On Tuesday, Jan. 30, a hearing for Legislative Bill (LB) 1116 was held before the Agriculture Committee. This Center for Rural Affairs legislation, introduced by Sen. Teresa Ibach, would create a grant and loan program for locally owned grocery and convenience stores to improve the availability of fresh, nutritious foods.
The Center was joined by five other supporters providing in-person testimony. Additionally, there were 19 letters of support submitted online. There was no opposition in person or submitted online.
Last week, LB 541, introduced last year and prioritized this year by Sen. John Lowe, was placed on select file. This bill would require partisan elections for candidates running for Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) and Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) board of director positions. The Center is opposed to this legislation; energy systems are complex, and these elections should be based on expertise, not political party. Additionally, if passed, this bill could open the door for more partisanship in Nebraska’s historically nonpartisan local and state elections.
We value your input as we engage with the legislative process. If you would like to share your support, concerns, insights, or opposition by providing testimony in person, via letter, or by visiting with your senator, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402.687.2100 ext. 1032.
Below are the bills we are monitoring.
LB 865 (Bostelman) - Support: Last year, the Legislature established the Nebraska Broadband Office via LB 683. As part of the Nebraska Department of Transportation, the office is dedicated to bringing fast, reliable internet connectivity to homes and businesses throughout the state. LB 865 would seek to create accountability by requesting that internet providers submit an annual report to the Broadband Office detailing their advertised service plans and rates.
A hearing was held on Jan. 22 before the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.
LB 993 (Ibach) – Support: This legislation would create the Apprenticeship Grant Act and provide an avenue for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Next Step Program to receive training and education in skilled industries. The act would incentivize businesses that partner with registered apprenticeship programs and offer a full-time job with a livable wage to an apprentice upon program completion. Businesses can receive grants for up to 100 apprentices each year, with funds used for wages and tuition.
A hearing was held on Jan. 22 before the Business and Labor Committee.
LB 1389 (Bostar) – Support: This bill would provide a personal property tax exemption for broadband equipment installed in areas receiving funds from the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program. BEAD funds have been important for developing more widespread access to a reliable internet connection in rural areas throughout the state. This bill would assist with installing the infrastructure needed to continue bringing high speed internet in homes and businesses in Nebraska.
Referred to the Revenue Committee.
LB 952 (Day) - Support: This legislation would require the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to implement the federal Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer Program (EBT). Modeled after the Pandemic EBT program, which ended in March 2023, the Summer EBT program would provide additional food assistance to families with children who receive free or reduced school lunches while school is not in session. Families would receive a pre-loaded card with $120 per child to help buy food throughout the summer. An estimated 150,000 children throughout the state would be eligible. This bill was prioritized by Sen. Aguilar.
A hearing was held on Feb. 1 before the Health and Human Services Committee.
LB 1040 (Fredrickson) – Support: Last year, LB 524 created an income tax credit program for restaurants and grocery stores that donate food to food banks and pantries. LB 1040 would provide the funding for the tax credit. This bill will help individuals and families in need access food while incentivizing businesses to reduce waste.
Referred to the Revenue Committee.
LB 1062 (Ibach) - Support: LB 1062 would allow for tuition loan repayment of up to $30,000 per year, for three years, for veterinary school graduates who provide at least 50% of their services to livestock in rural areas of the state. Adequate veterinary care is vital to successful livestock production, which is the top industry in Nebraska. There has been a persistent shortage of veterinarians providing rural livestock services, and LB 1062 would be one mechanism to address this need.
A hearing was held on Jan. 24 before the Health and Human Services Committee.
LB 1116 (Ibach) - Support: This Center for Rural Affairs priority legislation would create a grant and loan program for small Nebraska-owned grocery and convenience stores in areas where access to fresh, healthy food is limited, with priority given to low- and moderate-income communities. Funds may be used for physical improvements to stores as well as professional services to expand or improve access to perishable or nutritious food. The economic need is greatest in rural communities, where local grocers provide an essential service to residents who would otherwise be forced to travel long distances to buy food. The Center provided testimony in person.
A hearing was held on Jan. 30 before the Agriculture Committee.
LB 1386 (Hansen) – Oppose: This bill would give parents of children attending private schools the option to apply for an educational savings account with the state. The state would then provide each private school student $1,500 per year. The estimated $40 million per year from state funds can be used for qualified education expenses like tuition, fees, and textbooks. While parents have the right to choose to send their children to a private school, public dollars should fund public, not private, education. Additionally, the legislation would be disadvantageous for rural students, who make up only about 3% of private school students throughout the state.
