• Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Proposed sales tax on veterinary services on pets re-included in bill. see more


    “You are in a stagecoach, chasing a Ferrari.” Senator Chambers made this claim about his fellow legislators on the floor of the Legislature this week—and it also seems like a good way to sum up the slow progress being made on seemingly unattainable goals throughout this pre-Easter week. 

    At the end of March we were pleased to report that legislative committee hearings were completed for the 2019 session. Oh, but no. On Wednesday, the Revenue Committee announced a hearing on the latest property tax relief amendment will be held next Wednesday afternoon, April 24, starting at 4 p.m. This announcement was made at a Revenue Committee press conference where Chairman Linehan touted the legislation, rivaling the multiple press conferences the Governor had earlier to denounce the proposed tax increases.  

    The proposed amendment under consideration increases sales taxes by ¾ cents and imposes new sales taxes on pop, candy, moving services, plumbing, HVAC, and veterinary services on pets. These changes allow an increase in state aid to schools by $540 million—intended to supplant local property taxes and provide at least 33% of the cost of K-12 education for every school district, ending a system that right now gives so-called "equalization aid" from the state to only about one in four school districts. The bill limits school tax levy authority lowers property valuations for all property tax-collecting entities by 10%. The valuation for business and residential properties drops to 90% and the valuation for ag land drops to 65%. In the spirit of adding in something for everyone, the bill allows for a 6-cent levy to fund Omaha Schools retirement contributions. 

    After next Wednesday’s unprecedented three-way hearing made up of the Revenue Committee (there for the tax policy), the Education Committee (there for the school funding), and the Retirement Committee (there to help clean up the Omaha Public Schools retirement mess), the Revenue Committee will have the final say in what is advanced to the floor of the Legislature for consideration.

    You will recall that last week at this time pet services were not included in the sales tax proposals. However, the Governor held a press conference on Monday afternoon calling on the Legislature to “keep their paws off pet healthcare,” decrying the once-proposed sales tax on pet services. This spurred a fight back from the Revenue Committee chair Senator Lou Ann Linehan who re-included veterinary services for pets in the bill. We are frustrated by the re-inclusion of veterinary services, and the NVMA will be present at next week’s hearing to oppose the imposition of this tax.

    Other bills we are following on your behalf are included on the attached chart. CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST. 

    Enjoy the Easter weekend,

    Katie and Michelle

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    NVMA members encouraged to contact their representatives and oppose the tax. see more

    On Monday, April 15, 2019 VCA MidWest Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center in Omaha, Nebraska hosted Governor Pete Ricketts for a press conference to speak out against proposed taxes on veterinary services.

    Gov. Ricketts, Dr. Christopher G. Byers, Medical Director at VCA MidWest, and Mike Mayers, Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations at Mars, Incorporated (R-L in photo) spoke to media representatives about this bad legislation that would negatively affect veterinary medicine in Nebraska. Members of the NVMA are encouraged to reach out to their representatives to demand they keep their paws off veterinary healthcare.

    Dr. Byers is a member of the NVMA.

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    PDMP Changes Win First-round Approval see more


    On Monday the Legislature gave first-round approval to Senator Howard’s LB556, which allows greater sharing of data from the state’s prescription drug monitoring program. The bill would make a number of changes designed to make the PDMP interact more effectively with appropriate agencies, other state drug monitoring programs, and state and regional health information exchanges.

    Among other provisions the bill would:

    • 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.

    Senator Howard said the bill would help ensure that providers access the PDMP more regularly and that Nebraska continues to obtain federal grant funding by complying with interstate operability requirements.

    A committee amendment incorporated provisions of LB557, introduced by Senator Lindstrom. The provisions would amend the definition of a practitioner for purposes of PDMP requirements to include a physician, physician assistant, dentist, pharmacist, podiatrist, optometrist, and various advanced practice nurses—as long as that practitioner is a member of the patient’s care team. The original definition in LB557 as introduced would have included veterinarian, but was amended out by the committee. The provisions also would change the first and third prescription to a 60-day look back and add an exemption for hospice and palliative care or a cancer diagnosis.

