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POLICY WATCH

Governor Shares Priorities in State of the State Address

Gov. Pete Ricketts revealed his legislative priorities, including proposals to provide property tax relief, business incentives, and aid in flood recovery during his “State of the State” address Wednesday, Jan. 15. The Governor reiterated that the state economic forecasting board has raised its revenue projection by $266 million for the next two fiscal years, money NEFB agrees should go toward property tax relief. Ricketts also indicated the federal government will pay for the majority of flood recovery efforts but he’s asking the state to contribute $50 million, provide an additional $9.2 million to the most devastated counties, and increase the Governor’s Emergency Fund by $3 million. The governor also called for passage of LB 720 – Sen. Kolterman’s bill which would extend business tax incentives.

Food Labeling Bill Likely Done for Session

A bill aimed at ensuring the proper labeling of “meat” is likely done for the session. Introduced by Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, LB 594 sought to amend the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act to declare a deceptive trade practice to advertise, label or otherwise misrepresent, insect or plant based, or lab-grown, food products as meat. While agriculture groups, including Nebraska Farm Bureau supported the bill there was opposition during debate, including concerns as to whether the bill contained the proper language. Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon introduced a motion to recommit LB 594 to the Ag Committee along with a resolution encouraging federal action, similar to a resolution related to milk labeling which passed last session. The Legislature adjourned Wednesday, Jan. 15 without voting on Brewer’s motion, a pending Ag Committee amendment, or the bill. Thursday morning Jan.16 at Sen. Blood’s request, Speaker Scheer of Norfolk put a “hold” on LB 594. It is unlikely to be scheduled for debate again this session.

Bill Introductions Continue

Senators continued to introduce legislative bills this week. Bill introduction will end Thursday, Jan. 23. A few more bills of note to Farm Bureau were introduced this week including Sen. Friesen’s LB 992 which includes several provisions related to deploying rural broadband based on the Rural Broadband Task Force report to the Legislature last November (LB 992), and Sen. Halloran’s LB 931 to amend state law which allows carriers to avoid the requirement of getting overweight permits for their farm trucks but still exceed the maximum legal weight limit by 15 percent. When the permit exemption was passed, the intent was to cover hauling from farm to storage, from farm to market, or from storage to market up to 70 miles. The statute currently says from “stockpile” to market. Sen. Halloran is adding “or farm storage” to market to prevent further confusion by growers or carrier enforcement.

A Look Ahead

The Legislature is adjourned until Tuesday, Jan. 21, at which point public hearings will begin. Summary of hearings taking place next week can be found HERE. Wednesday, Jan. 22, NEFB will be weighing in on the Revenue Committee property tax bill as well as Sen. Dan Hughes’s bill in the Natural Resources Committee codifying that the right to use ground water is inseparable from the overlying land. Nebraska Farm Bureau is also monitoring a bill to provide public power districts powers relating to biofuels and biofuel byproducts (LB 899).

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