Nebraska Legislative Update - June 1, 2023


“The salvation of the state is in the watchfulness of the citizen.” —Hartley Burr Alexander

The Nebraska Legislature adjourned its 2023 session on Thursday, June 1. Although a session-long filibuster severely limited the number of bills debated, the Center for Rural Affairs’ priority legislation was passed and signed into law after being amended onto other related bills. 

Legislative Bill (LB 740) was added to LB 562 via AM 1563. LB 562 passed on final reading on May 30 and was signed by the governor on June 1. This legislation will modernize and improve the process used to inspect and permit food trucks in Nebraska. The Center would like to thank Sens. Tony Vargas and Ray Aguilar for their commitment to eliminating red tape for small businesses and Sen. Myron Dorn for supporting the amendment to LB 562. If you’d like to send a note of thanks, you can find their information here.

On June 1, LB 227 was passed on final reading, which included provisions of LB 84 and LB 586. Both bills were added to LB 227 via amendments AM 1488 and AM 1486, respectively. LB 84 will extend the sunset of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program's (SNAP) income eligibility requirements and allow thousands of Nebraskans, many of which are families with children, to continue to have access to more affordable food. LB 586 will establish more clinical nursing training sites throughout Nebraska, with a focus on areas that have the lowest rate of registered nurses.

Also passed on June 1 was LB 531, which LB 45 was added to via AM 1880. This legislation will create the Revitalize Rural Nebraska Grant Fund. The fund will provide $10 million a year for communities to demolish dilapidated buildings, with towns with populations less than 5,000 being prioritized. Remaining funds will be made available to towns with populations above 5,000 and less than 100,000.

LB 256, which will require insurance companies to reimburse telehealth services comparably to in-person appointments, was added to LB 296 via AM 1179. It was signed by the governor on April 25.

Access to telehealth will give rural Nebraskans with insurance the ability to have doctors appointments in their own homes instead of driving, sometimes hours, to the nearest health care clinic. However, reliable internet is a barrier to receiving this care. Accessing telehealth services is one of the many reasons more investment in broadband development is needed in the state. To address this need, the Legislature passed LB 683. This bill will create the Nebraska Broadband Office, which will be dedicated to strategic planning, development, and implementation of broadband infrastructure throughout the state. LB 683 was signed by the governor on May 26.

On May 24, Gov. Jim Pillen released line item vetoes from the budget appropriations bills—LB 814 and LB 818. Among the $140 million in funding vetoed by the governor was $20 million to the Rural Workforce Housing Fund. This program has invested in rural communities throughout Nebraska to build more affordable housing to attract or keep workers. An attempt to override the governor’s veto failed on May 31.

We offer our thanks to our supporters who participated in the legislative process this session, especially those who traveled to Lincoln and provided testimony at the committee hearings. Directly engaging on a bill helps show senators that Nebraskans care about an issue. You made a difference.

Please do not hesitate to contact me at or 402.687.2100, ext. 1032 if you have questions about these bills.

Feature photos:  Top: Center Policy Director Johnathan Hladik congratulates Sen. Tony Vargas after Gov. Jim Pillen signed LB 562 into law on June 1. Bottom: Sen. Vargas speaks during the bill signing ceremony as some of his fellow state senators and other supporters look on. 

Food and agriculture

LB 84 (Day) – Support: In 2021, the Legislature addressed the “cliff effect” by amending the threshold used to determine eligibility under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from 130% of the federal poverty level (FPL) to 165%. Without action, this change will expire on Sept. 30. This would result in a family of three earning more than $29,000 annually losing these benefits during a time when inflation is impacting every aspect of life and particularly groceries. LB 84 would keep the income eligibility for SNAP benefits at 165% of FPL. 

Final status:  Passed on final reading as part of LB 227 on June 1 with a sunset date of Sept. 30, 2025 and awaiting signature of governor.

LB 321 (Brandt) – Support: This bill would expand the cottage food law to include refrigerated baked goods and other temperature-sensitive foods. Small, food-based businesses create economic development opportunities in rural Nebraska, and LB 321 can help reduce many of the regulatory burdens facing these entrepreneurs. In order to ensure food safety, it is important for bill sponsors to work with local retailers and public health officials before and after this hearing to strike an appropriate balance. AM 483 was filed to provide clarification on which foods are excluded from cottage food sales.

Final status: Placed on general file.

