legislation

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    Tax receipts fall short. see more

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER

    Happy Friday from (still snowy) Lincoln, where the Legislature is beginning a much-needed four-day recess. It was another week of morning debate followed by afternoon hearings, some of which stretched into the evening. The Appropriations Committee continues work on its preliminary budget, which is required to report to the Legislature by Day 30 (next Friday). The Department of Revenue reported state tax receipts fell short of expectations for a fourth straight month, taking in $32 million less than anticipated in January. Appropriations Chairman Stinner estimates actual receipts are running about $80 million less than the October forecast, adding pressure to the budget process.

    NVMA Opposes Taxing Veterinary Services 

    The Revenue Committee spent nine-plus hours together on Valentine’s Day in a very crowded hearing room, hearing testimony on three property tax relief proposals. While ag groups showed their love for these bills, the new taxes proposed by these bills were opposed by a wide-ranging and long list of testifiers, from beer brewers to business groups. The NVMA testified against taxing pet-related and veterinary services, opposing LB314 (Briese - Adopt the Remote Seller Sales Tax Collection Act and change revenue and taxation provisions) and LB497 (Friesen - Adopt the School District Property Tax Authority Act and change revenue and taxation provisions). The committee was receptive to NVMA’s concern that taxing both pet-related and livestock veterinary services could actually be taxing business services. There were far more opponents than those supporting either bill, but the committee is certainly looking for new income options, so the committee’s action on the bill is hard to predict.

    HHS Bills Advanced

    The Health and Human Services Committee advanced LB29, Senator Kolterman’s bill to clarify law relating to when provider-patient relationships may be established through telehealth and when prescriptions can be made via telehealth. The bill applies to a number of credential holders under the Uniform Credentialing Act. The bill as introduced included veterinarians, but NVMA requested to have veterinarians excluded from the bill. The committee advanced the bill with an amendment to do just that. 

    The committee also advanced Senator Howard’s LB112. It provides that all fees for initial credentials under the Uniform Credentialing Act for low-income individuals, military families, and young workers shall be waived.

    Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Bills

    LB557 (Lindstrom) Change provisions relating to prescriptions for controlled substances

    The Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony this week on LB557, which was introduced at the request of the Nebraska Medical Association to clarify health care provider duties related to opioid prescribing. The bill amends duties put into law last year related to patient advisements about opioid risks and prescription limitations for young patients. The bill, as introduced, included “veterinarian” in its overly expansive definition of “practitioner.” We worked with Senator Lindstrom, who offered an amendment to remove “veterinarian” from the bill.

    LB556 (Howard) Change provisions relating to the prescription drug monitoring program

    The Health and Human Services Committee also heard testimony on LB556, and hearing coverage was provided in the Unicameral Update:

    The Health and Human Services Committee considered a bill Feb. 13 that would make several changes to a state program designed to combat opioid addiction.

    LB556, introduced by Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha, would amend the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to do the following:

    • allow for interstate data sharing with other state prescription drug monitoring programs;

    • allow for highly regulated sharing of de-identified prescription data for research

    purposes;

    • add requirements for prescription and identifying data to be collected to aid in patient

    matching and medication reconciliation;

    • give non-statutory flexibility to the state Department of Health and Human Services in

    collaboration with the PDMP in altering data collection provisions; and

    • allow Medicaid managed care organizations and Nebraska Medicaid officials access to

    the PDMP.

    The bill contains an emergency clause and would take effect immediately upon passage.

    Howard said every state except Missouri has a prescription drug monitoring program, but Nebraska’s is one of the few that does not communicate with programs elsewhere.

    “They’re most effective when they’re talking to each other,” Howard said.

    Kevin Borcher, director of the state PDMP, spoke in support of the bill. In 2018, the program collected 31 million prescription records, Borcher said, making it the most comprehensive database in the country. Although successful, he said, the program needs improvement.

    “LB556 helps to align the Nebraska PDMP with federal policy and increases the capabilities of the PDMP,” Borcher said.

    Alex Dworak testified in favor of the bill on behalf of the Nebraska Medical Association. He said it would improve patient outcomes and cut down on time spent searching records. Dworak, who practices in Omaha, said he has access to Iowa’s PDMP but accessing it requires time that could be better spent with patients.

    “Patients are mobile, and for those of us practicing along the borders of our state, it can be very difficult to know what our patients are getting [in other states],” Dworak said.

    No one testified against the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

    As always, your chart of bills that we are tracking on your behalf is linked. Bills that had any changes this week are noted in bold.

    CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST.

    Happy Presidents Day—we will be celebrating!

    Michelle (mom of Eliza WASHINGTON, Silas LINCOLN, and Sloane MONROE) and Katie (who could see Mt. Rushmore from her house in Ainsworth).

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    Action heats up. see more

    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

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    New spending discouraged. see more

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER

    This week the Legislature moved 23 bills from General File (the first of three stages of floor consideration) and even 8 bills through Select File (the second stage of debate). Committees continued hearings and took action to advance more bills. The Unicameral is 17 legislative days into the 90-day session with much of its work ahead. This morning Appropriations Chairman John Stinner shared with his colleagues that he expects there to be no money left over from the budget for Senators to use on new spending measures. Speaker Jim Scheer encouraged members to consider priority bill designations in light of our fiscal situation; he will hold all bills with a negative fiscal impact on Final Reading until the budget is adopted. He cautioned, “If you are interested in having a priority bill that passes this session, I would suggest you designate a bill which does not carry a general fund impact.” Speaker Scheer also reaffirmed how he will be handing procedural motions under the rules. He will entertain cloture motions to end a filibuster after 6 hours of debate on General File, 3 hours of debate on Select File, and 90 minutes of debate on Final Reading, unless he discerns, in consultation with the introducer and main opponents of the bill, that full and fair debate has occurred sooner. He will also follow his practice of the “3 hour rule,” limiting debate to 3 hours for bills which will require a cloture motion to stop debate. After the initial 3 hours, he will place a “Speaker’s hold” on the bill and only reschedule the bill if the introducer provides a vote count indicating a cloture motion would be successful.