    Discussions continue on the Revenue Committee’s tax package. Chairman Linehan reports that the emails and calls in opposition to taxing pet-related services have given the committee good reason to exclude it from their package. The committee is expected to report a bill as early as next week.

    Lincoln Journal Star: Tax reform plan still under construction

    The Legislature's Revenue Committee began to try to frame a complex, multi-layered tax reform plan Wednesday night with decisions on key elements yet to come.

    The plan may be tied to a fundamental revision of the state school-aid formula and could propose a half-billion dollars in additional property tax relief over the next biennium.

    No votes were taken and no decisions made during a two-hour executive session.

    Revenue Committee Chairwoman Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn said the plan that emerges from further committee deliberations will be subjected to a public hearing conducted jointly by the Revenue Committee, the Education Committee and the Retirement Committee.

    Linehan said that kind of joint hearing is needed to provide transparency and accountability.

    Following that unusual event, the Revenue Committee will determine what it sends to the floor of the Legislature.

    Some fissures began to appear within the committee during Wednesday night's discussion, but they also appeared to be negotiable.

    One of the differences is whether a proposed one-half cent increase in the state sales tax rate should be hiked to 1% in order to provide sufficient revenue to fund property tax relief while maintaining funding for state programs and services.

    But one member of the committee said even a proposed half-cent increase could be a big lift, especially in urban areas. 

    The emerging plan is likely to include an increase in the cigarette tax and elimination of a number of sales tax exemptions. 

    One senator said that what currently is a very complicated model of proposed tax and school-aid proposals needs to be simplified once the committee makes an effort to win approval on the legislative floor.

    Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, chairman of the Education Committee, spearheaded proposed revision of the school-aid formula as the path to substantial and enduring property tax relief.

    "We're very close to agreement," Linehan said following the meeting.  

    The committee decided to advance to the floor a bill (LB303) sponsored by Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha at the request of Gov. Pete Ricketts that would add $51 million a year to the state's property tax credit fund.

    But another proposal (LR8CA) sponsored by Linehan at the request of the governor to provide for a vote of the people on a proposed constitutional amendment to place a 3% annual cap on increases in property taxes remained stuck in the committee after falling one vote short of advancement. 

    The committee advanced an amended version of LB670, a Linehan bill that would provide private school scholarship tax credits. 

    Friday’s Omaha World Herald article outlining the Governor’s opposition to the plan specifically notes that taxing pet-related services has been removed from the committee’s proposed package.

    Ricketts again criticizes legislative proposals for reducing Nebraska property taxes

    Gov. Pete Ricketts joined home builders and Realtors on Thursday in criticizing proposals to reduce property taxes being floated in the Nebraska Legislature.

    Previously, the conservative Republican has stood with craft brewers and grocers to oppose proposals that would raise taxes on beer and junk food.

    Thursday, the target was a proposed doubling of the state documentary stamp fee that is assessed when a person buys a new home, commercial building or land. Under a proposal discussed by the Legislature’s Revenue Committee, that fee would double from its current $2.25 for each $1,000 of property being sold.

    Representatives of the Home Builders Association of Lincoln and the Nebraska Realtors Association said that raising the cost of housing via a tax increase would hurt the state’s economy and could prevent some people from purchasing a home.

    Ricketts took aim at the Revenue Committee, saying it has adopted a “theme” of proposing that some taxes be increased to reduce property taxes. That approach, he said, “has to stop. 

    We’ve tried this before, and it’s failed,” he said.

    Ricketts touted his own plan, which would increase the state’s property tax credit program by $51 million a year, to $275 million, and would limit growth in spending of property tax dollars to no more than 3% a year.

    He also revealed Thursday that there’s some new money, about $34 million in fiscal year 2020-21, that could be applied toward property tax relief if the Legislature decided to do that. That extra money is expected via the Medicaid program after the federal government has recalculated, to Nebraska’s advantage, its match rate for funding the state-federal health care program.

    So far, the Revenue Committee, which crafts tax policy, has reacted coolly to Ricketts’ ideas for property tax relief. The eight-member panel on Wednesday night declined to advance the 3% lid proposal, and barely advanced the increase in the property tax credit.

