Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Center for Rural Affairs January 31, 2005 Nebraska Legislative Update

--from the desk of Jon M. Bailey,
Director Rural Research and Analysis Program
Center for Rural Affairs

New Governor Outlines Priorities

Governor Dave Heineman delivered his first State of the State Address on January 26, and outlined to the state the new administration’s priorities.

Education
Economic Vitality – The Governor noted the fact that Nebraska’s population is growing modestly while the state’s average age is increasing; that is not a demographic equation for long-term success. The Governor mentioned the need to concentrate more on value-added agriculture, small business development and entrepreneurship as ways to grow the state’s economy. The Governor made specific mention of the need to develop small business and entrepreneurship in rural Nebraska.

Governmental Efficiency – The Governor concentrated on technology as a way to bring a “customer friendly, customer responsive government” to Nebraska.

Public Safety – The Governor specifically pointed to funding 21 new state troopers and anti-methamphetamine legislation as his public safety agenda.

The overriding theme of the Governor’s speech was that the state needs to begin making “necessary changes to meet future challenges.”


Legislative Lingo Update

As committee hearings continue and committees begin making decisions on which bills to advance to the entire Legislature, below is a brief guide to legislative terms you will read in future Legislative Updates.

Committees have a number of options for each bill – send as introduced to the full Legislature for General File, send to General File with amendments, Indefinitely Postpone (or kill) the bill, or hold the bill over to the 2006 session .

Once a bill is sent to the full Legislature out of committee, it faces three possible stages – General File, Select File and Final Reading.

At the General File and Select File stages a bill can be amended; a bill cannot be amended at the Final Reading stage.

Priority Bills – Each Senator may designate a bill (not necessarily one he or she introduced) and each Committee may designate two bills “Priority Bills.” These bills received preferential scheduling treatment once the bill is advanced to the floor from committee.


Bills Update

As in the past, we will divide the bills we are working on or tracking into categories. Any bill designated a Priority Bill will also have a “P” attached to its number (for example, LB 123P). The chief sponsor of the bill is listed in parentheses.

The words Support or Oppose after a bill description indicate where the Center for Rural Affairs has taken a position on the bill. If neither word is indicated, the Center has not taken a position at this time.

Rural Development

LB 28 (Connealy) – The “Endow Nebraska Act.” The bill would provide a tax credit for a contribution to a qualified charitable organization. The primary purpose is to provide an incentive for contributions to local and community endowments and foundations, thus providing greater resources for rural economic and community development. The bill sits on General File. Support

LB 59 (Mines) – Would change the provision in the Microenterprise Development Act defining “microenterprise to allow for microenterprise loans up to $35,000 (from $25,000). On January 26 the bill was advanced from General File to Select File. Support

LB 273 (Cunningham) – Would create the “Building Entrepreneurial Communities” program through a $1 million grant program for each of the next two years. Communities and neighborhoods in “chronic economic distress” (high unemployment, low income or population loss) would be eligible for grants up to $75,000 for projects that seek to build entrepreneurial communities. The bill is scheduled for hearing before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on February 4. Support


Agriculture/Livestock

LB 71 (Stuhr) – Would re-authorize the Agricultural Opportunities and Value-Added Partnership Act (formerly the LB 1348 grant program). This program was terminated through budget cuts in 2001 and 2002. This bill would reauthorize the program through 2009. The bill was heard before the Agriculture Committee on January 25. Support

LB 132 (Cunningham) – This bill modifies the Nebraska Pasteurized Milk Law by providing exemptions to small-scale dairies and processors to the often-expensive bottling and processing requirements, and by allowing dairies and farmers to advertise on-farm sales of non-pasteurized milk (currently, the sale of non-pasteurized milk cannot be advertised). The bill is scheduled for hearing before the Agriculture Committee on February 1. Support

LB 346 (Agriculture Committee) – Would modify several provisions of the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act all with the goal to make the tax credit more attractive and to increase usage. The bill is scheduled for hearing before the Agriculture Committee on February 8. Support


Education/Schools

LB 126 (Raikes) – Would mandate the “assimilation” of Class I schools (elementary-only schools) into K-12 school districts for the 2006-07 school year. The bill would eliminate Class I school districts, and would likely end many of the actual school buildings. The bill sits on General File and was passed over for debate on January 31 until a “later date.” Oppose – we believe this bill is forced consolidation of rural schools and sets a bad precedent for state mandated closures of rural schools.

LB 129 (Education Committee) – An overhaul of the formula for state aid to schools. A hearing on the bill was held before the Education Committee on January 25.


Taxes

LB 133 (Connealy) – Would provide a renewable energy sales tax credit, and would provide any generator of electricity from a renewable resource a credit against any sales and use tax. A hearing is scheduled before the Revenue Committee on February 16.

LB 309 (Connealy) – Would establish the Small Business Rural Microenterprise Tax Credit. The bill would provide for $2 million worth of tax credits annually for small business (with five or fewer employees or beginning farmers/ranchers) in areas with declining population or low incomes or federal enterprise zones. A hearing is scheduled before the Revenue Committee on February 9. Support

LB 404 (Wehrbein) – Would create a tax credit for modernization and expansion of livestock facilities. The goal of the bill is to “attract and retain investment in Nebraska’s livestock industry.” A hearing before the Agriculture Committee was held on January 21.


Business Tax Incentives

In this year’s session there are numerous bills relating to amending Nebraska’s business tax incentive laws or creating new tax incentive programs. The primary bill is LB 646, the Advantage Nebraska Act, which would create a new, more generous tax incentive program to take the place of LB 775. It is scheduled for hearing before the Revenue Committee on February 9. A host of other tax incentive bills are scheduled for hearing before the Revenue Committee on February 10 – LBs 482, 224, 313, 312, 696, 520, and 571.


Other

LB 189 (Preister) – Would mandate an electricity portfolio from renewable sources of 1% in 2007 and increasing 1% every year until it reaches 10% in 2017. This would apply to all electricity produced in the state. The bill also creates a mechanism for the buying and selling of credits to meet the portfolio standard.

LB 208 (Stuthman) – Provides for the appropriation of $1.75 million annually for the next two years to the state’s five federally qualified health clinics to provide services to the uninsured (the clinics are in Omaha, Lincoln and Scottsbluff). Support

LB 550 (Jensen) – Requires a plan to be submitted by December 1, 2005, for the financial support of community health centers and emergency medical services in the state. A hearing before the Health and Human Services Committee is scheduled for February 9.

LB 655 (Beutler) – Would create the Task Force on Small Employers Health Plans that would review data and policy ideas concerning health care plans for small employers and recommend policy steps for the state on this issue.
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Center for Rural Affairs, 145 Main Street, Lyons, NE 68038.

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