    We continue to track the status of all bills of interest. Please let us know if you have questions on any of these measures.

    CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST

    Among the bills that are progressing through the Legislative process is the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association legislation, LB 61. Senator Halloran, Chair of the Agriculture Committee, introduced LB 61 at the request of the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to adopt updated rabies vaccinations standards according to Compendium of Animal Rabies and Control. There will be two more stages of voting on the bill, but with no opposition to the bill in committee or through the first round of “debate” we are hopeful the bill will continue to sail.

    Happy weekend,

    Michelle and Katie

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    Rabies update legislation moves forward. see more

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER

    Good news to report from Lincoln – the Nebraska Legislature adopted their rules in two days. Two years ago, our office sent weeks and weeks of reports that noted the rules had not been adopted and debate could not progress. This legislative body’s willingness to proceed is a great reminder that we have a new body with a new approach toward legislating.

    The first bills of the session have already been advanced out of committees and starting today, are being debated on the floor. It’s a good thing debate is underway because the Legislature has a lot of work in front of it with 749 bills being introduced – the most bills introduced in a single year since 2005. Great news for the NVMA, the Agriculture Committee has already advanced LB 61, the bill that allows the Department of Health and Human Services to adopt updated rabies vaccinations standards according to Compendium of Animal Rabies and Control. This quick advancement of the bill will help ensure the bill can be addressed on the floor of the Legislature early this session. Thanks to the co-chair of the Legislation Committee, Dr. Bruce Brodersen of Lincoln who came to testify in support of the bill on behalf of the NVMA.

    Out of these 749 bills, we selected a number that impact the practice of veterinary medicine and reviewed those bills with the NVMA Legislation Committee on Wednesday evening. These bills are summarized in the attached chart with links to the text of the legislation and the position the committee took (if any) on each of the bills. The chart also notes what committee the bills have been assigned to and if a hearing date has been set. 

    CLICK HERE TO REVIEW BILLS OF INTEREST

    Tuesday marked the first day of committee hearings, and as noted above, LB 61, the NVMA rabies update legislation was the first bill heard on the first day of Ag Committee hearings. Besides rabies, other committees are also taking on big topics in their first week of work, including medical marijuana and increased income taxes on high income earners. 

    We look forward to reporting to you next week on the advancement of NVMA Legislation, LB 61 and other hearings of interest.

    Enjoy the weekend,

    Katie and Michelle

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Bill introduction continues. see more

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER

    We recovered from the Inaugural Ball and dug ourselves out from the snow in time for a very full week at the Nebraska Legislature:

    Bill Introduction

    Bill introduction continues, with only two days left to introduce bills. The link below contains summaries of all of the bills we have flagged as being of interest to you. Please review carefully as hearings and movement on these bills will start very soon.

    Click here to review the bills of interest. 

    Rabies Bill Hearing

    The Agriculture Committee will meet at 1:30 next Tuesday, January 22, to hear LB 61, the bill Senator Steve Halloran of Hastings introduced on behalf of NVMA to better align Nebraska law with current scientific recommendations for rabies management. Dr. Bruce Brodersen is set to testify for NVMA in support of the bill. The Department of Health and Human Services and Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department are also expected to support the bill.

    ´╗┐State of the State

    Governor Ricketts delivered his state of the state address on Tuesday, where he unveiled his legislative priorities for the session:

    • Property tax relief
    • The Governor recommended increasing the property tax credit program by $51 million per year and setting a floor for the fund at $275 million annually.
    • On behalf of the Governor, new Revenue Chair Lou Ann Linehan proposed a constitutional amendment that if approved by the Legislature and then Nebraska voters would impose a 3% limit on increases in property tax dollars collected by local governments.
    • Workforce development
    • He recommended creation of the Nebraska Talent Scholarship Program to help higher ed institutions attract more students to targeted programs.
    • The Governor also proposed expanding the Developing Youth Talent Initiative with an additional $1.25 million annually.
    • Reform business incentives
    • The Governor encouraged the Legislature to deliver incentives that are simple, transparent, and accountable and that attract higher-paying jobs.
    • He noted, “Across the nation, incentives are an important tool for attracting and new investments and jobs.”
    •  All while adding no new taxes

    Budget

    Also on Tuesday the Governor released his budget recommendations. Unfortunately, that same day it was announced that state tax collections in December fell below projections for the third month a row. This downward trend does not tell the full story of receipts for the first half of the fiscal year, which are down only 0.1% ($3.2 million) below projections. The Governor’s two-year proposed budget of $9.3 billion has average spending growth of 3.1% annually. Highlights include:

    • Increased funding for state aid to schools, adding nearly $104 million, bringing TEEOSA School Aid to a record $1.1 billion.
    • A boost to higher education with increases to the University, state college, and community college systems.  
    • Full funding for voter-approved Medicaid expansion.
    • New funding to address prison overcrowding by building two high-security units at the Lincoln Correctional Center. The 384-bed addition would cost $49 million and allow the state to meet a July 2020 deadline to reduce overcrowding to under 140 percent of capacity.