    Instead, the committee outlined a proposal, Legislative Bill 289, that would increase state aid to local schools by more than $400 million a year to reduce local property taxes, which are among the highest in the nation. The plan calls for a ½-cent increase in the state sales tax, a handful of other, smaller tax hikes, and using most of the property tax credits.

    State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, the committee’s chairwoman, said the governor and her committee are “not that far apart.” She said Ricketts needs to drop the notion that raising one tax to lower another is a bad idea. Linehan said that’s what the property tax credit does already, by using state income and sales tax revenue to offset local property taxes.

    Linehan added that the property tax reduction package being formulated by the Revenue Committee is still a work in progress. On Wednesday, for instance, the committee’s proposal changed again. Several proposed repeals of sales tax exemptions were dropped, including taxing bottled water, pet care services and labor on home repairs.

    LB 289 is already getting opposition from rural senators, who said it doesn’t do enough to provide tax relief for farmers and ranchers, who’ve seen their property tax bill explode in recent years. In some rural districts, the increase in state aid to schools doesn’t exceed the loss in property tax credits given to local farmers and ranchers, said Henderson Sen. Curt Friesen.

    Omaha Sen. John McCollister, who sits on the Revenue Committee, said Thursday that he’s still assessing LB 289, but he said there’s a chance that the Legislature won’t agree on a comprehensive property tax relief proposal this year.

    His fellow committee member, Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha, said that if that happens, lawmakers could turn back to the governor’s proposal to increase the property tax credits, which would provide some relief.

    Please let us know if you have questions on any of bills of interest.


    Have a great weekend,

    Michelle and Katie


  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Please continue emails on sales tax. see more


    By Tuesday of this week we figured we had our ZW Weekly email written: a week of filibusters. The week started with the same bickering, grudges, and threats that we ended with last week. But by Wednesday, the tune had changed, and the Legislature is back to productive work. Senator Wayne’s constitutional amendment to allow 20-year TIF projects advanced, and we are one round of voting nearer to being able to buy tourism trinkets. But honestly, those won’t be for everyone.

    The productivity as it relates to Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association is highlighted in your attached chart – those bills with any movement or changes appear on the chart in bold. CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST.

    Governor Pete Ricketts and other industry groups held a press conference on Wednesday to oppose the proposed sales taxes on pop and candy. Governor Ricketts has said that such tax increases would be particularly burdensome when Nebraska is recovering from devastating flooding. Governor Ricketts continues to state that “It's not right to raise taxes on working families to pay for someone else's tax relief. This is 'Reverse Robin Hood.’” This vocal opposition is good news for the NVMA because the proposed sales tax on pet-related services, which may be included in the same bill as the pop and candy tax, will most likely be vetoed by the Governor. 

    Thank you to those NVMA members who have already contacted Revenue Committee members in opposition to the pet-related services sales tax. We have been told by Revenue Committee Chair Linehan that the opposition emails are coming in.  

    Emails can continue to be sent to members of the tax policy-setting Revenue Committee to let them know you oppose the Nebraska Legislature creating a new sales tax on pet-related services. Without a specific carve out, the proposed 5.5% tax on pet-related services may include a tax on veterinary services. 

    Suggested talking points for your emails:

    • Any additional cost on veterinary services for pets may result in the delay or complete avoidance of life-saving procedures.
    • Human medical treatments are not considered taxable because of the importance of the services, and animal medical treatments should have the same tax treatment.

