The May 15 Primary Election field is set. Twenty-four seats are in play. Six senators are unopposed and 53 candidates are in the mix for the other 18 Districts. For the latest rundown on legislative candidates, go to Links below and click on “Primary Elections.”.

Nebraska’s Economic Forecasting Advisory Board met last week to predict future state general fund receipts. Senators use this information to craft the state budget. The board’s prognostications have been in the red for too many years, so good news is welcome. When their forecasting reached fever pitch, board members collectively raised their wetted index fingers and predicted…..partly sunny with 100% chance of budget cuts. Actually, the prediction was $55 million to the positive, meaning budget cuts will not be deeper than those already proposed.

Another “minor” projection was revised at the board meeting. Unless senators pass a bill (LB1090), Nebraskans will not receive the benefits of the Federal Tax Cuts and Tax Jobs Act of 2017. Taxpayer overpayment for FY 2018-19 was estimated to be $220 million. It is now $326 million in individual income tax cuts and $8 million for corporations. LB1090 is on the agenda this week.

Bills that require state spending are simply off the table. Consequently, social issues dominate the Legislature’s agenda. For instance, LB596 was debated on Thursday. It would exempt equine massage therapy from credentialing and regulation. Evidently, horse massage therapists already understand that neigh means neigh.

Next week: community gardens and seed libraries; inmate access to a telephone; sales tax collection on Internet sales (good one) and a constitutional amendment to establish sovereignty within the state over an area, not to exceed 36 square miles, with a population of fewer than 10 persons per square mile. Now that’s out of the box thinking!

Bills of interest

LB756 (Morfeld) General File
This bill will be amended into one of two Urban Affairs Committee priority bills.

As amended, the bill would allow a municipality to adopt or enforce an ordinance or other regulation that imposes a sales tax or an occupation tax on short-term rentals. Also, an online hosting platform may enter into an agreement with the Tax Commissioner to permit the online hosting platform to collect and remit applicable sales taxes on behalf of the seller or hotel operator otherwise required to collect such taxes for transactions consummated between the seller or hotel operator and the purchaser or occupant through the online hosting platform.

LB1067 (Quick) In Committee
Dead for the year, but something similar will come back next year. Expands Nebraska’s Business Improvement District Act to enable municipalities to promote tourism and construct or renovate tourist attractions using a special tourism surcharge on tourism-related products or services. The legislation requires notice to businesses that would be affected by such surcharge. If more than 50% of such businesses protest the proposed surcharge, it would not be adopted. The bill would not permit use of funds generated by the surcharge to be used for other purposes such as a municipality’s general fund operations.

LB1084 (Briese) In Committee and Prioritized
Among other provisions, the bill eliminates sales tax exemption for many items including: cleaning of clothing, landscape services, pet services, taxi, limousine, parking lot services.