    Proposed Rule Changes

    The Legislature’s Rules Committee heard testimony and discussed 16 proposed rule changes on topics ranging from committee structure to racial impact statements. Rules debate will begin next Tuesday. The last times the rules were debated on the floor it took 30 days to find a solution. The three (relatively non-controversial) proposals advanced by the committee are likely to bring less controversy, but Senators can bring up any proposals when the rules are debated on the floor. One rule change that was advanced could impact the flow of legislative priorities—how much time is required for a filibuster:

    • More time was proposed, but the committee settled on putting into rule: six hours of debate for the first round, three hours for second, and 90 minutes for final. (That's the practice Speaker Jim Scheer has been following for two years, initially allowing about three hours of debate on controversial bills and then allowing three more if a Senator can show he or she has the support to force a vote.)

    Committee hearings begin next week; we will be in touch regarding the scheduling of bills of interest. Have a great weekend—stay warm!

    Michelle & Katie

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    Twelve of 49 state senators will be new. see more

    A recap of the November 6, 2018 election from the NVMA lobbying firm of Zulkoski-Weber:

    Happy post-election day! Nebraska’s legislative race results are now available on our website, along with information about the candidates: 

    ZULKOSKI WEBER LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATES WEBPAGE 

    Following yesterday's election, 12 of the body's 49 Senators will be brand new when the Legislature convenes on January 9, 2019. Ten new senators were elected. Senator Dan Watermeier narrowly won election to the Public Service Commission, and Senator John Murante was elected State Treasurer; the Governor will make appointments to fill these two legislative vacancies. Thirty Senators—more than 60 percent of the body—will begin the session with less than two years’ experience as a state legislator. Senator Steve Lathrop will be re-joining the body, after defeating sitting Senator Merv Riepe for the Ralston-area seat, adding his eight years of past experience.

    The defeat of the Legislature's only Libertarian and the loss of two Republican-held seats in Omaha changed the partisan makeup of the body from 32 Republicans; 15 Democrats; 1 Libertarian; and 1 independent to 30 Republicans; 18 Democrats; and 1 independent. The procedural voting block of a "filibuster" requires only 17 votes, so both parties (if voting were to break down party lines) now have that option more readily available.

    Governor Ricketts was reelected with 59.37% of the vote, defeating Senator Bob Krist who carried 40.63% of voters.

    Nebraska voters approved Medicaid expansion by a margin of 53.25% versus 46.75%. The Legislature will now be responsible for implementation and funding. Recent estimates from the legislative fiscal office envision $1.3 billion in federal funding flowing into the state during the first three years of Medicaid expansion, with state matching funds totaling $90.8 million over that period.

    2019 Nebraska Unicameral Legislature by district number

    To illustrate the new make-up of the body, we have noted those senators who are new or who have served for less than two years.

    *Indicates brand new Senator

    Bold indicates Senator has served for less than two years

    1. District 1 Appointee*
    2. Clements, Robert
    3. Blood, Carol
    4. Hilkemann, Robert
    5. McDonnell, Mike
    6. Cavanaugh, Machaela*
    7. Vargas, Tony
    8. Hunt, Megan* 
    9. Howard, Sara
    10. DeBoer, Wendy*
    11. Chambers, Ernie
    12. Lathrop, Steve
    13. Wayne, Justin
    14. Arch, John*
    15. Walz, Lynne
    16. Hansen, Ben*
    17. Albrecht, Joni
    18. Lindstrom, Brett
    19. Scheer, Jim
    20. McCollister, John
    21. Hilgers, Mike
    22. Moser, Mike*
    23. Bostelman, Bruce
    24. Kolterman, Mark
    25. Geist, Suzanne
    26. Hansen, Matt
    27. Wishart, Anna
    28. Pansing Brooks, Patty
    29. Bolz, Kate
    30. Dorn, Myron*
    31. Kolowski, Rick
    32. Brandt, Tom*
    33. Halloran, Steve
    34. Friesen, Curt
    35. Quick, Dan
    36. Williams, Matt
    37. Lowe, John
    38. Murman, Dave*
    39. Linehan, Lou Ann
    40. Gragert, Tim*
    41. Briese, Tom
    42. Groene, Mike
    43. Brewer, Tom
    44. Hughes, Dan
    45. Crawford, Sue
    46. Morfeld, Adam
    47. Erdman, Steve
    48. Stinner, John
    49. District 49 Appointee*

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Equine massage and opioid measures pass. see more

    FINAL LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FROM NVMA LOBBYISTS MICHELLE WEBER and KATIE WEICHMANN ZULKOSKI

    As reported to the NVMA Board of Directors on May 17:

    The second session of the 105th Nebraska Legislature adjourned sine die on Wednesday, April 18. During the 60-day session, Senators introduced 469 bills, and 440 bills were carried over from last year. Of those 909 bills, 157 bills were passed, with an additional 74 measures originally introduced as separate bills passed as amendments to those bills. This session that means 25% of the bills introduced become law, a much lower number than in most years. Lowering the total of new laws even more, Governor Ricketts vetoed four bills, with no legislative attempts at veto overrides (three of the vetoes were to bills passed on the last day of the session, making overrides of those vetoes impossible). 

    The Legislature passed a mid-biennium budget adjustment package, which made an across-the-board reduction in general fund appropriations to many state agencies and operations budgets of 2 percent this year and next, resulting in $8.8 billion and 0.5 percent average growth in state spending over the biennium and leaving $296 million left in the rainy-day fund at the end of fiscal year 2019. The budget contains a 2 percent cut to the University of Nebraska and state and community colleges in fiscal year 2018, and a 1 percent cut in the 2019 fiscal year.