    ·         Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, Chairperson

    ·         Sen. Tom Briese

    ·         Sen. Sue Crawford

    ·         Sen. Curt Friesen

    ·         Sen. Mike Groene

    ·         Sen. Mark Kolterman

    ·         Sen. Brett Lindstrom

    ·         Sen. John McCollister

    The first bill up on Monday morning’s agenda is LB556, Senator Howard’s priority bill to change provisions relating to the prescription drug monitoring program. LB556 amends the PDMP to do the following: allow for interstate data sharing with other state PDMPs; allow for 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 flexibility to the 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 committee amendment to LB556 also includes the language from LB557, originally introduced by Senator Lindstrom at the request of Nebraska Medical Association to clarify health care provider duties related to opioid prescribing. The bill amends duties put into law last year and would require the prescribing practitioner involved in the course of treatment as the primary prescribing practitioner or a member of the patient's care team who is under the direct supervision or in consultation with the primary prescribing practitioner to discuss with the patient the risks of controlled substances, unless such conversation has already taken place within the last 60 days. The bill provides these advisements do not apply to hospice, cancer, or palliative care treatment. The bill has been amended to remove veterinarians from the list of providers to whom these provisions apply.

    We’ll sign off by borrowing another phrase from the tourism department:

    Another day on the dusty plains,

    Katie and Michelle

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Amendment would exempt veterinarians from registration requirement. see more


    “Do not make it personal. Do not take it personal.” That was Speaker Scheer’s self-proclaimed “scolding” on Thursday morning before the Legislature wrapped up its final week of committee hearings and began a four-day recess. After a relatively collegial start to the session, tension amongst lawmakers rose this week after one priority measure stalled and another fell after a failed cloture vote. 

    Senator Wayne’s proposed constitutional amendment (LR14CA) to extend tax-increment financing (TIF) benefits for areas deemed “extremely blighted” was shelved after reaching the three-hour limit on debate Tuesday. TIF currently diverts taxes paid on improved properties to fund infrastructure improvements over a 15-year period; LR14CA would have allowed TIF benefits to be extended to 20 years in areas with high poverty and unemployment rates. Senator Wayne called the debate a “deceitful abuse of the three-hour rule.” Colleagues had promised a vote on his measure, but Senators filled the speaking queue, and the three-hour Speaker-imposed time-limit was reached before a vote was taken. Senator Wayne filed retaliatory amendments and kill motions on a number of bills and pledged on Thursday that “every Speaker priority bill will go the distance” with prolonged debate on these bills.

    Senators rejected an attempt to force a vote on a bill that would remove a lifetime ban on food assistance eligibility for individuals with past drug felonies. Senator Hunt's priority bill to allow three-time drug felons to receive SNAP benefits was debated for six hours. While she had earlier said she had 35 votes for her bill, only 28 yes votes were cast for the cloture motion (she needed 33). Some Senators expected to vote yes on the bill changed direction, expressing frustration over social media slights made during debate.

    On Thursday the HHS Committee considered the PDMP registration bill:

    LB489 (Howard) Require registration for the prescription drug monitoring system

    • LB489 provides that any credential holder with drug prescribing or dispensing privileges who is registered under the Uniform Credentialing Act shall register with DHHS for the Nebraska Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Senator Howard noted that mandatory enrollment in most states is the first step toward a mandatory PDMP check.
    • Senator Howard presented an amendment that would exempt veterinarians from the bill.
    • Kevin Borcher, the PDMP director, said 43 states require some PDMP registration and noted the voluntary registration of 41% of Nebraska prescribers. Dr. Ann Polich, VP at Methodist Health Care, and Joni Cover, Nebraska Pharmacy Association, also testified in support. 
    • There were no opponents or neutral testifiers.

    Please let us know if you have questions on this or other bills of interest. CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST. 

    Go Cubs!

    Michelle and Katie

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    One week of hearings left. see more


    Half of the Nebraska legislative session is in the books. Forty-six of the 90 legislative days are complete, and (thankfully) there is only one more week of hearings left before the Legislature moves to all-day debate.

    This week also marked the priority bill designation deadline. Each senator selected one priority bill, most committees selected two priority bills, and the Speaker selected his 25 Speaker priority bills. A complete list of priority bills is available here. We have listed those bills we are following on your behalf that were selected as priority bills. A priority designation means that once the bill has been advanced from its respective committee, it will be scheduled by the Speaker ahead of the 650 other bills NOT selected as priorities. A priority designation does not mean a bill is automatically advanced from committee or guaranteed passage.

    This list of priority bills that matter to Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association is below, and CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST. 

