Constituents’ impact evident as session ends

Nebraska’s 2019 legislative session closed with the last day of May, adjourning five days early. This early adjournment was met with contention as a substantive solution to the state’s reliance on property tax to fund K-12 education was again left unresolved. Just days into the interim, discussions are already underway to develop a compromise property tax relief and business incentive package for the 2020 session.

Among the gains of the session was the passage of the $9.3 billion biennial budget, with full appropriation for the expansion of Medicaid. However, the funding for expansion will only cover nine months of implementation, beginning in October 2020, due to actions taken by the administration to delay the start date of coverage. The budget also included a $51 million increase for the state’s property tax credit fund and an increase in rates for Medicaid and behavioral health providers.

Center constituents played an important role in the passage of a number of bills this session—taking time to call and email senators, author letters to the editor, and offer testimony before legislative committees.

• Nebraska’s cottage food law was amended, expanding entrepreneurial opportunities for homemade food producers who are now able to sell their goods directly from their homes and by delivery. The stories shared by Center supporters and members of the Nebraska Food Council helped compel senators to pass this legislation.

• Beginning in 2021, an additional $4 million will be re-appropriated to the Business Innovation Act following the termination of the underutilized program. The Business Innovation Act is a key funding source for our Rural Enterprise Assistance Project clients and programming.

• Following a series of negotiations and amendments, the state’s Right to Farm Act was revised, while maintaining critical property rights protections for landowners and farmers. Calls made by constituents during this debate directly impacted the outcome of this legislation.

• A Healthy Soils Task Force was created, providing a venue to establish goals and timelines for improved soil health practices and conditions across the state.

• The Beginning Farmer Tax Credit, a legacy policy of the Center’s, was preserved. Statute was aligned with current practices, allowing for the rental of multiple assets for both the beginning farmer and property owner and increased program utilization.

Although the session has come to an end, our efforts to advocate for sound policy that protects and promotes the well-being of rural residents and their communities carry on. If you have a policy idea or recommendation, would like assistance sharing your position with a state senator or the media, or have an interest in hosting a community conversation to discuss policy that matters to you, please give us a call or send us an email. We are already preparing for the 2020 session.

Pictured: Mariel Barreras testifies in support of the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit in January. | Photo by Cody Smith