That’s All Folks!
Before adjourning the session, Speaker Scheer reminded senators of their accomplishments…and their failures. Senators held public hearings on every darned one of the 739 bills and seven constitutional amendments that were introduced. Many of the 294 bills they passed are of negligible consequence to the average Nebraskan. Unless, the new ornate box turtle license plates tickle your fancy. Several that rise to some level of importance:
- LB293, LB294, LB295, LB296, LB297, LB298, LB299 Heavy lift $9.3 billion balanced budget (FY2019-20 / FY2020-21) passed without a single line-item veto by the Governor. Well done Appropriations Committee.
- Statewide disaster relief was funded.
- Medicaid Expansion, approved by voters, was funded.
- Annual Property Tax Credit Relief Fund increased by $51 million to $275 million.
- LB284 Online retailers must now collect and remit state and local sales taxes.
- LB149 Raises smoking or vaping nicotine to 19 years of age.
- LB657 Legalizes industrial hemp and cannabidiol (CBD).
- LB184 Paves the way for small cell (5G) wireless deployment.
Failures are more entertaining, so let’s begin with the big one…collegiality. This year’s 49 were more polarized, on more issues, than any former body in recent memory. Lines were drawn early and often. Rural vs. Urban. Republican vs. Democrat. Liberal vs. Conservative. Sometimes, floor debate was so difficult, it made a few senators cry. What? “There’s no crying in baseball the chamber!”
Senators performed most poorly on two issues: significant property tax relief (LB183 or LB289) and a revitalized business incentive package (LB720). For years, meaningful property tax relief has been the #1 issue that senators hear on the campaign trail, at town hall meetings and in local coffee shops. Yet, they can’t pass a bill. Attracting new business to Nebraska is critical to growing the state. Yet, senators can’t pass a bill. Shhh, here’s a little secret. The path to success for both issues runs straight through the state school aid formula. The key is to how to equitably distribute 60% of our property taxes and over $1 billion a year in sales and income taxes to 244 public school districts.
Senators introduced more than 140 requests for Interim Studies. These are easy to introduce, but hard to move forward. Unless, the matter is of pressing importance for Nebraskans, or to the chair of the Legislative Committee to whom the study was referenced. Frankly, examining the replacement of Native American mascots in schools; a review of food deserts to increase access to healthy affordable food; and examining the practice of mindfulness to reduce the number of those in crisis just don’t crank up the needle on the old passion meter.
Probable Interim Studies: eliminating sales tax exemptions (to reduce property taxes); public school funding; rural broadband; public employee retirement funds; and incarceration – both facilities and programs.
We thank you so much for your patience this session. We look forward to resuming these weekly rants next January. Sine Die!
APPROVED BY THE GOVERNOR
- LB57 Prohibits municipalities from adopting or enforcing ordinances/regulations that expressly or effectively prohibit the short-term rental of residential properties and restrict the ability of municipalities to regulate residential properties used as short-term rentals. The Tax Commissioner will enter into agreements with online hosting platforms and short-term rentals to permit the online housing platform to collect and remit applicable sales taxes on behalf of sellers or hotel operators otherwise required to collect such taxes for transactions consummated through the online hosting platform.
- LB203 Amends the Music Licensing Act to add the owner of a multi-family dwelling to the definition of “proprietor.” Apartment common areas (lobby, clubhouse, fitness center) are included in the Act.