Legislative Update 2/8/19

FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER

Current temperature in Lincoln is 1 degree but things in the Legislature continue to heat up with long hearings, readings on the floor from controversial emails, and more long hearings. On Monday the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee took testimony on broadband-related bills through 7:30 p.m., and the Business and Labor Committee heard testimony on employment and paid leave legislation past 8 p.m. Yesterday, the Judiciary Committee accepted testimony on LGBT-related bills past 9 p.m. Thankfully, this week is the last five-day week of the session, and there is a four-day weekend in sight for President’s Day (for senators and their staff – not for hard-working lobbyists).

More and more bills are being set for hearing, and some are even progressing their way through the first stages of debate. Click on the link below to check the status of all of the bills of interest. Note those that have had status changes this week will be in bold print.

CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST.

On Tuesday, the Ag Committee held its hearing on LB 344, which was introduced at the request of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, to strengthen and enhance the Department’s legislative authority to protect the health of Nebraska’s livestock. The bill amends current provisions through the incorporation of authorities from otherwise outdated animal disease-specific acts, such as bovine tuberculosis, pseudorabies, and brucellosis. This bill repeals outdated disease-specific acts; updates veterinary medical provisions; and provides for the assessment of administrative fines for violators. The bill expressly requires the Department to follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s animal disease control and eradication rules and guidelines and provides for greater consistency between the Department’s interstate movement requirements and those set forth by USDA.

Department of Ag Director Steve Wellman was the only witness testifying on the bill. He posited that the bill protects producers, consumers, and livestock health in an effective, efficient manner. He provided the committee with a section-by-section summary of the bill. While no groups provided testimony on the bill, we understand that the Nebraska Cattlemen support the bill, while the Nebraska Pork Producers have requested the committee hold the bill to provide for greater stakeholder information and input.

On Wednesday, the Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing yesterday on Senator Kolterman’s bill to expand telehealth and allow the creation of a client-patient relationship via telehealth. After a discussion at the NVMA’s Legislation Committee, it was decided to request that Veterinarians not be included in the provisions of the bill as originally introduced. At the hearing Senator Kolterman presented the committee with a proposed amendment that would remove Veterinarians from the bill – and noted his support of such a change. The NVMA submitted a letter in support of the amendment, explaining the need for the change. The letter submitted to the committee by NVMA Legislation Committee Chair stated:

“The NVMA notes for this Committee that the Board of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery is reviewing the use of telehealth by veterinarians and how veterinarians can establish a veterinary-client-patient relationship. Senator Kolterman’s proposed amendment [removing veterinarians from the present expansion] would allow time for the Board of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery’s consideration of this unique relationship to proceed.”

Coming up next week, the Revenue Committee will be considering a trio of bills designed to raise state revenues by removing current exemptions. Of note for the NVMA, two of these three bills seek to remove the sales tax exemption on pet-related veterinary services. The NVMA opposes this change and will be present at the hearing to register our opposition.

Stay warm out there,

Katie and Michelle