by the PBM, or a pharmacy that has close ties to the PBM.  Following numerous discussions, I believe we have come to a solid middle ground.  LB 767 states that if a pharmacy obtains a specialty pharmacy accreditation from a nationally recognized independent accrediting body and is willing to accept the terms and conditions of the contract with the PBM, the PBM shall not exclude the pharmacy from its specialty network.

While not everyone is going to be happy with everything in LB 767, we all believe we have reached a middle ground that is amenable to all.  This was proven by the fact that there was no opposition testimony or letters for the record during the Committee hearing.  LB 767 advanced from the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee unanimously and has advanced to the last stage of debate by the full Legislature without any opposition on any round of debate.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open, and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

First of all, I want to apologize for the lack of my weekly columns so far this session.  Second, I would like to recognize the approximately new 1,600 residents of Legislative District 24 in western Butler County who joined the district following the 2021 redistricting special session.  The start of a short session is always a flurry of activity with bill introductions, especially in light of the many new funds we have to consider, and I appreciate your patience as we focused on that priority.  This year, the Legislature is scheduled to be in session for 60 days and we are scheduled to finish on April 20.  As of Friday, February 18, we have already completed 28 legislative days. This week, I would like to discuss what we have accomplished and next week, I will discuss some of the legislation I have introduced.

While we have been in session for 28 legislative days, so far, the Legislature has only passed one bill and one legislative resolution.  Numerous bills have been debated only to be filibustered and fail to advance to the next stage of debate.  The one bill that was approved by the Legislature was LB 310, introduced by Senator Rob Clements, which increases the amount of property exempt from inheritance taxes, reduces inheritance tax rates, and eliminates inheritance tax for heirs 21 years of age or younger.

While Nebraska is one of the few states which still allows for inheritance tax, the State does not collect this tax itself, which is unique.  Instead, our counties collect this tax, and unfortunately, if the Legislature would have eliminated this source of funding for our counties, it would have likely raised property taxes to make up the difference.

After extended debate, the Legislature raised the exemption for immediate family members to $100,000 dollars, leaving the rate unchanged.  We also increased the exemption for extended family members to $40,000 while dropping the tax rate to 11%.  Finally, for unrelated heirs, we increased the exemption to $25,000 while dropping that tax rate to 15%.  LB 310 passed on Final Reading with a vote of 37-1 with 11 not voting and was approved into law by the Governor on February 17.

The Legislature also approved Legislative Resolution 14, introduced by Senator Steve Halloran, which is a resolution to Congress for a convention of the states to propose amendments to the United States Constitution.  In 2015, Senator Laura Ebke introduced a call for the Convention of States and I co-sponsored the Legislative Resolution.  After it wasn’t adopted, she re-introduced her resolution as LR6 in 2017 and I co-sponsored it again.  Once again, it failed to be adopted.

In 2019 Senator Halloran took up the call and introduced LR7. I was one of 16 co-sponsors. Unfortunately, when session ended in August of 2020, it was indefinitely postponed, having never made it out of committee and to the floor for a vote. Senator Halloran never gave up.  On January 8th, 2021, Senator Halloran introduced LR14, which I co-sponsored along with 15 other senators.

At the end of last year, LR 14 was advanced from the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.  However, due to timing, it was not scheduled for full debate.  This year, after the session began, Senator Halloran reprioritized the resolution, it was scheduled for debate.  LR 14 survived multiple rounds of extended debate and was adopted on January 28 on a vote of 31-11 with 6 not voting.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance with. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Weekly Column – October 22nd
October 25th, 2021

Over the past few weeks my office, along with many other offices, have been contacted by citizens from across the state expressing their opposition to mandated COVID-19 vaccinations. This began after President Biden’s announcement earlier this autumn that would mandate vaccinations or require mandatory testing for employers who employ more than 100 individuals.  This has led to calls for the Nebraska Legislature to convene in a special session to enact legislation that prohibits this mandate from being implemented in Nebraska.

This week, following the lead of Senators Ben Hansen and Rob Clements, twenty-six of my colleagues sent a letter to Secretary of State Bob Evnen to begin the process to reconvene the Legislature to address these concerns.  While a majority of Senators have signed onto this call, an additional seven senators will need to inform the Secretary of State of their support for a special session to occur. While I do not believe in mandating COVID-19 vaccinations, I did not sign onto the call for numerous reasons which I want to explain.

