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, March 21, 2006

Nebraska Legislative Update

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
MARCH 21, 2006


Budget Bill Approved on First Round

After two often contentious days of debate, LB 1060, the main budget modification bill, was advanced to Select File by a 42-0 vote. Most of the contention revolved around Sen. Foley’s attempts to change funding for women’s health and reproductive services and his connection to pro-life politics. Ultimately, an amendment offered by Sen. Jensen to increase funding for women’s health and reproductive services by over $200,000 was approved. This issue is likely to resurface during Select File debate.

On General File the Legislature also agreed to amend the Appropriations Committee budget bill by reducing funding for the Cultural Preservation Endowment Fund from $5 million to $2 million, to increase funding for AIDS medication by $500,000, and to provide state funds for Native-American education positions in the Department of Education to replace federal funds.

Debate on tax Relief Bill to Begin This Week

General File debate on LB 968, the Revenue Committee tax relief package, is scheduled to begin March 22nd. The Legislature cancelled its March 21st session due to the statewide snowstorm. March 22 will be the 46th day of the 2006 session; including March 22, there are 15 days remaining in the session.

Legislative Lingo

Throughout the course of these updates, we will be using certain terms that describe where a bill is in the legislative process. Here is a brief guide to those terms and some basic legislative procedure:

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.

As bills are killed in committee or become law through floor stages, they will be deleted from the Legislative Update.

Bills Update

As in the past, we will divide into categories the bills we are working on or tracking. 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.

Based on further analysis and Priority Bill designations, this week we’ve added a few bills to our list.

Agriculture/Livestock

LB 132 (Cunningham) –This bill modifies the Nebraska Pasteurized Milk Law. 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
LB 834 (Kremer) – Would preempt any local government action to regulate the registration, labeling or sale of seed based on the “type, nature or genetic makeup.” The bill awaits action on General File. Oppose
LB 916 (Kremer) – Would implement the state Competitive Livestock Markets Act (passed by the Legislature in 1995) in the event the federal mandatory price reporting law is not re-authorized by Congress. The bill awaits action on General File. Support.
LB 975P (Natural Resources Committee) – Modifies the Livestock Waste Management Act and decouples the state permit process from the federal EPA permit process. The bill also includes a mandate to counties to grant permits or variances if the purpose of the request was to comply with state or federal regulations (similar language to LB 1195 below). On March 16, the Governor signed the bill into law.
LB 990P (Wehrbein and others) – Would allow tax credits for livestock modernization projects under the Nebraska Advantage Rural Development Act. Sen. Landis has filed an amendment to limit the tax credits to 10% of the modernization investment with a cap of $30,000 (rather than $300,000 as came out of committee). The bill awaits action on General File.
LB 1004 (Hudkins) – Would allow for promotion of Nebraska-made wine and liquor by allowing holders of farm winery licenses to obtain a special license to sell or consume alcohol. The bill awaits action on General File.
LB 1109 (Schrock) – Would modify rules for the rejection, suspension or revocation of livestock waste permits. The bill awaits action on General File.
LB 1195 (Schrock and others) – Would require counties to allow permits or variances to existing livestock facilities to construct or modify livestock waste facilities if the purpose of the permit or variance is to comply with state or federal regulations. The bill awaits action on General File (though it is unlikely to receive further attention since a similar provision was amended into LB 975).

Education/Schools

Note: Several mentions are made below to LB 126 – a reminder this was the bill passed by the Legislature, vetoed by the Governor and overridden by the Legislature in 2005 that requires all Class I (elementary-only) school districts to assimilate with a K-12 district. A citizen’s petition seeking the repeal of LB 126 will be on the November 2006 General Election ballot.

LB 129P (Education Committee) – An overhaul of the formula for state aid to schools. The bill is awaiting action in the Education Committee.
LB 839 (Hudkins) – Would order the State Committee for the Reorganization of School Districts to issue orders reestablishing Class I and Class VI (high school-only) districts if 2005’s LB 126 is repealed in November. The bill awaits action by the Education Committee. Support
LB 1050 (Wehrbein) – Would establish a study committee on the costs and benefits of countywide school districts. The bill awaits action by the Education Committee.
LB 1119 (Heidemann and others) – Would delay all provisions of LB 126 until 2007. The bill awaits action by the Education Committee. Support
LR 253CA (Hudkins and Fischer) – A proposed constitutional amendment that would require a vote of the people in affected districts on school mergers, dissolutions or affiliations. This is similar to a petition proposed by a group of Class I supporters for which signatures are being sought. The bill awaits action by the Education Committee. Support

Taxes

LB 775 (Wehrbein) – Would reduce the sales tax rate to 5% after October 1, 2006 (from 5.5%). The bill awaits action by the Revenue Committee.
LB 849 (Redfield and others) – This is the Governor’s income tax reduction proposal. The bill awaits action by the Revenue Committee.
LB 896 (Preister) – Would establish a renewable energy tax credit against the income tax of the producer of electricity by renewable means. The bill awaits action on General File.
LB 968P (Redfield) – This is now the Revenue Committee’s tax relief proposal. On March 7, it was unanimously advanced to the floor by the Revenue Committee. The bill awaits action on General File.
LB 1006P (Bourne and others) – The Governor’s school property tax levy proposal. The bill awaits action by the Revenue Committee (though a similar provision is included in LB 968).
LB 1239 (Raikes) – An income tax “simplification” plan. Would collapse income tax brackets into two rather than four – above and below $75,000 for estates and trusts and single and married filing separate taxpayers, and above and below $150,000 for joint and head-of-household taxpayers. The bill awaits action by the Revenue Committee.

Other

LB 188P (Beutler) – Modifications to the Nebraska Campaign Finance Limitation Act. The bill awaits action on Select File. Support
LB 554P (Beutler) – Would increase the state minimum wage. The bill awaits action on General File.
LB 1198 (Connealy) – Would authorize on-farm sales and use of biofuels by adding “microscale producer” to the definition of “producer” in existing motor fuels laws. The bill awaits action on General File. Support

post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree, johnc@cfra.org

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

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