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

    • Senator Howard priority bill
    • Senator Howard’s bill has been amended by the Health and Human Services Committee to contain provisions of both LB556 and LB557. With the combination amendment the bill now changes information to be inputted into the PDMP: changing the requirement for veterinarians to include "National Drug Code number as published by the Food and Drug Administration” rather than the name of the drug; requires a telephone number "if available;” and removes Social Security Numbers as patient identifiers. The amendment also inserts a new subsection defining practitioner to include physicians, physician assistants, dentists, pharmacists, podiatrists, optometrists, and various advanced practice nurses (good news: the amendment excludes hospitals and veterinarians, originally proposed in LB557). Such practitioner must consult with a patient about the risks related to a controlled substance if the conversation has not been had in the last 60 days. The duty to have this conversation does not apply to a prescription given for a hospice patient or for the course of treatment for cancer or palliative care.

    There is one remaining hearing of interest to the NVMA—the hearing on LB489—Senator Howard’s bill to require registration with the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. As introduced, the bill required registration for ANY credential holder with the authority to prescribe drugs, whether or not they were actually prescribing, including veterinarians. Our office was informed this week that the bill would be amended to no longer require veterinarian registration with the system. 

    We are thankful for the work you are doing for animals across our state impacted by the floods,

    Katie and Michelle

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    Also: Flooding outreach. see more

    NVMA Members:

    Please email the senators listed below (members of the tax policy-setting Revenue Committee) to let them know you oppose the Nebraska Legislature creating a new sales tax on pet-related services.  It has been reported that the Revenue Committee is considering creating this new sales tax on pet-related services, which would be taxed at a rate of 5.5%. Without a specific carve out, the tax on pet-related services may include a tax on veterinary services. 

    Optional talking points for your communications:

    • Any additional cost on veterinary services for pets may result in the delay or complete avoidance of life-saving procedures.
    • Human medical treatments are not considered taxable because of the importance of the services, and animal medical treatments should have the same tax treatment.

    ·         Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, Chairperson

    ·         Sen. Tom Briese

    ·         Sen. Sue Crawford

    ·         Sen. Curt Friesen

    ·         Sen. Mike Groene

    ·         Sen. Mark Kolterman

    ·         Sen. Brett Lindstrom

    ·         Sen. John McCollister

    Flooding Outreach

    The flooding that is affecting Northeast, Eastern and Central Nebraska is devastating. The NVMA is reaching out to members that have been affected by the flood.  Please contact the NVMA office as members are wanting to help. We just need to know who needs the help. Contact Executive Director Dina Michel by email at dmichel@nvma.org or by phone at (402) 463-4704.

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    Call to Action on sales tax exemption for veterinary services. see more


    This week at the Nebraska Legislature was marked by continued morning debate with advancement of a good number of bills and more afternoon committee hearings. There are two more weeks left of committee hearings. Next week all priority bills will be selected, and the Unicameral will turn its attention to those priorities.

    The Revenue Committee continues its deliberations about tax reform. The Lincoln Journal Star reports:

    List of legislative tax reform options grows

    It's all on the table now, even more.

    The Legislature's Revenue Committee conducted a free-wheeling discussion of tax reform during an executive session Thursday evening and when it was done sales tax increase proposals were joined by consideration of income tax reductions and major changes in state aid for local schools.

    But the overriding goal continued to be property tax relief, perhaps as great as $500 million at the beginning with some senators focused on eventually achieving a billion dollars at the end.

    No votes were taken, no decisions were made and Revenue Chairwoman Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn said there will be more discussions among senators and in future committee sitdown sessions.

    "There were a lot of good ideas," Linehan said following the committee's second evening executive session targeted at seeking agreement on a tax reform plan.

    "We're not there yet," she said.

    But Linehan remains focused on her goal of sending legislation to the floor of the Legislature by mid-April.

    Informal discussion on Thursday night focused on the possibility of some spending controls along with major property tax reduction which could be accompanied by a lid on future local property tax increases.

    Sens. Curt Friesen of Henderson, Tom Briese of Albion and Mike Groene of North Platte gave fellow committee members extensive briefings on the details of their individual tax reform bills, all of which are being held by the committee following lengthy public hearings earlier this session.

