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Nebraska Cattlemen’s Board of Directors select three bills as priorities

January 29, 2019

SCOTTSBLUFF — Nebraska Cattlemen’s Board of Directors have considered and taken positions on more then 90 bills this legislative session; however, three of those bills have arisen as priorities.

“We had a great discussion this year on numerous bills and issues that we face as an industry,” Ken Herz, chairman of Nebraska Cattlemen’s Legislative Committee said in a press release. “As in years past, property tax relief is at the top of the list and something our organization continues to be passionate about.

“We will continue to work diligently with the legislature and Gov. Pete Ricketts to help fix this issue for all Nebraskans and encourage action to implementing a definitive plan,” he said.

The first bill on NC’s list, LB 497, or the School District Property Tax Authority Act, was introduced by State Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson. It contains many provisions to address “inequity in school funding statewide” and “the over-reliance on property tax dollars.”

Currently, only 69 of Nebraska’s 244 school districts — most of which are in urban areas — receive aid through the state’s school funding formula. This leaves rural districts more dependent on local property tax revenue to keep school doors open. LB 497 would close some sales tax exemptions, increase cigarette and alcohol taxes, and eliminate the personal property tax exemption. Other new revenue for schools would come from collecting sales taxes already owed on internet purchases. Friesen’s proposal would also make a one-time allocation of $150 million to help replenish the state’s cash reserve fund on or before June 30, 2020.

The bill would guarantee every public school receives state support equal to 50 percent of its basic education funding needs, while ensuring the additional state aid is used to replace local property taxes.

LB 497 was introduced on Jan. 22 and has been referred to the Revenue Committee. A hearing for the bill has not yet been scheduled.

LB 227, introduced by State Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango, amends the Nebraska Right to Farm Act to strengthen existing nuisance protections for Nebraska agriculture operations. It adds new terminology regarding changes to agricultural operations while still following all local zoning laws and regulatory permitting requirements.

LB 227 was introduced on Jan. 14 and has been referred to the Agriculture Committee. A hearing for the bill has not yet been scheduled.

The final bill that the Cattlemen put their support behind is LB 660 by State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon. LB 660 would change the provisions relating to the executive director and chief investigator of the Nebraska Brand Committee.

Currently, the executive director of the brand committee is required to wear two hats as a law enforcement-certified officer, and as the chief investigator. LB 660 repeals the requirement that the executive director be law enforcement-certified and creates a new separate position for chief investigator.

“The people you’re looking for to fill the position of the executive director of the brand committee aren’t cops, they’re ranchers,” Tony Baker, Brewer’s legislative aide, said. “The aim is to make that job rancher-friendly so that we have a much wider pool of potential applicants to choose from when that position comes vacant. That way you’re not limiting yourself to just the people who go through (the law enforcement academy) in Grand Island.”

According to a press release, Nebraska Cattlemen said it has worked with the Nebraska Brand Committee to clarify duties of staff in the best interest of the Nebraska cattle industry.

LB 660 was introduced on Jan. 23 and was referred to the Agriculture Committee on Jan. 25.

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