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[Author: Mark Othmer, 07.17 | Keywords: Nebraska Field Notes]

The Beginning

The 2017 session of the Nebraska Unicameral began on January 4, 2017 with 17 newly elected senators. With the addition of these freshman senators, there were now 34 sitting senators with two years or less lawmaking experience. By one month into the session, Senator Kintner resigned under great pressure from his colleagues and was replaced by a Governor Ricketts’ appointed Senator, making it 35 senators with two years or less experience.

The freshman senators wasted no time exercising their influence on the Unicameral, linking up with several sitting senators to totally reconstruct the make-up of the standing committee chairmanships. A “Group of 27” was formed that placed their preferred colleagues in chairmanship positions, in some cases removing current chairs. In all instances, it was obvious that more conservative senators were placed at the head of all standing committees, much to the displeasure of the liberal senators. This set the stage for an extended battle over the rules of the legislature, which must be approved before any business can take place. After 30 days of stalemate, Speaker Scheer, showing his leadership, offered a motion to extend temporary rules from the previous session until day 50, which was accepted by the body. Once day 50 arrived the Unicameral, seeing that the session was moving along as needed, decided to make the temporary rules permanent for the remainder of this legislature.

Real Work Moves On

The biggest issues the lawmakers had to deal with this session were 1) the budget deficit for the current fiscal year which ended June 30, 2) a new balanced budget for fiscal years 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, and 3) property tax relief. The Governor stressed that he felt income tax relief should also be a major issue for this session. The session was successful on the first two items, closing the current fiscal year deficit and approving a balanced budget for the next two fiscal years. Unfortunately the last two items, property tax relief and income tax relief, both failed and will remain a priority for the next session.

Items of particular interest to INEDA members were the Right to Repair initiative offered by Senator Lydia Brasch in the form of LB 67, and a property tax exemption for rental machine inventory, offered by Senator Burke Harr in the form of LB 249. LB 67 was opposed by INEDA and LB 249 was supported.

LB 67

This bill was assigned to the Judiciary Committee since it had a penalty clause. Senator Chambers demanded that all bills with a penalty come through the Judiciary Committee and in this instance it was a very good thing for INEDA. During the hearing on this bill, which included excellent testimony from Nebraska dealers and AEM representatives, Senator Chambers often asked proponents for the bill why people from all over the United States were coming to Nebraska to testify. He mentioned it’s obvious this is a national issue and would be better addressed by Federal legislation. He also let everyone know that he felt the proponents were attempting to overpower the Nebraska legislature since they thought we are a “fly-over” state, and he wasn’t going to let that happen. At this point, the bill remains in the Judiciary Committee and will carry over to the next session for possible action.

LB 249

This bill is designed to allow an exemption from local property taxes for all rental business machinery. During the hearing on this bill there was quite a bit of discussion concerning the definition of rental business machinery, and that it needed to be narrowed down to what type of equipment and machinery would be included. The bill is currently in the Revenue Committee awaiting further action.

Nebraska Legislative Committee Meets

The Nebraska Legislative Committee met in York on June 22 to receive a report on the past session of the Unicameral and to make plans for the 2018 session. After lengthy discussion on LB 67, the committee recommended that INEDA continue to oppose the initiative and to work vigorously with the equipment manufacturers through their association
representatives (AEM) to develop meaningful informational resources to defend dealership and manufacturer positions on the right to repair issue. The committee also recommended that the manufacturers continue to work on a market based solution to the ability of third party repair facilities to obtain written repair information,
repair tools, and electronic service tools that would allow for the repair of equipment, while
not allowing the alteration of operations of
computer-controlled systems on machines.

LB 249 will continue to be supported by INEDA, who will follow the lead of the affected industry businesses that have promoted the change in property tax law. INEDA will also continue to study the cause and effect of the issue to determine how many dealer businesses are affected by this proposed change.

The committee also recommended that INEDA arrange a fundraising event for U.S. Senator Deb Fischer’s re-election campaign. Watch the Round-Up eNewsletter for more information on this upcoming event.


About the Author

Mark Othmer

For nearly 20 years, Mark has traveled across Nebraska calling on members. A “regular” at the State Capitol, Mark keeps his finger on the pulse of legislative issues affecting members. When he’s not driving across Nebraska, Mark can be found golfing, cheering on the Nebraska Cornhuskers and spending lazy afternoons at the family farm.