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POLICY WATCH

Legislative Session Reaches Halfway Mark

We are officially halfway through the session, however; things have been moving at a snail’s pace. Sen. Michaela Cavanaugh had been filibustering non-controversial bills in an effort to slow down the pace of the Legislature and try to ensure that certain social bills will not be heard. Late this week, we learned that Sen. Cavanaugh has said she will no longer slow down the session with her ongoing filibuster because Speaker Arch has scheduled debate on a bill to ban gender-altering procedures for minors next Tuesday. That proposal has been one of the reasons for her filibuster.

This week senators designated their priority bill and committees did the same for their two priorities. Speaker Arch also announced his 25 Speaker priority bills, giving us the final picture of what bills are prioritized. The priorities can be found here.

Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) President Mark McHargue testified in support LB681 (Clements) a bill that would repurpose the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) and create the new Education Future Fund as an additional funding source for the governor’s proposed education package. The new fund would provide foundation aid, additional special education aid, increase funding for school districts in a way that results in direct property tax relief, and to create grant programs to address teacher turnover, increase technical educational opportunities, and offer mentorship for student’s professional growth. LB681 transfers $1 billion in new appropriations for public schools from the General Fund to the new Education Future Fund in FY23-24 and $250 million in FY24-25 with the intent to continue an annual transfer of $250 million into the fund each year thereafter. In his testimony, McHargue said, with Nebraska experiencing revenues well above its annual budget needs, now is the time for the state to make a strategic investment in our children’s education, set aside the money needed to ensure that investment is sustainable, and reduce the state’s over-reliance on property taxes. He said this should be one of our state’s highest priorities, if not the highest.

A number of bills relating to water quality were heard in committee this week. NEFB testified in support of LB766 (DeKay) which would allocate $3.25 million over two years to the Department of Environment and Energy for reverse osmosis systems. NEFB also submitted a letter in support of LB534 (Slama) which would appropriate federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the Department of Environment and Energy for community water systems in small and rural communities to construct reverse osmosis and infrastructure projects in areas where nitrates are over 10 ppm in the drinking water. 

When all-day debate begins on March 28, there are only forty days left in the session. Due to the filibuster, Speaker Arch announced that the members of the Legislature are to reserve the 29 dates for the body to work during the evening.

Adjournment for “late nights” will be around 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. or potentially as late as 11:59 p.m., dependent on the progress that day. Unless otherwise announced, they will have one hour for lunch and a half hour for dinner for the remainder of the session. 

Your NEFB state policy team will be right there with them through all of this.

Fischer, Ricketts Leads Colleagues in Reintroducing Year-Round E15 Legislation

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, led the reintroduction of the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act. Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.) cosponsored the bill. The legislation would allow the year-round, nationwide sale of ethanol blends higher than 10 percent — ending years of regulatory uncertainty and preventing a patchwork of uneven state regulations. Increasing the availability of biofuels like E-15 would benefit the economy and the environment.

Importantly, the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act of 2023 has support from a wide mix of stakeholders, including the National Corn Growers Association, Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, and the American Petroleum Institute.

Additional cosponsors of the bill include U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

“Our bipartisan legislation is the only permanent, nationwide solution to unleashing the power of year-round E-15. It’s why we’ve been able to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders from the oil/gas, biofuel, ag, and transportation sectors to support our legislation. Negating the need for a patchwork of regulations will ensure all Americans can enjoy lower costs at the pump. With this unique coalition of support, I’m more optimistic than ever that we can make year-round E-15 a reality,” said Senator Fischer.

“Senator Fischer’s diligence to achieving passage of legislation to allow year-round sales of E-15 is greatly appreciated by Renewable Fuels Nebraska’s membership. This common-sense legislation would allow for surety for fuel retailers and ethanol producers and corn farmers alike, while offering consumers meaningful savings at the pump during peak driving season. We look forward to supporting Senator Fischer in getting this important bill across the finish line,” said Dawn Caldwell, Executive Director of Renewable Fuels Nebraska.

“Allowing for the nationwide sale of E-15 year-round is long overdue. Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer’s Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act will provide common sense regulatory changes that will allow American consumers the opportunity to purchase higher blends of ethanol at any time during the year. Sen. Fischer’s leadership on this issue, one which is so vital to the future growth of the ethanol industry and Nebraska’s economy, has brought both the ethanol and petroleum industries together in support of this legislation. It is because of her steadfast support and determination we are hopeful the Consumer Fuel and Retailer Choice Act finally becomes law. Now is the time to finally get this legislation to the President’s desk,” said Mark McHargue, President of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation.

“Nebraska Corn Growers Association thanks Senator Fischer for leading the efforts to allow year-round sales of E-15. Allowing year-round access to E-15 reduces the cost for consumers, leads to cleaner air and paves the way for longer term opportunities for the Next Generation Fuels Act,” said Chris Grams, President of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association.

“Nebraska Farmers Union applauds Senator Fischer’s efforts to resolve a longstanding technical issue of conflict between ethanol supporters and the petroleum industry with the introduction of her amendment to the Clean Air Act. Sen. Fischer’s compromise enjoys support from both the ethanol and petroleum sectors and will produce a national solution that will allow E-15 and higher blend ethanol products to be sold year around. The result of this long overdue compromise will lower fuel prices, carbon dioxide and cancer-causing tailpipe emissions, support family farmers, corn producers, and rural communities while dramatically improving air quality. House and Senate passage of Sen. Fischer’s legislation would be welcome economic shot in the arm for rural America and all fuel users,” said John Hansen, President of the Nebraska Farmers Union.

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