A hearing was held on Jan. 30 before the Education Committee.
LB 1402 (Linehan) – Oppose: Last year, the Legislature passed LB 753, which created a tax credit program for donations to scholarship granting organizations, which in turn provide tuition scholarships for primary and secondary school students. In November, voters will decide if this program will remain. LB 1402 would subvert voters’ decision if passed this year. This legislation is fundamentally the same as LB 753, but instead of providing tax credits for donors, the funds would be appropriated directly from the Nebraska Department of Education to scholarship granting organizations.
A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 6 before the Appropriations Committee.
LB 856 (Fredrickson) - Support: Safe, reliable child care is one of the highest priorities for families with young children, but the state is experiencing a shortage of workers. LB 856 would eliminate income limits on eligibility for the federal child care subsidy for parents who work at a licensed child care program for at least 20 hours per week. This bill was prioritized by Sen. Fredrickson.
A hearing was held on Jan. 26 before the Health and Human Services Committee.
LB 932 (Fredrickson) – Support: Throughout the state, there is a shortage of psychologists and therapists available to treat patients seeking mental health care. But the current system to approve recent graduates to obtain a provisional license to begin practicing is backlogged, and many providers who are qualified to begin seeing patients have to wait for approval from the Department of Health and Human Services. LB 932 would help address the need by expediting the provisional licensing process. It would also enable the provisional license number to transfer once the required practice hours are met to obtain a full medical license.
A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 7 before the Health and Human Services Committee.
LB 1015 (Walz) - Support: This legislation provides tuition loan repayment of up to $60,000 per year to dentists who have been practicing for less than five years, provide care to Medicaid patients, and practice in rural areas with dental care shortages. There are more than 340,000 people enrolled in Medicaid in Nebraska, with only 378 dental providers throughout the state. Most of these providers are concentrated in urban areas, and rural Medicaid patients face months on a waitlist and long drives to receive dental care.
A hearing was held on Jan. 24 before the Health and Human Services Committee.
LB 1035 (Hughes) - Support: This legislation would create a program for pharmacies to donate non-expired and safe medications to be made available to patients who have difficulty affording their prescriptions. Currently, prescriptions are destroyed when excess stock is no longer needed. LB 1035 has widespread bipartisan support, with 42 of the state’s 49 state senators co-sponsoring the legislation.
A hearing was held on Jan. 31 before the Health and Human Services Committee.
LB 1087 (Jacobson) - Support: Due to inflation and low Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates, some rural hospitals have eliminated or reduced essential services to remain open. LB 1087 would leverage federal funds to increase reimbursement rates, which could bring an additional $950 million to the state’s hospitals. The funds would help hospitals maintain quality care and keep costs down for patients with private insurance.
A hearing was held on Feb. 2 before the Health and Human Services Committee.
LB 541 (Lowe) – Oppose: This legislation would change the election of board members for OPPD and NPPD from nonpartisan to partisan. Decisions regarding power generation are complex, technological issues, not partisan issues, and therefore candidates for these positions should be considered based on their expertise, not their political affiliation. Additionally, this bill opens the door to extending partisanship to other state and local elections. This bill was prioritized by Sen. Lowe.
A hearing was held on March 15, 2023 before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. On Jan. 9, it was placed on general file. It advanced to select file on Jan. 31.
LB 956 (Bostar) – Support: This legislation would require the installation of aircraft detection lighting on wind turbines. It would lower light pollution by using light-mitigating technology to turn on only when aircraft are detected in the area.
A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 7 before the Natural Resources Committee.
LB 1234 (Wayne) – Support: This bill would direct $1 million to the Nebraska Department of Energy to provide financial assistance for weatherization to low-income households. This includes repairing or replacing insulation, windows and doors, and/or heating systems. Weatherization efforts reduce energy usage and therefore utility bills.
A hearing was held on Feb. 2 before the Appropriations Committee. The Center submitted a comment of support.
LB 1369 (Cavanaugh, J.) – Support: This bill would allow for energy produced by agriculture operations to connect to local distribution facilities.
A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 8 before the Natural Resources Committee.
LB 1370 (Bostelman) – Oppose: This bill requires any nuclear or fossil fuel energy plant to be replaced with a similar facility of equal or greater size. This bill does not take into consideration numerous factors that affect a utility’s resource planning and has the potential to result in higher energy bills for customers.
A hearing was held on Feb. 1 before the Natural Resources Committee. The Center submitted a comment of opposition.