    Linehan said she would like to see if the three senators might be able to "come to agreement" on a single plan.

    The possibility of both corporate and individual income tax reductions was aired Thursday night along with an array of sales tax options, including a 1-cent increase in the 5.5 percent state sales tax rate that would raise an estimated $326 million a year.

    Also on the table was a proposed half-cent sales tax rate hike along with a lengthy list of current sales tax exemptions that could be repealed. Among them were exemptions applied to candy, soft drinks and bottled water.

    A cigarette tax hike also remained in consideration.

    One list of sales tax exemptions that could be considered for repeal totaled more than $123 million in potential new state revenue that could be devoted to property tax relief.  

    While we have not heard veterinary services singled out in this discussion, Senators are continuing to consider all exemptions for inclusion. NVMA members are encouraged to contact Revenue Committee members to express opposition to removing the sales tax exemption for veterinary services:

    The Appropriations Committee held a hearing on one bill of interest to NVMA this week:

    LB673 (Hilkemann) Change Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund provisions and state intent relating to an appropriation for data collection and analysis on antimicrobial resistant bacteria

    • LB673 would appropriate to the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska $250,000 from the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund for data collection and analysis on antimicrobial resistant bacteria.
    • The sole proponent was Ali Khan, Dean of the College of Public Health at UNMC.
    • There were no opponents or neutral testimony.

    The Lincoln Journal Star reported:

    The committee also heard a request for $500,000 over two years from the Health Care Cash Fund for data collection and analysis on antibiotic-resistant bacteria at UNMC. The bill (LB673) was introduced by Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha.

    "Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest public health challenges of our time," Hilkemann said. 

    A 2013 report showed that each year in the United States, 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection and at least 23,000 people die from them. 

    Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the College of Public Health at UNMC, said the money from the state would help to limit the threat of the antibiotic-resistant organisms in the state. 

    Overuse and misuse of antibiotics and related drugs is the cause for the problem, he said. 

    Nebraska is in the top 10 states for doctors writing antibiotic prescriptions. They wrote 1,040 prescriptions per 1,000 people in 2016. It's estimated that at least 30 percent of prescriptions for antibiotics across the nation are unnecessary, he said. 

    "So, clearly, Nebraska prescribers are somewhat undisciplined in their antibiotic-prescribing practices," Khan said. 

    With money from the state, he said, UNMC in a collaborative effort with the Department of Health and Human Services would improve the problem with the data they collect, develop new tools, and address the gaps in hospital-acquired infections. The idea would be to use the most-targeted drug for an infection and not a "gorillacillin," he said. 

    The data collection and analysis would define hot spots of antibiotic usage, counsel people on antibiotic stewardship, and trace the link between animals, food and people for how the resistance spreads, Khan said. 

    These bills were passed on Final Reading today:

    LB29 (Kolterman) Provide and eliminate telehealth provisions (veterinarians are excluded)

    LB112 (Howard) Provide for waiver of certain occupational and licensing fees as prescribed

    Please let us know if you have questions on these or other bills of interest.


    May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields,

    Michelle and Katie

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Property tax relief package takes shape. see more


    If the Nebraska Legislature were a sports league, March would be the playoffs. Senators and committees are selecting priority bills, committees are packaging bills to be sent to the floor, and we are beginning to see which legislation will make it to the final rounds. 

    The Revenue Committee met this week to begin in earnest their work to form a property tax relief package. While no votes were taken, general consensus seems to be forming around these key aspects:

    • Revenue will be raised by raising our state sales tax by 0.5%, rather than through a blanket repeal of sales tax exemptions. 
    • There are still some sales tax exemptions still being considered for repeal, and we will continue monitoring this situation closely.
    • Revenue may also be raised by increasing Nebraska’s tobacco tax to $1.00, still keeping Nebraska’s tax rate lower than in surrounding states.
    • New revenue raised would go only to property tax relief.

