In my last article, I informed you of a few of the significant pieces of legislation that passed this year.
This time, I would like to share with you several legislative bills that I sponsored this year that successfully advanced through the Unicameral and were signed into law by the governor.
u AgrAbility Program: Farming and ranching can be a hazardous occupation and the mission of the AgrAbility program in Nebraska is “to enhance the quality of life for farmers and ranchers with disabilities or health conditions so that they, their families, and their communities continue to succeed in Nebraska.” The funding that they had been receiving for assistive technology needed to keep farms and ranchers working in spite of their disabilities has recently been extremely limited, and I introduced LB 671 to increase the funding for this important program for the next two years. This bill was merged into a budget bill (LB 380) and passed with no opposition. I have been very impressed by the good work this program does and was happy that the Legislature agreed.
— Health Care Workforce: I introduced LB 390 this year, at the request of the governor, to allow holders of certain health care licenses from other states to more easily receive a license to practice in Nebraska. At the start of the pandemic, the governor issued an executive order to make it easier for certain health care professionals currently licensed in other states to practice in Nebraska. The executive order worked well, and this bill builds upon that order. It provides expedited reciprocity for many licensed healthcare professions and helps address the health care shortages we have (especially in rural Nebraska) by having an expanded pool of health care talent to draw from.
u Electronic Prescriptions for Controlled Substances: LB 583 essentially requires electronic prescriptions for controlled substances. The opioid crisis in Nebraska and across the country has been a real problem adversely affecting many individuals and families. As a result, more than half of the states are requiring or will soon require the utilization of electronic prescriptions for controlled substances. This is an essential step in curtailing abuse of over-prescribing opioids and keeping individuals from “shopping” for doctors who would readily write a script. Additionally, this bill would bring Nebraska in line with federal law which will mandate the use of e-prescribing for Medicare by January 2022. LB 583 passed with no opposition.
u Clarification of Agricultural Sales Tax Exemption: While a sales and use tax exemption for “agricultural machinery and equipment” has existed for years, inconsistent interpretations and enforcement necessitated the need for me to bring LB 672 to provide guidance and clarity to both the agricultural community and the Nebraska Department of Revenue as to the application of this existing exemption. The bill states that the term “agricultural machinery and equipment” means equipment and machinery used directly in: cultivating or harvesting a crop; raising or caring for animal life; protecting the health and welfare of animal life (including fans, curtains and climate control equipment); or collecting or processing an agricultural product on a farm or ranch. It also specifically, includes head trailers, haulers, and transports; and seed tender trailers. All of these items have a specific purpose used directly in agriculture that are not used for other purposes. The Legislature’s Revenue Committee merged LB 672 along with several other bills into LB 595 which also passed without opposition.
Before the Legislature adjourned, I introduced the following two legislative resolutions for interim studies:
u LR 151: For the Health and Human Services Committee to further study the Cure Bill (LB 418) that I introduced this year to enact “The Solemn Covenant of States to Award Prizes for Curing Diseases Compact” would, once six states have adopted the compact, award cash prizes for successful cures of various diseases. This is an innovative approach to incentivize the private sector to find cures for many of the diseases that afflict us today.
u LR 230: For the Revenue Committee to study the idea of exempting agricultural and horticultural lands and commercial property from property tax levies for school funding.
No timeframe has yet been established for these studies.
As always, I would welcome any comments, questions or ideas you may have on the legislative session, ideas for new legislation or any other issue.