LB 662 (Ballard) – Oppose: This bill would significantly weaken nuisance law in and around rural communities. As proposed, it would prohibit any individual from filing a nuisance claim in response to air or water pollution unless that person lives within one-half mile of the source of pollution, owns a majority interest in land affected by the pollution, and the farming operation causing the pollution has “materially violated a federal, state, or local law.” A neighboring resident would also only be able to file a lawsuit within one year of the agriculture operation beginning, rather than within two years as in the current law. Renters and those living more than a half- mile away who may be impacted would not be able to file a nuisance lawsuit.

Final status: Referred to the Agriculture Committee.

LB 740 (Vargas) – Support: This Center for Rural Affairs legislation would modernize and improve the process used to inspect and permit mobile food units (food trucks) in Nebraska. Currently, regulations for mobile food units can vary widely between health departments, counties, and municipalities. Furthermore, if a mobile food unit has met all licensing requirements in one of these political subdivisions, that license will not be recognized if it travels outside of that jurisdiction. The bill encourages the use of reciprocity agreements between organizations with authority to issue permits so mobile food unit operators can more readily take advantage of their portable nature. It also requires the Department of Agriculture to maintain a registry containing information about local ordinances and forms the operators will need to complete to operate in each municipality that regulates mobile food units. LB 740 was amended to LB 562 with AM 1563 and passed on May 30. 

Final status: Signed into law by the governor on June 1.

Health and safety

LB 62 (Cavanaugh, M.) – Support:  LB 62 would provide Medicaid coverage for all necessary translation and interpretation services for eligible recipients using a medical assistance program. Medicaid providers and patients in rural clinics have struggled with giving and receiving care due to a lack of available translation services. These services include, but are not limited to, laboratory, clinic, physician, pregnancy-related, and mental health.

Final status: Referred to the Health and Human Services Committee.

LB 108 (McDonnell) – Support: This bill would create two programs for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC). One would distribute $200,000 to FQHCs to develop or expand behavioral health care services. The other program would create a grant program for FQHCs to make capital improvements to their facilities and to invest in their workforce. In rural communities, where access to healthcare services is limited, FQHCs are often the only or most affordable option. The programs LB 108 would implement would go toward enhancing the quality of care for individuals and families living in rural areas. 

Final status: Referred to the Appropriations Committee.

LB 256 (Brewer) – Support: LB 256 would require insurance companies to reimburse telehealth services at a comparable rate to in-person health care services. In rural communities, where medical clinics are not always readily accessible, telehealth is a way to receive health care services for issues not requiring immediate medical attention. Telehealth services are not consistently covered by health insurance companies and plans. AM 681 was filed to specify that only health care providers who also practice at physical locations in Nebraska are eligible for comparable telehealth reimbursement. 

Final status: Signed into law by the governor on April 21 as part of LB 296.

LB 503 (Aguilar) – Support: The bill would establish the Rural Nebraska Nursing Workforce Act, a scholarship fund to train and educate nurses. With a majority of Nebraska’s 93 counties having been deemed medically-underserved and 13 counties having one or no registered nurses, Nebraska is projected to face a shortage of more than 5,000 nurses by 2025. This bill would expand clinical opportunities for nursing students enrolled in accelerated nursing programs. Nurses receiving this scholarship would agree to work for three years in Nebraska upon completion of their nursing program.

Final status: Referred to the Health and Human Services Committee.

LB 586 (Hughes) – Support: This bill would appropriate $3 million in 2023-24 and $7 million in 2024-25 to expand clinical training sites throughout Nebraska. Areas that now have fewer registered nurses, as compared to the state average, will be given priority for these funds. Currently, it can be difficult to find in-person clinical training opportunities outside Nebraska’s bigger cities. This bill will incentivize nurses to obtain certification to teach clinical components of education courses in rural areas, thus expanding clinical opportunities for students and continuing education for nurses throughout the state. 

Final status:  Passed on final reading as part of LB 227 on June 1 and awaiting the governor’s signature.


LB 320 (Brandt) – Support: This bill would change property valuations only within the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA ) equalization aid formula. Under the proposal, agricultural and horticultural land would be valued at 42% rather than 72% of its market value while other real property, mainly residential and commercial, would be valued at 86% rather than the current 96% of market value.This change within the TEEOSA formula would increase equalization aid for schools which would allow schools to lower their property tax request. This bill would also create the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act Trust Fund, which would provide up to 10% of basic funding to each local school district. 

Final status: Referred to the Education Committee.

LB 753 (Linehan) – Oppose: This bill, prioritized by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, would create a new income tax credit for any individual or corporation that donates to a private school scholarship fund. At least $25 million of taxpayer money would be made available for this purpose every year. This would be especially disadvantageous for rural students in Nebraska - rural students make up only about 3% of private school students throughout the state and residents in 48 of Nebraska’s 93 counties do not have private schools as an option to enroll their children. 

