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, April 19, 2005

Center for Rural Affairs April 18, 2005 Nebraska Legislative Update

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

Legislative Update
April 18, 2005

The easy lifting in the Legislature is done. As the Legislature passes the 2/3rds pole (April 19 will be the 63rd day of the 90-day session), the Senators have taken up most of the non-controversial items the Unicameral will take up in the 2005 session. What remains are bills and issues with significant controversy and differences of opinion – both those that have already received debate and those awaiting their opening arguments.

The April 19 agenda is a perfect example. On this one agenda are bills dealing with the following issues: motorcycle helmets, concealed handguns, who can provide telecommunication services, prairie dogs, the constitutional right to hunt/fish/trap, and criminalizing death or injuries to unborn children – all appealing for hours of debate. And every day between now and adjournment is likely to be similar.

Budget Update

The Appropriations Committee continues to hammer out details of their final budget recommendation to the full Legislature. By rule they must release their recommendation by April 28, the session’s 70th day.

News reports today indicated that Governor Heineman is confident that an economic development package including revamped tax incentives and other items (including, we hope, a tax credit for small businesses) is nearly finalized and will be ready to advance out of the Revenue Committee later this week. The agreed-upon proposals will be rolled into LB 312.

Bills Update

No action was taken last week on any of the bills listed below.

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 273P (Cunningham) – Would create the “Building Entrepreneurial Communities” program through a grant program for each of the next two years. The bill remains on General File, though it is bracketed until April 19 and cannot be brought up for consideration before that date. 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 awaits a vote on Final Reading. 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 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 129P (Education Committee) – An overhaul of the formula for state aid to schools. The bill is pending in the Education Committee.

Taxes

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

Business Tax Incentives

The Revenue Committee is still developing a bill to advance to the floor.

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.

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