    What was Passed:

    Equine Massage

    LB 596, introduced last session by North Platte Senator Mike Groene and selected as a 2018 Speaker Priority Bill by Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk, exempted horse massage from the veterinary scope of practice. The NVMA testified in opposition to the bill, but agreed to a compromise amendment that was introduced and championed by Senator Groene on the first round of debate on the bill that would require registration with DHHS for anyone wanting to perform horse massage. However, on the second round of debate on the bill, Senator John Kuehn amended the bill to remove the registration requirement. An amendment by Senator Ernie Chambers was also adopted that expanded the exemption to dog and cat massage. Unfortunately, the bill became a signature accomplishment for a legislature that was unable to move much legislation, and LB 596 was even the highlight of a bill signing ceremony hosted by Governor Pete Ricketts.

    Opioid Legislation

    A package of bills aimed at opioid abuse was signed in to law by the Governor early in April. Senator Sara Howard introduced and prioritized the original LB 931, which was amended by the Judiciary Committee to encompass two additional measures (LBs 933 and 934). Among other things, the final package:

    • Creates a seven-day duration cap on a prescription for an opiate issued to a person under the age of 19.
    • Directs physicians to discuss the risk of addiction with patients who are receiving opiates.
    • Requires photo ID for persons receiving dispensed opiates. Of the bills contained in the package, this is the only one that pertains to veterinarians and requires ID to be shown when dispensing an opioid. An amendment was adopted to the bill that states that if the recipient of dispensed opioids is personally and positively known to the pharmacist or dispensing practitioner, the recipient does not have to show identification. 

    The bill will become effective three calendar months after the legislature adjourns, July 19, 2018. 

    Mandatory Continuing Education on Opioids

    LB 788, introduced by the Health and Human Services Committee Chair Senator Riepe, requires three hours of continuing education for health care professionals (including veterinarians) regarding opiate prescriptions. LB 788 was amended in to a package of bills added to the Health and Human Services Committee priority bill, LB 731. During debate the bill was amended to limit the requirement to reduce the requirement from 5 hours to 3 hours, to make the bill applicable only to those health care professionals who are actually prescribing controlled substances, and to sunset the educational mandate in 10 years. These education provisions take effect with the first license renewal period which begins on or after October 1, 2018.

    What was not:

    Retail Pet Store Rescue Pet Requirements

    Senator Wishart of Lincoln introduced legislation to require retail pet stores to sell only rescue animals. The NVMA opposed this legislation due to health concerns and shared these concerns with Senator Wishart prior to the hearing on the bill, as well as testified in opposition in front of the Legislature’s Agriculture Committee. Following these conversations, Senator Wishart offered an amendment for consideration that would replace the bill and would instead require pet shops to post the name and address of any breeder-sourced pets sold. Neither the bill nor the new amendment advanced from the Agriculture Committee.

    Removal of Sales Tax Exemptions on Services

    LB 1084, Albion Senator Tom Briese’s Priority Bill, intended to impose many new sales taxes (including sales taxes on all “pet related services,” and animal grooming performed by a licensed veterinarian or a licensed veterinary technician in conjunction with medical treatment) and increas the overall state sales tax rate by 0.5%. The NVMA submitted a letter in opposition to the bill, and the bill was not advanced out of the Revenue Committee. The bill was still debated on the floor, however, when Senator Briese introduced the text of the bill as an amendment to another tax proposal. The amendment was not adopted, and a majority of members of the Legislature, and Governor Ricketts, oppose any attempts to raise revenue through removing sales tax exemptions or adding additional taxes.

    Looking Ahead

    Over the interim, legislative committees study issues introduced via interim study resolutions. While work on these studies begins right after the session, hearings on legislative resolutions are generally held in late summer or early fall. We will continue to keep you updated on the scheduling of meetings or more formal hearings on any interim study topics of interest to NVMA.

    No bills will carry over to the next session – bills that were not passed in to law were automatically killed and will need to be reintroduced to be considered again next year. The first session of the 106th Legislature will convene on January 9, 2019. There will be at least eight new Senators in the 49-member body. All even-numbered district seats will be determined through the primary on May 15 and general election on November 6. Information about legislative candidates can be found on the Zulkoski Weber legislative candidates webpage. 

    Click here to review the End-of-Session Legislative Report

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    On Zulkoski Weber candidate page. see more

    Nebraska held its primary election yesterday, and the legislative race results are now available on NVMA lobbying firm Zulkoski Weber's website, along with information about the candidates:

    ZULKOSKI WEBER LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATES WEBPAGE

    In these non-partisan races, the top two vote-getters (regardless of political party affiliation) advance to the November 6th general election.

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Bill with opiate continuing education provision passes. see more

    LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FROM NVMA LOBBYISTS MICHELLE WEBER and KATIE WEICHMANN ZULKOSKI:

    The Nebraska Legislature has officially adjourned sine die. (That’s Latin for OMG, thank goodness.) The 105th Legislature, Second Session is now complete. 

    It was a contentious session:

    • Twenty-three priority bills were advanced out of committee but did not advance past general file (the first of three rounds of debate). 
    • Five individual senator priority bills were not advanced out of committee at all.
    • Seven of the thirty-three committee priority bills were not passed.
    • The Lobby basketball team beat the Senator basketball team: 49-34.

    Important recognition was given this afternoon to those senators serving the last day of their legislative careers: Senators Brasch, Baker, Harr, Larson, Krist, Kuehn, Schumacher, and Smith. We thank them for their service and their work for our entire state. 

    ***Before adjourning, senators passed Legislative Bill 731, the bill that includes the requirement that veterinarians and other prescribers of opiates take 3 hours of continuing education regarding prescribing opiates biennially. The bill will now be sent to Governor Ricketts’s desk, where we expect he will sign it in to law. This new education requirement will become effective with the first license renewal period beginning after October 1, 2018.

    Our next (planned) email will outline all the high and low points of the session—what we accomplished and what is left to do. We look forward to continuing to meet with the NVMA Board and Legislation Committee to discuss the session and the ways we can build our momentum moving forward. But we won’t let this opportunity pass without saying: We have enjoyed working with you this session. We are proud to represent you and proud of the work you do that we get to spend our days talking about.

