There was nothing pretty about the just concluded 104th Legislature, First Session. Filibusters littered debate like the alley behind the Last Chance Saloon. Senators of the conservative persuasion were adamantly opposed to, well, everything. A few hardcore Ringers (right wingers) spoke so much they actually believed others were paying attention. If you were one of those who tune-in to Nebraska Educational Television for gavel-to-gavel coverage of your Unicameral, 1.) you can appreciate the constant rotation of mind-numbing 5-minute speeches designed to delay votes, and 2.) you really should get a life.

Death penalty repeal, driver licenses for kids of illegal immigrants and an increase in the gas tax were headline grabbers. GOP loyalists are spazzing-out. Some are even ready to burn the old Unicam at the stake and replace it with (shudder) a Bicameral.

The Lingers (left wingers) got smacked-around as well. This was their third trip to the old medicaid expansion honey hole, and the “save our world” gang were summarily escorted to the door – again. Also, senators won’t spend more money on dependent kids either. How cold.

But that is not the whole story. Speaker Galen Hadley handled a tough group of prima egos in statesmanlike fashion, and managed to pass 227 bills this session. Not that each bill is a wonderfully crafted monument to the future of mankind, but that’s a lot of heavy lifting and patience on the Speaker’s part.

The balanced budget passed with limited new spending and enough additional property tax relief so the Governor can claim victory. Speaking of Governor Ricketts, he got a couple bloody noses this year, but hey, he’s a Freshman and so are the kids on his team. Bet he won’t make the same mistakes next year.


Legislative Summary

  • LB118 – Passed. Authorizes cigar bars
  • LB329 – Passed. Nebraska Agritourism Promotion Act.
  • LB220 – Passed. Creates Sesquicentennial Commission and makes funds available for events and projects
  • LB419 – Passed. Sales tax exemption for accredited zoos & aquariums
  • LB449 – Passed. Tourism enhancements:

o State Visitors Promotion Cash Fund may accept gifts, bequests, and other contributions

o State Visitors Promotion Cash Fund may include marketing assistance grants

o Providing a process for the disbursement of marketing assistance grants

o Creates the Tourism Conference Cash Fund

o Signage for significant tourism attractions


LB83 Sen. Cook | Business & Labor | Position: MONITOR

An employee may bring a civil action against an employer and penalties for the following may include: costs of the action and attorney’s fees, reinstatement, back pay, restoration of lost service credit, expunge records and money damages.

  • Requiring nondisclosure by an employee of wages as a condition of employment
  • Requiring an employee to sign a waiver denying an employee the right to disclose their wages
  • Taking adverse employment action against an employee for disclosing their wages
  • Coerce, intimidate, or threaten an employee to discourage disclosure of wages, interfere with an employee’s efforts to disclose wages, or discipline an employee for disclosing wages
  • Retaliate against an employee.
    • Committee Hearing – January 26

LB118 Sen. Larson | General Affairs Committee | Position: MONITOR 

LB118 authorizes cigar bars, referred to as cigar shops with liquor licenses. A licensee must have a walk-in humidor; a minimum of 10% of its gross revenue from tobacco products, tobacco-related products and cigars, but not cigarettes; and cannot sell food. Cigarette smoking is prohibited within the establishment.

Additional language clarifies, in the Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act, that the intent is to allow limited exceptions for “public accommodations, research, tobacco retail outlets, and cigar shops.”

The licensee must post signs at all entrances to the cigar shop indicating that smoking of cigars and pipes is allowed, smoking cigarettes is not. Also, each employee must sign a waiver that he/she will be exposed to second-hand smoke, and that he/she understands the risks of exposure to second-hand smoke.

  •  APPROVED BY THE GOVERNOR – February 26

LB220 Sen. Smith | Transportation & Telecommunications | Position: MONITOR

The Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission shall develop programs and plans for official observance of the 150th anniversary of Nebraska statehood in 2017. The commission shall work with state agencies to execute commemorative events and to implement educational activities with emphasis on events and activities that promote Nebraska and its economy by focusing on the state’s history, cultural diversity, and unique geography. The commission shall expend and allocate at least 5% of the money from the Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial License Plate Proceeds Fund by awarding one or more grants to any person who applies to the commission for support for a local 150th event or project.

  • APPROVED BY THE GOVERNOR – February 26

LB228 Sen. Watermeier | Revenue Committee | Position: MONITOR

Beginning January 1, 2016, LB 228 would change the corporate income tax rate from 5.58% to 5.01% for the first $100,000 of taxable income, and go from 7.81% to 6.84% on all taxable income in excess of $100,000.

The Department of Revenue estimates the following negative fiscal impact to the General Fund: FY2015-16 – $1,359,000 / FY2016-17 – $10,353,000 / FY2017-18 – $30,870,000 / FY2018-19 – $40,647,000 / FY2019-20 – $40,560,000

  • Committee Hearing – February 5

LB256 Sen. Bloomfield | Revenue Committee | Position: MONITOR

Increases the sales tax rate from 5. % to 6%. Revenue from the extra .% would transfer to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund.

  • Committee Hearing – February 20

LB309 Sen. Davis | Appropriations Committee | Position: MONITOR

Transfers $25 million in both FY2015-16 and FY2016-17 from the General Fund to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund.

  • Committee Hearing – February 27

LB329 Sen. Schilz | Natural Resources Committee | Position: MONITOR

Creates the Nebraska Agritourism Promotion Act to limit a landowner’s civil liability to encourage them to allow public access to their property for agricultural, historical, cultural, and other agritourism activities for a fee.

