Straight Talk From Steve
May 26, 2021
The first session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature is quickly coming to an end. The Legislature will sine die on May 27, 2021. Although my constitutional resolution for a consumption tax failed by two votes, some good things happened in the State Legislature this year. So, today I would like to highlight some of the good bills that passed this year.
One good bill is by Sen. Tom Brewer. LB 387 exempts military retirement pay from the State Income Tax. Hopefully, this bill will attract retired military personnel to retire in Nebraska, instead of moving to more tax friendly states.
A somewhat similar bill is LB 64 by Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha. This bill gradually exempts Social Security income from the State Income Tax. Hopefully, this bill will attract more retired persons to stay in Nebraska instead of moving to more tax friendly states.
LB 388 by Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson is a bill which creates the Nebraska Broadband Bridge Act within the Public Service Commission. The bill provides $20 million in grant money to increase high speed broadband Internet service across the state. The bill prioritizes areas with no high speed broadband service and in areas that are underserved.
LB 92 by Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood is a bill which grants residency status to home-school students wishing to attend college in Nebraska. Currently, Nebraska State law treats home-school students as non-residents. This bill fixes that problem so that home-school students will be treated the same as public school and private school students when applying to a college or university in Nebraska.
LB 40 by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte creates the Nebraska Rural Projects Act which provides state matching grants up to $10 million for the development of industrial rail access business parks in communities with less than 100,000 residents. Because Nebraska’s rural communities have been declining in population, this bill will incentivize growth in some of our rural areas.
LB 487 prohibits medical insurance companies from charging higher rates for using telehealth or tele-monitoring systems for accessing mental healthcare. The bill requires medical insurance companies to charge the same rate as comparable treatment in person.
Because many rural Nebraskans lack easy access to mental healthcare services, telehealth and tele-monitoring services provide rural folks with a convenient way to access these kinds of services, and price gouging should not be allowed.
On Wednesday the Legislature will hear a motion to suspend Rule 3 of Section 20(d) of the Legislature’s Rules in order to remove LR 14 from being indefinitely postponed. LR 14 is a resolution by Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings to call for a Convention of the States. If successful, the motion will send LR 14 back to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee, where it will be laid over until next year. This would also give the option to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs committee to advance the bill out of committee and onto General File sometime next year.
Finally, I would like to encourage high school students who are interested in government, politics, debate, public speaking, or law to apply for the Unicameral Youth Legislature, which will be held June 13-16 at the State Capitol in Lincoln. Students learn about the inner workings of the Unicameral Legislature from Senators and staffers and participate in a mock Legislature.
For more information and to apply, please visit the website at: https://www.nebraskalegislature.gov/education/unicamyouth.php. Scholarships are available. The deadline to apply is May 28, 2021.