Final status: Signed into law by the governor on May 30.

Economic development

LB 45 (Dorn) – Support: LB 45 establishes the Revitalize Rural Nebraska Grant Fund, which would provide funds for communities to demolish dilapidated buildings. Second class cities (cities with a population greater than 800, but less than 5,000) and villages (communities with a population of less than 800) applying for these funds are prioritized; remaining funds are made available to first class cities (cities with a population greater than 5,000 and less than 100,000). If there are excess funds left at the end of the year, they will roll over to the Revitalize Rural Nebraska Grant Fund for the next fiscal year. LB 45 appropriates $10 million annually to be transferred from the General Fund to the Revitalize Rural Nebraska Fund, which will be overseen by the Department of Environment and Energy.

Final status: Passed on final reading as part of LB 531 on June 1 and awaiting the governor’s signature.

LB 349 (Wayne) – Support: This bill would increase grant funds available for each of the Business Innovation Act’s five programs which accelerate business development across the state. One of these programs is the Microenterprise Assistance Program, which allows organizations, such as the Center, to provide technical assistance and loans to entrepreneurs who are unable to secure bank financing due to a lack of collateral, credit obstacles, or a local bank’s inability to fund business startups. An increase to $9 million annually, from $3 million, will give more small businesses the opportunities to grow and invest in their operations.

Final status: Referred to the Appropriations Committee.

LB 515 (Walz) – Support: The Rural Economic Development Initiative Act would establish a grant program to help economic development organizations expand services in rural areas. Funds would be prioritized for counties with a population less than 50,000, second-class cities (cities with a population greater than 800, but less than 5,000), and villages (communities with a population of less than 800). To qualify, an employee hired with funding from this program must be engaged in business development, housing improvement, workforce retention, and relocation assistance.

Final status: Referred to the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee.

LB 683 (Transportation and Telecommunications Committee) – Support: This bill establishes the Nebraska Broadband Office as part of the Nebraska Department of Transportation The department would be overseen by the Director of Broadband, who would be appointed by the governor. The office would collaborate at all levels of the government to develop a strategic plan relating to broadband planning, including the building of infrastructure, maintenance, coordination of programs for broadband users, and disseminating information to the public. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee prioritized this bill, which was placed on general file with AM 870 on March 16. AM 870 provided clarity for how the funds would be used to establish an office, stated that state and federal highway funds may be used for technology infrastructure along state-owned highways, added the requirement of an annual report on broadband status by the Office, and gives precedence to any broadband projects that are appealed to any district court.

Final status: Signed into law by the governor on May 30.

Energy and environment

LB 255 (Brewer) – Oppose:  This bill would change eminent domain and renewable energy generation provisions relating to certain power suppliers. While prohibiting the use of eminent domain to construct energy generation facilities is reasonable, this bill mistakenly limits this prohibition to renewable energy facilities only. The bill could be improved by extending this prohibition to all generation facilities. The bill also discourages public power utilities from investing in renewable energy. This is to the detriment of Nebraska's ratepayers, who currently benefit from the low-cost renewable energy produced in this state. Finally, the bill also prohibits public power utilities from participating in community-based energy development projects. C-BED projects are a way for communities and landowners to share in the profits of renewable energy development. Prohibiting local utilities from taking part in these agreements diminishes their chance for success.

Final status: Referred to the Natural Resources Committee.

LB 399 (Brewer) – Oppose: This legislation would change the approval requirements for privately developed renewable energy generation facilities. Under this proposal, the owner of the planned facility must file an application with the Nebraska Power Review Board, go through a public hearing process, and receive approval from the Board in order to construct the generation facility. The Power Review Board is an unelected body appointed by the governor. We believe siting decisions should be made at the local level by individuals accountable to local voters.

Final status: Referred to the Natural Resources Committee.

LB 560 (Blood) – Support: This bill would use funds from the Inflation Reduction Act to increase energy efficiency in homes and businesses, upgrade utility infrastructure, support electric vehicle infrastructure, support drought-resistant agricultural practices, and create jobs and stimulate the economy.

Final status: Referred to the Natural Resources Committee.

LB 566 (Bostelman) – Neutral: This bill would appropriate $30,000 to conduct a study on the economic impact of renewable energy, evaluate the risks of replacing baseload generation with renewable energy, and evaluate the economic benefits of maintaining coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy. We will encourage lawmakers to consider a Value of Solar study to better understand solar's economic impact. These studies can more accurately show that privately generated solar offers numerous benefits to utilities and the grid, such as providing greater electrical reliability and reducing energy demand during peak hours.

Final status: Placed on general file.