  • APPROVED BY THE GOVERNOR – May 27

LB357 Sen. Smith | Revenue Committee | Position: MONITOR

Reduces the top individual rate from 6.84% to 5.92% in the year 2023. The bottom rate would reduce from 2.46% to 1.23%.

The top corporate rate would reduce from 7.81% to 6.41% and the bottom rate would reduce from 5.58% to 4.54%. The bill also transfers $20 million from the Cash Reserve to the General Fund in 2016 and $60 million in 2017. LB357 would also transfer $40 million from the Cash Reserve to the Property Tax Credit Fund in 2015 and $40 million in 2016.

  • Committee Hearing – February 18

LB364 Sen. Watermeier | Appropriations Committee | Position: MONITOR

Transfers $60 million in both FY2015-16 and FY2016-17 from the General Fund to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund.

  • Committee Hearing – February 27

LB387 Sen. Schnoor | Appropriations Committee | Position: MONITOR

Transfers $60 million dollars from the Cash Reserve Fund to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund in 2015.

  • Committee Hearing – February 27

LB398 Sen. Harr | Revenue Committee | Position: MONITOR

Beginning January 1, 2017, all tangible personal property shall be exempt from property tax.

  • Committee Hearing – March 5

LB419 Sen. Mello | Revenue Committee | Position: SUPPORT

Exempts sales and use taxes imposed on the gross receipts from the sale, lease, or rental of and the storage, use, or other consumption of any sale or purchase by any zoo or aquarium accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The fiscal impact on the state is a loss of revenue estimated to be more than $4 million over the first two years – 2016 and 2017.

  • APPROVED BY THE GOVERNOR – May 27

LB442 Sen. Bolz | Appropriations Committee | Position: MONITOR

$20 million would transfer from the General Fund to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund in both FY2015-16, and FY2016-17.

  • Committee Hearing – February 27

LB449 Sen. Mello | Appropriations Committee | Position: SUPPORT

Amendment AM1035 incorporates language from LB450 and LB571 related to the usage of funds in the Department of Economic Development and the Tourism Commission. AM1035 also updates statutes that guide the Tourism Commission through clarification of procedures and the establishment of a new cash fund. The changes include the following:

  • Clarification that the salary of the executive director is set by the commission.
  • Allowing the State Visitors Promotion Cash Fund to accept gifts, bequests, and other contributions.
  • Expanding the use of the State Visitors Promotion Cash Fund to include marketing assistance grants.
  • Providing a process for the disbursement of marketing assistance grants.
  • Creates the Tourism Conference Cash Fund.
    • APPROVED BY THE GOVERNOR – May 13

LB450 Sen. Mello | Appropriations Committee | Position: SUPPORT

Creates the Nebraska Treasures Act to coordinate existing tourism resources at the state and local government levels with the private sector to:

  • Maximize the economic and employment benefits of the tourism industry
  • Develop tourism sites during Nebraska’s sesquicentennial anniversary in 2017
  • Focus on construction or enhancement of attractions that have maximum potential to foster tourism
  • Promote and market Nebraska tourism sites as destinations for visitors from the entire nation
  • Recognize historic, natural, and scenic environments and develop cultural and heritage tourism programs

The Nebraska Tourism Commission would approve four existing or potential tourism sites that have the greatest potential to attract visitors from outside the state. To be eligible for a grant, a political subdivision or nonprofit organization shall either wholly or partially own, or have a property interest in, that portion of the tourism site. The Nebraska Treasures Fund would provide $1 million annually for tourism sites approved for grants.

  • Committee Hearing – February 20

LB562 Sen. Morfeld Government Committee Position: SUPPORT

Creates the Nebraska Treasures Act to coordinate existing tourism resources at the state and local government levels with the private sector to:

  • Maximize the economic and employment benefits of the tourism industry
  • Develop tourism sites during Nebraska’s sesquicentennial anniversary in 2017
  • Focus on construction or enhancement of attractions that have maximum potential to foster tourism
  • Promote and market Nebraska tourism sites as destinations for visitors from the entire nation
  • Recognize historic, natural, and scenic environments and develop cultural and heritage tourism programs

The Nebraska Tourism Commission would approve four existing or potential tourism sites that have the greatest potential to attract visitors from outside the state. To be eligible for a grant, a political subdivision or nonprofit organization shall either wholly or partially own, or have a property interest in, that portion of the tourism site. The Nebraska Treasures Fund would provide $1 million annually for tourism sites approved for grants.

  • Committee Hearing – February 20

LB571 Sen. Brasch | Government Committee | Position: SUPPORT

LB571 gives the Nebraska Tourism Commission the authority to identify significant tourism attractions and to purchase, preserve, replace or modify highway tourism markers. The Department of Roads shall erect, maintain, and determine the exact location of highway tourism markers. It will be unlawful or any person, public or private corporation, association, or organization to post their own highway tourism marker on public property.

  • AMENDED INTO LB449 – APRIL 28

LB574 Sen. Davis | Revenue Committee | Position: MONITOR

Eliminates the tax exemption for intangible personal property and assesses a $1.50 tax for every $100 of valuation. This new revenue would be used to decrease property taxes, increase school funding, or both.

  • Committee Hearing – March 12

LB611 Sen. Kintner | Business & Labor | Position: MONITOR

E-VERIFY. Beginning 2016, every private employer must register with and use a federal immigration verification system to determine the work eligibility status of new employees. Violators are subject to a civil penalty of not more than $2,000. A contractor shall not be held accountable for the failure of a subcontractor to comply with this section unless the contractor is aware of the subcontractor’s failure and knowingly overlooks such failure.

  • Committee Hearing – February 2

LB627 Sen. Mello | Business & Labor | Position: MONITOR