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The session is now half done. Committee hearings are finished and we are returning to full day debate on the legislative floor. While it seems like that would help move things along, there are about 35 priority bills still sitting in committee, waiting to be voted out to the floor. Other major issues that are waiting for debate before the legislature e the budget, property tax, business tax incentives, the UNMC NeXT program and prison overcrowding. Some days we can get a lot accomplished and other days we get sidetracked in our discussion and move very few bills forward. So at this point in the session, there is only a small chance of discussing a bill if it has not been made a priority.
I am pleased that my own priority bill has already moved to the second stage of debate. I chose LB 1014 as my priority bill even though it was introduced by Sen. Lindstrom. The purpose of LB 1014 is to amend the Multiemployer Welfare Arrangement (“MEWA”) Act to allow self-employed individuals who are members of associations to participate in a multiemployer welfare arrangement in Nebraska. The practical result of this change allows farmers to obtain health insurance through entities such as their local cooperative at a lower cost than has been available to them in the market place.
A little history on this issue and LB 1014: Land O’ Lakes is a large farmer-owned cooperative and they offered farmers another avenue for health insurance. It was a group plan and so would be cheaper than what a farmer could find on the open market as an individual. Land O’ Lakes had a little over 1,000 people in the program. Late last fall, there was a federal ruling which said Nebraska was missing specific statutory language to allow this type of program. While the plan was able to remain in effect until the end of 2019, the Nebraska Department of Insurance has no independent state statutory authority to approve a MEWA for self-employed individuals so the cooperative farmer health plan could not be offered to Nebraska farmers in 2020. Hence the need for LB 1014. Senators Kolterman, Williams, La Grone and Lindstrom worked on language to address concerns raised at the bill’s public hearing and the bill advanced to Select File with 42 yes votes and 6 present and not voting.
One of the issues that was debated at length on the floor this past week was land banks. This allows government to revitalize properties that private investors do not want to tackle, because there is no financial gain for them. So land banks take these properties, fix them up and get them back on the tax rolls. Representatives from Hickman have talked to me about how this may help them clean up some of the more neglected homes in this city in our district.
There was also considerable discussion about “Pay for Play”. Senator Hunt introduced this bill to allow students to use their image to make money. The college or university would not be paying these players but players could capitalize on their ‘fame’. They would have to disclose to the school who they are working with, and it would be counted as income. Sen. Hunt believes that the federal government will step in and pass something so there would be uniformity in the law. If a national law is passed, then Nebraska law would be void. If passed, Hunt’s bill would not take effect until January of 2023.
Thank you for your calls and emails –keep them coming! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 402-471-2620.