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The Legislature gave first-round approval to a bill that attempts to make it easier for the consumer to purchase individual packages of meat directly from the producer or processor. LB 324 authorizes herd-share agreements with a producer prior to slaughter, thereby giving the consumer an ownership interest in the animal. The farmer and consumer will develop a bill of sale that decides where the animal will be processed, which cuts of meat will be available, and at what price. Then the farmer will deliver the animal to the processor, providing the processor with a list of all share owners and the cut instructions. The meat would be processed through a custom-exempt facility and the consumer could pick it up at the processor or on the farm. LB 324 is fashioned after legislation passed in Wyoming. Currently, persons are able to purchase a quarter or half of beef, but some may find this too costly or that they don’t have enough freezer space. LB 324 will allow consumers to purchase smaller shares than currently allowed. The processing under the herd-share agreement is exempt from USDA inspection because the meat is not sold at retail, as the consumer is a part-owner of the animal. However, the facility must still be inspected and meet safety and sanitation standards.
LB 324 also creates the Independent Processor Assistance Program, which provides a roadmap for increasing local processing capacity and expanding market access for small producers. Although this portion was not funded, Senator Tom Brandt, the sponsor of LB 324, informed legislators that U.S. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry contacted him about his interest in this bill and pledged to help him find funding for it.
Last November, voters approved three ballot initiatives allowing casino gambling at licensed horse racetracks across the state and imposing a 20% tax on gross gambling revenue, of which 70% would be devoted to property tax relief. One of the ballot initiatives, approved by 65% of voters, changed the Nebraska Constitution to allow for the licensing, authorization, taxation, and regulation of all forms of games of chance to be conducted by authorized gaming operators within licensed racetrack enclosures.
LB 561 contains the necessary statutory framework to enact the initiative language. It merges the current Nebraska Racing Commission with the Nebraska Gaming Commission so the combined commission can administer both gaming and horseracing regulatory authority. It creates powers and duties for the commission and establishes penalties for violating the act. LB 561 increases the age for wagering on horseracing from 19 to 21 years of age, to make it consistent with casino gambling.
The committee amendments were divided into three portions for debate. The first portion would allow keno to be played on an electronic ticket as well as paper tickets. Payment would be limited to cash, a debit card, or a direct link to an account with a financial institution, such as Venmo. Credit cards would not be accepted. Purchase of a ticket for a keno game could only be made in person on site. The intent of this amendment was to modernize how keno is played, in order to remain competitive, as many communities are concerned that casino gambling will lower their keno revenue. This portion was adopted on a 26-18 vote.
The second portion of the committee amendments acknowledges that sports wagering is allowed with the passage of the constitutional amendment legalizing games of chance. There have been at least two Attorney General Opinions as well as several court cases stating that sports wagering is a game of chance. The amendments place restrictions on sports wagering, such as limiting it to a specific wagering area of the casino. This section was adopted on a 31-10 vote.
The final portion contained the remainder of the regulatory provisions and was adopted on a 35-4 vote. Following the adoption of the committee amendments, LB 561 received first-round approval on a 37-5 vote.
As the Legislature begins discussing bills that have been designated as priority bills, I encourage your input on these issues. I can be reached at District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My email address is email@example.com and my telephone number is (402) 471-2801.