    Thank you for putting your trust in us,

    Katie and Michelle

    Zulkoski | Weber

    725 South 14th Street

    o: 402-975-2195

    c: 402-405-3676

    www.zulkoskiweber.com

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Animal massage bill passes. see more

    LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FROM NVMA LOBBYISTS MICHELLE WEBER and KATIE WEICHMANN ZULKOSKI:

    With only one legislative day remaining, some Senators are disappointed about the Legislature’s failure to deliver any property tax relief this session. In response to Speaker Jim Scheer’s call for a compromise last Friday, key Senators met over the weekend to seek a solution but came up short. On Tuesday, Gordon Senator Tom Brewer filed a request with the Secretary of State to poll his colleagues on whether to convene a special session to reduce property taxes. Others signing the letter included Senators Steve Erdman of Bayard, Steve Halloran of Hastings, Tom Briese of Albion, Mike Groene of North Platte, Bruce Bostelman of Brainard, Curt Friesen of Henderson, Justin Wayne of Omaha, John Lowe of Kearney, Tyson Larson of O'Neill, Joni Albrecht of Thurston, John Murante of Gretna, and Dan Hughes of Venango.

    Yesterday Speaker Scheer outlined the relevant law and process for calling the special session. The Secretary of State dispatched certified letters to the 36 Senators not signing the letter along with a signature form for any member supporting the special session to return by 5 p.m. on Monday, April 23. If two-thirds of the members (33) or more support the call, the Secretary of State must send a certification to the Governor. The Governor will then have five days from that receipt to convene the session. The law restricts the session to “no business except that for which it was called together.” The Speaker shared that he would not be returning the letter, saying the request is well-intentioned, but it does not allow the time needed to facilitate a solution.

    On Twitter, Governor Ricketts said, “As long as senators remain fixated on increasing taxes, we should not even be considering a special session. No tax hikes!” Revenue Chairman Jim Smith quickly replied, “GovRicketts is right...trying to fix property tax problem by raising other taxes or shifting taxes is bad idea. bad for Nebraska.” Senator Brewer has said Senators can either be a part of the solution, or “be a poster child for why we need to pass the ballot initiative in November.” A statewide petition drive is underway to place a billion-dollar property tax reduction initiative on the November general election ballot.

    NVMA Legislation of Interest:

    One of measure advancing this week was LB 731, which now contains the requirement for three hours of continuing education on opioids for those health practitioners who prescribe controlled substances. An amendment was adopted this week that would allow subjects other than those specifically listed in the bill to count toward the CE requirement. Under the amended bill, “beginning with the first license renewal period which begins on or after October 1, 2018, the continuing competency requirements for a nurse midwife, dentist, physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, podiatrist, and veterinarian who prescribes controlled substances shall include at least three hours of continuing education biennially regarding prescribing opiates…The continuing education may include, but is not limited to, education regarding prescribing and administering opiates, the risks and indicators regarding development of addiction to opiates, and emergency opiate situations. One-half hour of the three hours of continuing education shall cover the prescription drug monitoring program.” The requirements sunset January 1, 2029. This bill is on the agenda for final legislative approval next Wednesday.

    Final approval was given to Senator Groene’s animal massage bill, which will now be sent to Governor for his signature. Unfortunately, this bill has become the main claim to victory for those pushing for less regulatory red tape (and the main joke of the session for those who threatened to vote “neigh”). Details on the bill are included in the Unicameral Update below:

    Animal massage bill passed

     April 11, 2018 Sen. Mike Groene, LB596

    Lawmakers gave final approval April 11 to a bill intended to enable the practice of equine, dog and cat massage in Nebraska.

    LB596, sponsored by North Platte Sen. Mike Groene, defines dog, cat and equine massage practice as the application of hands-on massage techniques for the purpose of increasing circulation, relaxing muscle spasms, relieving tension, enhancing muscle tone and increasing range of motion.

    An individual who engages solely in dog, cat or equine massage practice is not subject to the Veterinary Medicine and Surgery Practice Act.

    LB596 passed on a vote of 46-0.

    Click here to view the bills of interest.

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Opioid-Abuse Measure is Signed Into Law see more

    LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FROM NVMA LOBBYISTS KATIE WEICHMAN ZULKOSKI and MICHELLE WEBER:

    Budget Bills Passed and Signed.

    The Nebraska Legislature has completed one of the most important tasks of the session—passing the mid-biennium budget adjustment bill. The final vote on the controversial package was taken Monday morning, and by Wednesday afternoon the Governor had signed the package in to law without any line-item vetoes.

    Property Tax Debate Lurches Forward.

    Many senators see passing a tax relief bill as the most important task facing the 49-member body this session. As we are preparing this weekly report, the Legislature is just completing the second contentious property tax relief debate of the week. Today's bill was Henderson Senator Curt Friesen’s LB 1103 which would have provided more school aid across the state, which proponents argue would lessen the need for property taxes. An amendment to the bill provides funding for the proposal by increasing cigarette taxes, eliminating Nebraska’s personal property tax exemption, and adding a tax on high income earners. The bill did not advance.  As is the new custom under the Speaker’s procedures, the bill will receive three hours of debate before the Legislature moves to consideration of the next item on the agenda.  

    Similarly, LB 947, the Governor’s tax relief package that would gradually lower corporate income taxes and provide income tax credits based on property taxes paid by individuals, was debated Tuesday by the Legislature. Proponents of this tax-lowering bill were not able to get to a vote on the bill itself on Tuesday, but even with the waning legislative days, the bill will likely get more time for debate and a final vote. 