The first reason why I did not sign onto the call to conduct a special session is the federal COVID-19 mandates have yet to be enacted as language is still being crafted.  Without seeing the exact language that is being proposed, I believe it to be irresponsible to convene a rushed special session to enact statutes that may or may not address this issue since we have yet to see the language being considered at this time. There is also the possibility that the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rule will be unenforceable due to numerous issues.

The second reason I have not signed onto this call is I have concerns about the constitutionality of such a proposal.  Based upon legal precedent, OSHA has authority to institute standards to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. If the Nebraska Legislature were to enact a law that contradicts what essentially is a federal mandate, our state’s law would be nullified due to the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. I have spoken to numerous companies who operate in multiple states and who would likely still have to comply with any federal order, which means any state action would confuse the employees. I fear that any attempt to preempt federal guidelines at this time would largely be symbolic and a waste of taxpayer money to simply make a political statement.

Additionally, while I do not personally support forced COVID-19 vaccinations, I do not believe the heavy hand of government should interfere in the free-market system to prohibit employers from doing what they believe is best for their individual company. Though the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has already decided that private and public employers are legally able to require employees to get vaccinated under the threat of termination, the employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees sincerely held religious beliefs or disability.  I believe that any attempt by the State to nullify this decision by the EEOC could be challenged and likely would be nullified by a Court.

These constitutional questions could be answered sooner than later in a court of law.  For example, in September twenty-four Attorneys Generals from across the United States, including our Attorney General Doug Peterson, collectively signed a letter which was sent to President Biden. It asked the President to reevaluate his proposal and if he doesn’t, they “will seek every available legal option” that is available once the mandate is closer to being enacted.

I understand the frustration some feel with employers implementing COVID-19 vaccination mandates before a final order or rule has been enacted by the President or OSHA. Due to timing, the Legislature reconvening for a special session will not help those individuals who are facing vaccination deadlines in November or December due to the logistics required to bring the Legislature back into session.

While I have personal opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, I believe it is in the State’s best interest to wait for any current and future legal challenges to play out in the judicial system, so we have a better understanding on how to address the issue.  Allowing the Legislature to wait until January will allow Senators to continue to work on this kind of legislation that will address the issue more soundly should the federal government move forward.  As such, I will not be supporting any attempt to reconvene the Legislation prior to January 5, 2022, to enact rushed constitutionally suspect legislation that may or may not solve the concerns that have been raised.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance with. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Over the past couple of months, many constituents have reached out to my office to express their dissatisfaction with the originally proposed Health Education Standards that were proposed by the Nebraska Department of Education earlier this year.  There are numerous items within the originally proposed health standards that I agreed with, and there were numerous items that I am adamantly opposed to.

I have discussed my personal objections and the objections of my constituents with multiple members of the Nebraska State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education Matthew Blomstedt.  It is my understanding that the Department of Education, after hearing from many individuals concerned with these standards, have decided to redraft the standards.

Recently, many of my colleagues have signed onto a letter that is being sent to school boards around the state encouraging local school boards to formally adopt the resolution rejecting the proposed Health Standards and reaffirming the rights of parents. I did not sign onto this letter for multiple reasons.

One, I rarely sign onto letters drafted by other senators as I do not have control over the wording of the letter.  In this case, I did not sign onto this letter as it calls on each school board to adopt a resolution opposing the adoption of the “proposed” Health Education Standards.  However, there is not a current “proposal” that is being considered.

In March, draft standards were released for public comment.  After hearing from Nebraskans, the original draft standards were scrapped and are in the process of being redrafted.  The Nebraska Board of Education heard your voices and are incorporating the feedback they received.  I believe it is irresponsible to comment on any new proposed draft since it has not been completed and released for public comment.

Second, the State Board of Education and our local school boards are elected officials, just like me, and serve on the behalf of those who elected them.  While I expressed my personal dissatisfaction with the originally proposed standards, I do not want to use the weight of my office to influence other duly elected individuals.

