The Legislature has completed Day 50 of this 90-day legislative session and is in the middle of debate on bills that have been designated as a priority by senators, committees and the speaker. As a general rule, only bills that have been designated as a priority are placed on the agenda at this point in the session.
There is an exception to this rule for a procedure called consent calendar. This process allows non-controversial non-prioritized bills to be considered in an efficient manner. Senators must send a letter to the Speaker of the Legislature requesting that a bill be placed on consent calendar. If three or more senators object to any bill chosen, it will be removed from the agenda. Debate is limited to 15 minutes per bill. Not only do the bills have to be non-controversial, the topic that they pertain to must also be non-controversial. These bills must be fairly simple and cannot have a general fund impact. One of the bills that I introduced was selected for the first consent calendar. LB 78 would require applicants for four veteran specific license plates (Gold Star Family, Ex-Prisoner of War, Disabled American Veteran and Purple Heart) to register with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, thereby allowing the Department of Motor Vehicles to verify their eligibility through the DVA registry.
This past week, the Legislature gave initial approval to LB 572, pertaining to the Livestock Brand Act. The Nebraska Brand Committee was created by the Legislature in 1941 to inspect cattle and investigate missing or stolen cattle. Although cattle management practices have evolved, the rules and regulations pertaining to Nebraska’s Brand Law have remained mostly unchanged. Part of Nebraska is located within a brand inspection area, with the line running through the eastern portion of Knox County and including Holt, Boyd, and Rock Counties. Cedar and Dixon counties are not located in a brand inspection area. I believe that having part of the state in a livestock inspection area and part outside of it, creates a disadvantage for producers and livestock markets.
LB 572 allows electronic inspections as a means to meet brand inspection requirements. As amended, the bill would lower the per head brand inspection fee for physical inspection from $1.00 to $0.85 per head for the next two years in order to reduce the cash reserves of the Nebraska Brand Committee. I realize that LB 572 is not the final answer, but I think it is a step in the right direction. I would like to explore the voluntary brand inspection system used in Kansas, as I think a statewide voluntary model could help unify our state. This system would be more cost-effective, would retain brand inspection, but would eliminate the boundary line.
Another bill receiving first-round approval was LB 529. This bill deals with the distribution of the 44.5% of lottery proceeds that are dedicated for education purposes. As required by law, a study was conducted by the Education Committee in 2019, to devise recommendations for the allocation of these lottery funds for the next five years. LB 529 contains the majority of the adopted recommendations.
The biggest recipient of lottery proceeds is the Nebraska Opportunity Grant, which is Nebraska’s only need-based financial aid program for postsecondary students. It also receives an annual General Fund appropriation. Nearly 13,000 students per year benefit from this program. Some new funding initiatives include a Department of Education technology update to automate enrollment option processes statewide and a teacher support system, giving teachers a person to call when they need guidance in dealing with classroom challenges.
If there are issues of concern to you, I encourage you to inform me of your opinion. I can be reached at District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my telephone number is (402) 471-2801.