    Senator Steve Erdman, the introducer of LB 829 (that closely mirrors the property tax relief ballot language), was the leader of Tuesday’s fight against LB 947. Senator Erdman’s main point was that the bill did not do nearly enough. Senator Erdman filed a bracket motion on the bill—a kill motion that needs 25 votes to stop the bill completely—and received only 9 votes. However, it is also important to note that there were only 25 votes AGAINST the bracket motion. Votes against bracket motions are good indicators of the support a bill has, and it appears the 25 votes against the bracket motion are the same 25 senators that currently support the tax relief bill—not enough to clear the procedural hurdles put in place by the opponents.

    Following debate on today's tax bill, Speaker Scheer stood to tell the body he would be convening a group of five senators who will meet over the weekend to work toward a compromise piece of tax reform. His announcement did not go over well with everyone - especially those who felt they should have been invited to the table. It is not clear if any compromise can be found - and then passed by the body.

    Bills impacting the Veterinary Profession.

    A bill to clean-up PDMP issues related to veterinary medicines was amended in to a bill progressing through the legislative process this week. Provisions of Senator Kuehn’s LB 1057 are now included in LB 1034 and the bill has advanced to Select File, the second of three stages of debate. The underlying bill was introduced at the request of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program administrators in order to clarify that the dispensed prescriptions for non-human patients that are required to be reported to the PDMP (by either a veterinarian or a pharmacy) are only those prescription drugs which are not a controlled substance listed in Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV, or Schedule V.

    A separate package of bills aimed at opioid abuse was signed in to law by the Governor this week. Senator Howard, who introduced and prioritized LB 931 is quoted in the Governor’s press release, “With this package of bills, Nebraska continues to lead on opioid abuse prevention. Together, we are preventing families from experiencing the terrible tragedy of loss to opioid abuse and addiction that mine did.”

    Senator Howard’s LB 931 contains three measures, including provisions amended into the bill from LB 933 from Senator Lindstrom and LB 934 from Senator Kuehn. Among other things, the final package:

    • Creates a seven-day duration cap on a prescription for an opiate issued to a person under the age of 19.
    • Directs physicians to discuss the risk of addiction with patients who are receiving opiates.
    • Requires photo ID for persons receiving dispensed opiates.

    The bill will become effective three calendar months after the legislature adjourns, which gives the new law a likely effective date of July 18. 

    One more “week” remains.

    Four more legislative days remain, each one seeming longer than the last. Next week the Legislature will meet Monday through Wednesday before taking a five-day break originally scheduled to prevent any “pocket-vetoes.” If a bill is passed by Wednesday, April 11, and sent to the Governor for his signature, scheduling the 60th legislative day five days later gives the Legislature time to address any vetoes. However, based on the s-l-o-w progress through bills on the agenda, the Legislature does not have time to pass all eligible bills by the 59th day, and those bills passed on the very last day will be at risk for a veto that the Legislature procedurally could not override. The Legislature will return for the final 60th day on April 18.

    Have a great weekend! Stay warm!

    Katie & Michelle

    Click here to review the bills of interest.

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Equine massage bill goes to final reading. see more

    LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FROM NVMA LOBBYISTS KATIE WEICHMAN ZULKOSKI and MICHELLE WEBER:
    While the Legislature breaks for the four-day Easter weekend, Senators are relieved to have finally advanced the budget, but much work remains for the remaining eight days of session (including 10 committee priority bills and 10 Senator priority measures that have yet to ever receive any floor consideration). On Wednesday evening the Legislature approved a compromise on a Title X provision for the budget bill that had previously resulted in two failed cloture votes. The budget compromise addressed what constituted “referral” for abortion, earning the support of all but a handful of Senators. The budget will be given Final Reading when Senators return on Tuesday (Day 53).
    On Tuesday the Legislature gave first-round approval to Senator Williams’ LB 731, a Health and Human Services Committee priority bill that contains multiple bills, including the provisions of Senator Riepe’s LB 788 to require continuing education for health care professionals (including veterinarians) regarding opiate prescriptions. During debate the bill was amended to limit the requirement to reduce the requirement from 5 hours to 3 hours, to make the bill applicable only to those health care professionals who are actually prescribing controlled substances, and to add a sunset in 10 years.
    On Wednesday the Legislature gave second-round approval to LB 596, Senator Groene’s bill regarding equine massage. NVMA had worked with Senator Groene on a compromise amendment to create a registry for equine massage practitioners that was adopted during first-round consideration. That agreement was undone on Select File by an amendment offered by Senator Kuehn and adopted unanimously by the body to completely deregulate the practice. The efforts by NVMA to urge Senators to honor the compromise and maintain some level of regulation were trumped by the Legislature’s interest in removing occupational barriers. During debate Senator Kuehn said the Legislature should exercise its “objective independence” regarding regulation of this practice. Senator Chambers offered the amendment to include dogs and cats in the deregulated practice. Information was presented to Senators about the use of TTouch dog massage, specifically to calm rescue animals. More details about the debate can be found in the Unicameral Update below:
     

