On May 27th, Nebraska’s Unicameral Legislature adjourned this year’s regular session. The Legislature will reconvene this fall for a special session to deal with redistricting.
With the legislative session adjourning, I thought that it would be a good time to review a few of the significant pieces of legislation that passed this year. They include the following:
- Broadband Availability LB 388 created the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act, appropriating $20 million annually to fund grants to unserved and underserved areas of the state to provide high speed broadband internet service.
- Casino Gambling Last November, Nebraska voters legalized all forms of games of chance at licensed horse racetracks at the ballot box. LB 561 provides the regulatory framework necessary to implement casino gambling. While sports betting at the racetrack facility is allowed, you cannot bet on high school youth sports or Nebraska college teams when they are playing in state.
- Farm-to-School Program With the goal of increasing the demand for Nebraska food products, this program will provide locally grown and minimally processed food to elementary and secondary school students. It will also provide students with hands-on learning activities such as farm visits, cooking demonstrations, school gardening and composting programs.
- Taxation of Certain Retirement Income LB 64 passed on May 20th will phase in an exemption for Social Security income from Nebraska income tax to the extent that it is included in federal adjusted gross income at the following levels: 5% in 2021; 20% in 2022; 30% in 2023; 40% in 2024; and 50% in 2025. The bill states that it is the intent to reach a 100% exemption by the year 2030. Another bill, LB 387, exempts military retirement pay for Nebraska income tax. The goal of both bills is to keep retirees in Nebraska instead of moving to more tax friendly states.
- Telehealth Nebraskans, especially rural citizens, should have greater access to certain telehealth services under LB 400. The bill now allows a patient to provide verbal consent during an initial telehealth visit (with a follow-up written consent within ten days) rather the previous requirement of having to first give written consent before receiving treatment. LB 487 prohibits medical insurance companies from charging higher rates for using telehealth. The bill requires medical insurance companies to charge the same rate as comparable treatment in person.
- Controlled Spending and Property Taxes The budget passed by the Legislature this year limits budget growth to 2.4% annually in the state’s next two-year budget. This allowed an additional $1.7 billion dollars to go to property tax relief over the biennium (including over $433 million each year through the new refundable income tax credit). A new law was also passed requiring local governments to notify taxpayers whenever their property tax askings are scheduled to increase more than 2%. While all of this is good, everyone realizes that these measures are only a band-aid and that Nebraska has to completely overhaul its antiquated tax system to create a fair system that takes the burden off property taxpayers. That will be the primary focus next year.
I would welcome any comments, questions or ideas you may have on the legislative session, ideas for new legislation or any other issue. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 402-471-2732.