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.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Center for Rural Affairs March 8, 2005 Nebraska Legislative Update

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


Legislative Update
March 8, 2005

Committee Hearings are nearing an end in the Unicameral. Several committees have wrapped up their hearing schedule for the session, and may meet only in Executive Session to decide on the fate of bills. Other committees are wrapping up their hearing schedules. Within the next two weeks, legislative action will move full-time to floor debate and will begin to concentrate on the budget and Priority Bills.

Appropriation Committee Hearings

The Appropriations Committee continues its hearings on agency and program budgets. Highlights of hearings dates over the next week include:

March 9 – Department of Economic Development, Game and Parks, Historical Society and Military Department

March 10 – Transportation Day: Motor Vehicles, Railway Council, Roads

March 11 – Veterans’ Affairs, Workers Compensation, Industrial Relations, Public Employees Retirement, Investment Council

March 14 – Higher Education I: state colleges and community colleges

March 15 – Higher Education II: University of Nebraska

March 16 – Departments of Insurance, Labor and Administrative Services and the Accountability and Disclosure Commission

March 17 – State elected officials and their offices, the Public Service Commission and the Legislative Council

Priority Bills

One of the major events of the next few days will be the designation of Senator and Committee Priority Bills. Senators and Committees must designate Priority Bills prior to March 16. To date, 31 Senators have not designated a Priority Bill. Since a Priority Bill must also advance out of committee, many Senators are likely either waiting for committees to act on bills or determining which bill advanced from committee is worthy of Priority Bill status. A Senator can designate any bill his or her Priority Bill, even one he or she did not sponsor or co-sponsor.

To date, six committees have not designated a Priority Bill and seven committee have only designated one Priority Bills (committees may designate two Priority Bills). Committees must designate a bill within their jurisdiction as a Priority Bill.

Bills Update

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.

NOTE: Once a bill is Indefinitely Postponed (killed) or signed into law, we will remove it from the Legislative Update list.

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 bill sits on Select 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 March 3, the bill was approved on Final Reading by a 41-0 vote and now awaits the Governors signature. Support

LB 273 (Cunningham) – Would create the “Building Entrepreneurial Communities” program through a grant program for each of the next two years. The bill sits on General File. Support

Agriculture/Livestock

LB 71P (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. Sen. Stuhr has designated this as her Priority Bill. The bill sits on Select File. 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 sits on General File. Support

LB 346P (Agriculture Committee) – Would modify several provisions of the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act all with the goal to increase utilization of the tax credit. The Agriculture Committee has designated this as one of their Priority Bills. The bill sits on General File. Support

Education/Schools

LB 126P (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 awaits action on Select File. Oppose.

LB 129 (Education Committee) – An overhaul of the formula for state aid to schools. The bill is pending in the Education Committee.

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. The bill is pending in the Revenue Committee.

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. The bill is pending in the Revenue Committee. 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.” The bill is pending in the Agriculture Committee.

Business Tax Incentives

One March 8, the Revenue Committee unanimously voted to kill LB 646, a rework of the state’s business tax incentive law and supported by the state’s big business community. A coalition of big businesses and the Omaha, Lincoln and state Chambers of Commerce had announced last week the hiring of four powerful lobbyists to win passage of LB 646. Sen. Landis, chair of the Revenue Committee, stated that the committee, the Governor’s office and the Appropriations Committee are still working on a package of revisions to the business tax incentive programs (primarily the LB 775 program). Other Revenue Committee members said the vote on LB 646 was done out of a desire to revise current programs rather than start over with a new program. Sen. Brashear, sponsor of LB 646, said floor debate on the package advanced by the Revenue Committee will allow an opportunity to resurrect parts of his bill. Sen. Landis’ LB 312 may be the Revenue Committee’s vehicle to spark that debate. That bill would modify the LB 775 job and investment requirements and would link benefits to wages paid relative to the state’s average weekly wage.

Other

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). The bill is pending in the Appropriations Committee. 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. The bill awaits action by the Health and Human Services Committee.

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. The bill is pending in the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee. Support.

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