    Dogs and Cats Added to Equine Massage Bill, Advanced

    March 28, 2018
    Lawmakers simplified a bill March 28 intended to enable the practice of equine massage in Nebraska and advanced it to final reading.
    As amended on general file, LB596, introduced by North Platte Sen. Mike Groene, would have created a registry system for equine massage practitioners. Groene said the bill would remove unnecessary barriers for people who want to start businesses caring for horses through massage. He said that the current licensure requirements are so restrictive that there are no licensed equine massage practitioners in Nebraska.
    During general file debate, concerns were raised by Heartwell Sen. John Kuehn that the registry still would constitute excessive regulation on the part of the state. He brought an amendment on select file, adopted 34-0, that removed the registry provisions and replaced the bill.
    The amendment instead defines equine massage practice as the application of hands-on massage techniques for the purpose of increasing circulation, relaxing muscle spasms, relieving tension, enhancing muscle tone and increasing range of motion in equines.
    The amendment also specifies that an individual who engages solely in equine massage practice would not be covered by the Veterinary Medicine and Surgery Practice Act.
    “We recognized … that [the previous amendment] really didn’t necessarily get to the spirit of what we are trying to do,” Kuehn said. “[This change] is keeping in line with all of the ideas that we’ve talked about this session regarding occupational licensure reform.”
    Groene supported the amendment, noting that the bill has garnered widespread attention.
    “I do know that there are three ladies in my county who are anxiously awaiting this outcome so that they can pursue their lifelong dream,” he said.
    Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers offered an amendment, adopted 39-0, that added dogs and cats to the bill’s definition of massage practice.
    LB596 was advanced to final reading by voice vote.

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Lawmakers will try for agreement on Monday. see more

    LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FROM NVMA LOBBYISTS KATIE WEICHMAN ZULKOSKI and MICHELLE WEBER:

    Big Time Budget Drama

    On Wednesday, the Nebraska Legislature failed to advance the mid-biennium budget bill, falling three votes short to shut down debate. And on Friday, the Legislature failed again to obtain the needed votes to advance the budget, this time by two votes – which means the Legislature will miss the 50th day deadline to pass a budget as directed by the Legislative Rules. When the Legislature reconvenes on Monday, they will try again to reach agreement, this time spurred on by Speaker Jim Scheer’s strong admonition to come together to find agreement.

    The first few hours of debate on Wednesday focused on an Erdman amendment to lower funding for the University of Nebraska system, an amendment that failed with only ten votes in support (amendments need 25 votes in support to be added to a bill). Later on Wednesday and all morning Friday, debate turned back to Title X funding, the controversial language in the budget that is preventing agreement by the body. 

    Tax Reform

    Legislative Bill 947, the Governor’s tax package introduced and prioritized by Revenue Committee Chair Senator Jim Smith, was advanced out of the Revenue Committee this week on a vote of 5-3. The fifth and final vote came on board when the corporate income tax cuts were again pared down (personal income tax reductions have already been removed) and the job training funds were cut from $10 million to $5 million per year. As amended and advanced, the bill retains the property tax credit relief fund and also provides for a refundable income tax credit based on the amount of property taxes paid.

    The day after the bill was advanced the Attorney General issued an opinion stating that the bill as introduced was unconstitutional—based on the income tax refunds that were available to only resident taxpayers. However, as amended before it was advanced, the bill applies to resident and non-resident taxpayers and avoids the constitutional pitfalls highlighted in the opinion. The published opinion was requested by one of the measure’s opponents, Senator John Kuehn.

    Other opponents of the bill are using other techniques to fight the bill, including filing dilatory amendments. There are 21 amendments filed to LB 947, virtually assuring the bill will need to clear a 33-vote hurdle before moving forward.

    Property Tax Petition

    The Attorney General’s opinion also addressed the language of LB 829, the legislation that very closely resembles the property tax petition currently circulating for signature. Under LB 829, and the circulating petition, a refundable income tax credit is allowed to each taxpayer in the amount of fifty percent of the school district taxes levied on the taxpayer's property and paid by the taxpayer during the taxable year. 

    The Attorney General’s opinion states that the income tax credits allowed under LB 829 are limited in such a manner as to raise questions as to their constitutionality under the Commerce Clause. The AG’s opinion states that the bill can be amended to remedy the discriminatory treatment against nonresidents contained in the bill. However, it is unclear what petition circulators may do to prevent their language from being later challenged and potentially thrown out by a court.

    First veto

    This week also brought the first veto issued by the Governor. Governor Ricketts vetoed LB 350 which allowed for setting aside certain felony and misdemeanor convictions. The bill was introduced last session by Senator John McCollister, who now has five legislative days to move the bill to be passed over the objection of the Governor.

    Mandatory Opioid Education

    On Tuesday the Health & Human Services Committee reported out Senator Riepe’s LB 788, which would require continuing education for health care professionals regarding opiate prescriptions. The committee amendment added that only practitioners who prescribe control substances are required to complete the 5 hours of opiate-related CE biennially (which would count toward their overall CE requirements). The training requirements specific to the prescription drug monitoring program would be reduced from 2 hours to one-half hour (of the 5 hours) under the amendment. An amendment is planned to reduce the biennial training requirement from 5 hours to 3 hours. The bill has been amended in to LB 731, a priority bill of the Health and Human Services Committee that will be scheduled for debate sometime next week.

    Equine Massage—Continued

    This week the Legislature gave first-round approval to a bill that would create a registry program for individuals who engage in the practice of equine massage. LB 596, introduced by North Platte Senator Mike Groene, originally would have exempted individuals who practice equine massage in Nebraska from any regulation by the state. NVMA opposed the bill as introduced and worked with Senator Groene on a compromise amendment to create a registry within the Department of Health & Human Services.  

    Senator John Kuehn has filed an amendment to LB 596 (AM 2523) to completely deregulate equine massage. This would remove the registry requirement and discard the compromise struck between NVMA and Senator Groene on the bill. Members interested in preserving some state oversight of equine massage are encouraged to contact Senators to ask that the registry be preserved.

    Senator Ernie Chambers has also engaged in the debate on the bill, and has filed an amendment to the bill that would expand the allowance of massage to cats and dogs.

    Eleven legislative days remaining, and so much left to do. With the intense divisions forming in the body, and the 14-hour days of debate scheduled to continue until the end of session, we are now lobbying for both your issues and collegiality.

