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POLICY WATCH

Movin’ On Up

State lawmakers advanced a series of budget bills this week to a third and final round of debate. The bills included provisions that would put additional dollars in the state’s cash reserve triggering additional property tax relief in 2021. The action would ensure Nebraskans get the maximum amount of property tax relief possible through the new Refundable Income Tax Credit (RITC) based on property taxes paid to K-12 schools. Nebraska Farm Bureau estimates the move could double the amount of the RITC tax relief property owners were able to claim this tax season. The advanced budget also leaves dollars available that could be used to help underwrite education funding reforms and expanded broadband. The final round of debate on the budget bills is expected April 20. Help push them across the finish line!

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Budget Priorities

HAULS Act Introduced in the House

Representatives John Rose (R-TN) and Darren Soto (D-FL) introduced the Haulers of Agriculture and Livestock Safety (HAULS) Act in the House. The bipartisan HAULS Act modernizes the agricultural exemption to the hours-of-service rules and provides much needed regulatory relief for farmers, ranchers, and ag haulers. In late March, Sen. Deb Fisher (R-Neb.) reintroduced the HAULS Act in the Senate.  Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) joined Sen. Fischer in introducing the HAULS Act. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours-of-service (HOS) requirements limit the time a commercial motor vehicle driver may be on duty to 14 hours and driving to 11 hours. However, agricultural and livestock haulers face unique circumstances due to the perishability of their products. The HAULS Act updates the agriculture and livestock HOS exemptions to ensure haulers have the flexibility they need to deliver their perishable products. The HAULS Act would:

  • Eliminate the requirement that ag and livestock HOS exemptions only apply during state designated planting and harvesting seasons
  • Amend and clarify the definition of “agricultural commodities” based on feedback provided by agriculture and livestock organizations
  • Authorize a 150 air-mile exemption from HOS requirements on the destination side of a haul for ag and livestock haulers

Nebraska Farm Bureau has been a strong supporter of Sen. Fischer’s HAULs Act legislation.

Boosting Broadband Expansion

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is encouraging the use of the FCC Speed Test App. Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is encouraging the public to use the FCC Speed Test App which is currently used to collect speed data as part of the Measuring Broadband America program. The network coverage and performance information gathered from the Speed Test data will help to inform the FCC’s efforts to collect more accurate and granular broadband deployment data and improve its broadband coverage maps.  The FCC Speed Test App is available in the Google Play Store for Android devices, and in the Apple App Store for iOS devices. Additional information about the Speed Test App may be found here. Last Congress, American Farm Bureau was supportive of the Broadband DATA Act which was signed into law on March 23, 2020.  The American Connection Coalition, of which American Farm Bureau is a member, sent a letter asking President Biden and congressional leadership for swift implementation of the legislation.

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