Lastly, there is not a legal requirement that any school district adopt the originally proposed health standards.  According to Nebraska Revised Statute 79-7601.01, school districts are required to adopt state-approved content standards or adopt content area standards deemed as equal to or more rigorous than state-approved content area standards for reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies.  While schools are encouraged to adopt state-approved standards in other content areas such as fine arts, physical education, health education, and world languages, the adoption of these standards are not mandatory.

You may continue to submit feedback on Draft #1 of the Health Education Standards by emailing nde.standardsinput@nebraska.gov, but Draft #2 of the Health Education Standards will be released later this summer and I encourage you to read that draft and submit your comments to the Nebraska Department of Education for their consideration once this new draft is released.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance with. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

On May 12, the Nebraska Legislature began debate on LB 474, a bill to adopt the Medicinal Cannabis Act.  As I explained in a previous column, had LB 474 been enacted into law, a patient must have a qualifying medical condition and a written certification issued by a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant with whom they have a bona-fide relationship.  A qualifying medical condition is any illness for which cannabis provides relief as determined by the patient’s healthcare practitioner.  Any patient under 18 years of age would require written consent from a parent or guardian.

Following the Judiciary Committee hearing on LB 474, the Judiciary Committee proposed AM 824 which would make two changes to the introduced version of the bill.  The amendment would have replaced what defined a qualifying medical condition with a specific list of diseases or condition and rewrote the continuing medical education provisions to require eight hours of continuing medical education prior to issuing a certification to a patient for the patient to access medical marijuana.

As soon as the debate began on LB 474, a motion to bracket the bill until June 10, 2021 was filed.  Since a bracket motion is a priority motion, it takes priority over any other amendment that was filed on the bill which prohibits Senators from introducing amendments to improve the proposal.  After a few hours of debate, a vote on the motion to bracket the bill failed with 16 ayes and 27 nays.  As soon as this vote transpired, a motion to reconsider the vote was immediately filed, tying the hands of senators from improving the bill.

While Senators were unable to amend the bill, multiple senators on both sides of the issue worked diligently to find compromises that would have made the bill a better proposal.  Senator Ben Hansen introduced AM 1429 which would have removed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the list of qualifying conditions, would have limited vaping provisions to only allow for aerosol inhalers, would have required any health care practitioner to check the prescription drug monitoring system prior to recommending cannabis products and would have required the person dispensing the product to check the prescription drug monitoring system prior to the dispensing to prevent a patient from gaming the system and getting more cannabis than what was recommended to the person.

After hearing from my constituents, while I did not support passage of the bill itself, I did vote for cloture to end debate to advance the bill to the next round of debate.  Numerous senators were working on amendments to make the bill better, however, due to procedural games played by some senators, we were unable to debate those changes, therefore, I wanted LB 474 to advance to the next round to give the opportunity to Senator Wishart and others to improve upon the legislation, given that a medical marijuana proposal is very likely to appear on the ballot in November of 2022. As we saw in 2020, there was a strong effort to legalize medical marijuana through a ballot initiative.  Over 180,000 verified signatures were collected for an attempt to allow our citizens the opportunity to vote on whether or not to allow medical marijuana in Nebraska.  Last year, we saw how successful the gambling initiatives were at the ballot box, and I believe a second medical marijuana referendum will have the same amount of support, if not more.  Thus, I still believed that if we were to have medical marijuana in our state, we needed to regulate it through the Legislature rather than the Nebraska Constitution. LB 474 failed to meet the requisite 33 votes to end cloture by a vote of 31-18.

After the conclusion of debate on LB 474, the Legislature advanced LB 579, a bill that I cosponsored, from General File to Select File.  As amended, LB 579 would require the Department of Transportation to provide a report to the Legislature on all state highway projects under construction, the amount of money spent on a project, the estimated cost of the project, the number of miles yet to be completed, and the expected milestone dates for other expressway projects, to give the Legislature a better understanding on the progress of projects being completed by NDOT.  Finally, two bills I introduced, LB 18 and LB 147, also advanced to the final round of debate following a voice vote.

As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is mkolterman@leg.ne.gov, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.

Sen. Mark Kolterman

District 24
Room 1101
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
(402) 471-2756
Email: mkolterman@leg.ne.gov
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