    Here’s to a restful weekend—

    Katie and Michelle 

    Click here to review the bills of interest

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    Amendment attempts to undo NVMA compromise. see more

    On Tuesday, March 20, the Legislature gave first-round approval to a bill that would create a registry program for individuals who engage in the practice of equine massage.  LB 596, introduced by North Platte Senator Mike Groene, originally would have exempted individuals who practice equine massage in Nebraska from any regulation by the state.  NVMA opposed the bill as introduced and worked with Senator Groene on a compromise amendment to create a registry within the Department of Health & Human Services.  More information about the legislative debate is available in this Unicameral Update (article is also posted below).

    Senator John Kuehn has filed an amendment to LB 596 (AM 2523) to completely deregulate equine massage.  This would remove the registry requirement and discard the compromise struck between NVMA and Senator Groene on the bill.  Members interested in preserving some state oversight of equine massage are encouraged to contact Senators regarding the bill:

    • I respectfully request that you vote NO on AM 2523 (Senator’s Kuehn’s amendment to LB 596). 
    • AM 2523 attempts to undo the compromise the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association reached with Senator Groene on the bill. 
    • As advanced, LB 596 does not prohibit anyone from practicing equine massage.  It just directs them to register with the Department of Health and Human Services, ensuring an appropriate level of oversight. 

    Equine massage registry program advanced

     March 20, 2018 Sen. Mike GroeneLB596

    Lawmakers gave first-round approval March 20 to a bill that would create a registry program for individuals who engage in the therapeutic massage of horses in Nebraska.

    LB596, introduced by North Platte Sen. Mike Groene, originally would have exempted individuals who practice equine massage in Nebraska from regulation by the state. Groene offered an amendment to the Health and Human Services Committee amendment, adopted 32-0, that replaced the bill and instead would create a registry system for equine massage practitioners.

    Groene said the bill would remove unnecessary barriers for people who want to start businesses caring for horses through massage. He said that the current licensure requirements are so restrictive that there are no licensed equine massage therapists in Nebraska.

    The registry would be a simple, nonrestrictive process to allow individuals to engage in economic activity and better their lives without excessive government interference, he said.

    “There are ladies—at least three in my area—that want to pursue this occupation,” Groene said. “You only get so many days on this earth and they don’t need to wait any longer.”

    As amended, LB596 defines equine massage practice as the application of hands-on massage techniques for the purpose of increasing circulation, relaxing muscle spasms, relieving tension, enhancing muscle tone and increasing range of motion in equines.

    The bill would require equine massage practitioners to register with the state Department of Health and Human Services by submitting evidence of a degree or certificate in equine massage from a department-approved school or an accreditation recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

    Until Jan. 1, 2022, an individual could obtain registry placement by submitting two letters of recommendation from licensed veterinarians attesting to the applicant’s competence to engage in equine massage practice and paying the applicable fee.

    A registry listing would be valid for five years and could be renewed. Any person convicted of violating the Livestock Animal Welfare Act could be denied registration or renewal and could be removed from the registry.

    Groene said the registry requirement satisfied concerns expressed by the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association, but several senators said the amendment still would constitute excessive regulation.

    Heartwell Sen. John Kuehn, who also is a veterinarian, characterized the registry as “good old-fashioned protectionism.” Massage does not impact the health, safety or well-being of horses, he said, and therefore should not require the level of certification outlined in the bill, especially at a time when the state is seeking ways to reduce occupational licensure requirements.

    “Let’s not create red tape for the sake of creating more red tape,” Kuehn said.

    Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue supported the amendment. The registry was agreed upon by stakeholders, she said, and would replace the current more restrictive licensure requirement while providing people who are seeking massage services for their horses with the assurance that they are dealing with a reputable practitioner.

    “[This] is a sincere effort to try and pull down the restrictions, yet provide an opportunity for people to be identified as someone who provides these services,” Crawford said.

    Following adoption of the Groene amendment, the bill advanced to select file on a 38-0 vote.

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Equine massage bill first on the agenda for next Tuesday. see more

    LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FROM NVMA LOBBYISTS MICHELLE WEBER and KATIE WEICHMAN ZULKOSKI:

    Happy Friday from Lincoln, where the Legislature has adjourned for another four-day weekend—much needed after a week that included an 11:30 p.m. adjournment following all-day budget debate. On Tuesday, the Unicameral gave first-round approval to the three bills comprising the budget package. Important budget notes:

    • The budget as advanced would result in 0.5 percent average growth in state spending over the next two fiscal years (as compared with .02 percent in the Governor’s budget proposal). 
    • The mainline budget bill (LB 944) was the subject of extended debate regarding disbursement of Title X funding to health care facilities that provide abortion, requiring a cloture vote to stop debate.  
    • After getting exactly 33 votes (the number needed to break a filibuster), the bill passed to Select File by a vote of 38-6. Objecting Senators have voiced concern about spending down the state’s cash reserve fund to $296 million. 
    • Final approval of adjustments to the 2017-19 $8.8 billion state budget are required to be completed by legislative day 50 (March 27).

    Day 50 is also the deadline for Senators to introduce interim study resolutions. If you are interested in having a legislative resolution presented that would allow for a potential policy discussion or report, please let us know as soon as possible.

    On Thursday, the Health & Human Services Committee advanced Senator Kuehn’s LB 1057 to add a definition of "dispensed prescription" to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. This bill was also amended into the committee amendment for Senator Riepe’s priority bill (LB 1034), along with several other measures, to ensure its consideration by the full Legislature.

    LB 596, Senator Groene’s equine massage bill, is the first bill on the agenda for Tuesday. An amendment is pending that would make some changes to the previously pending amendment from Senator Groene, but retain the heart of the compromise reached with NVMA.

    Here is the chart of bills we are following for you.

    Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    Michelle & Katie