Speaker Thinking Three Week Cram Session
The Legislature indefinitely adjourned on Wednesday, March 25, after meeting to pass $83 million in COVID-19 emergency funding. Speaker of the Legislature Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk, in consultation with members of the Legislature, will decide when it is appropriate to reconvene and complete the 2020 session. Only 17 of the 60 legislative days remain. Before adjourning, the Speaker announced that the Legislature will not meet during the two-week period preceding Nebraska’s May 12 primary election. He did note that when the Legislature reconvenes, he plans to condense the remaining days into a three-week period. He will prioritize bills debated, beginning with the budget adjustment bills and state claims bill, then “…the bills that need to be passed” that are in “the best interests of the State of Nebraska.”
How Bad Is It?
Senator John Stinner of Scottsbluff, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has indicated a 10 percent reduction in state revenues (approximately $500 million) due to COVID-19 is a best-case scenario, while the state may be looking at more like a 20-25 percent reduction. He has also stated that he believes anything related to property tax relief, business incentives, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center NExT project should be set aside. Although Nebraska should be receiving more than $1 billion from the federal CARES Act, those dollars will likely be to be used to help counties, cities, and other political subdivisions, not replace state funding shortfalls.
Don’t Miss Out – Vote by Mail!
The 2020 Nebraska primary election is May 12. Nebraska Farm Bureau encourages you to exercise your freedom to vote. In the face of COVID-19, many may prefer to exercise social distancing and vote via mail. Early voting ballot applications are being mailed to every registered voter in Nebraska. Don’t be left out because you prefer not to go to the polls. The last day to request a ballot be mailed to you is May 1, 2020. Please note your application to receive a ballot by mail must be physically signed and you can take a picture/scan of your request and email it to your county election officials. Visit the Secretary of State site below for complete details and deadlines.
All Sectors of Ag Included in $16 billion Direct Payment Plan
In an interview with Farm Journal Thursday, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue made it clear that all sectors of agriculture, including produce, specialty crops, and horticulture, will be included in a $16 billion direct payment plan to be submitted to the White House. The secretary also said the plan will also include $2-3 billion in food purchases to be sent to the nation’s food banks. “This first tranche is probably going to 16 to 18 billion dollars, 16 [billion] in direct payments to our producers, really in all of our sectors, including cattle, livestock, cow-calf operations, hogs, as well as produce, specialty crops, commodities that have been hurt and then the dairy sector,” Perdue said. “And other extraneous things like horticulture. Any kind of ag producer will be available for direct payments. And then we’re also going to have about a two to three billion dollar purchasing program trying to take this dislocated food out of our supply chain that had been going into food service institutions and move it back into our food banks and other non-profits to help provide the needed food for people who are staying at home.” Perdue went on to note the administration will re-evaluate the direct payment and food purchase programs again later in the year to determine if a second tranche is needed.