    The Governor drew his line in the sand early in the session stating he will oppose any new taxes and any new increase in taxes, so the package is not without some pretty high-profile opposition, even before it gets out of the gate. The Revenue Committee Chair, Senator Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, has stated that her goal is to have a property tax package for the Legislature to consider by the end of March. 

    Another committee sending out significant pieces of legislation is the Business and Labor Committee, which much earlier in the year advanced Senator John McCollister’s LB254 the Fair Chance Hiring Act to General File. This bill was then significantly amended to still allow employers to ask job applicants about a criminal record, as long as they also give the applicant room to explain the information and circumstances surrounding the criminal history. As amended, the bill has advanced to the final stage of voting, and it is expected to pass in to law. Employers will need to be aware of the changes this bill requires to any hiring forms or questions.

    Spend your state basketball weekend reviewing bills of interest, available here.


    We hope all of your teams are winning,

    Katie and Michelle

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    Hearings continue on bills of interest to the NVMA. see more


    This week at the Nebraska Legislature was marked by the release of the Appropriations Committee preliminary budget report, followed by the meeting of the Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board, which lowered the revenue predictions for this fiscal year and the next two by about $110 million.

    "Ultimately, the next two-year budget will be built on the April forecast after final individual income tax receipts have been reported,” Governor Ricketts said. While there is some optimism that the April 25th forecast will improve the fiscal outlook for this legislative session, any bills carrying fiscal notes will continue to be stalled for now.

    Morning floor debate continued this week with the body making progress on a number of measures. Importantly, the Legislature gave final approval to NVMA’s legislation, LB61 introduced by Senator Halloran, to update Nebraska’s rabies statutes. We look forward to Governor Ricketts signing this bill into law!

    Afternoon hearings continued this week on a number of bills of interest to NVMA:

    LB507 (Briese) Impose sales tax on certain services and eliminate sales tax exemptions

    • This bill is yet another iteration of Senator Briese’s proposals to find revenue to add to the Property Tax Credit Fund. One provision would subject to sales tax “the gross income received for animal specialty services and pet-related services, including, but not limited to (i) veterinary services, (ii) specialty services performed on livestock as defined in section 54-183, and (iii) animal grooming performed by a licensed veterinarian or a licensed veterinary technician in conjunction with medical treatment.”
    • NVMA provided testimony in opposition to the bill and joined a coalition in sending a letter opposing the service sales tax provisions.

    LB736 (Murman) Provide restrictions on occupation taxes, license fees, and regulation by counties and municipalities

    • LB736 prohibits cities, villages, and counties, beginning January 1, 2020, from: imposing an occupation tax or license fee greater than $25; imposing an occupation tax or license fee on a profession or business the provides goods or services unless the profession or business was subject to such a tax or fee on January 1, 2020; and imposing licensing requirements on professions or businesses subject to state licensing requirements.
    • The fiscal note said the city of Imperial estimates a reduction in revenue in FY 20-21 of $2,900, and the City of Lincoln estimates a reduction in revenue in FY 20-21 of $31 million.
    • Senator Murman said too many layers of permits and fees makes it difficult for people to work, especially to do business in multiple towns.
    • NVMA submitted a letter in support of the bill, and the Platte Institute, which provided proponent testimony, highlighted the $100 professional license fee in Gretna that includes veterinarians, among others. An electrical contractor from Fremont also testified in support, discussing the fees charged that do not serve any benefit related to the profession. Other supporters included the Foundation for Government Accountability (fees are barriers to work) and a small family plumbing business owner (sharing the challenges of working in multiple municipalities that impose fees).
    • There was great opposition from local entities, including the city of Lincoln (occupation taxes are big source of city revenue), city of Omaha (occupation taxes fund economic development and licensing fees serve some health and safety purposes), the League of Nebraska Municipalities (willing to address licensing fees, but opposed to a cap on occupation taxes), the Nebraska Association of County Officials (this would be a barrier to property tax relief), United Cities of Sarpy County, and Greater Nebraska Cities.
    • In closing, Senator Murman said his intent is to focus on licensing fees tied to professions, not occupation taxes. 

    LB382 (Geist) Change the Dog and Cat Purchase Protection Act

    • LB382 requires that sellers have available for customer review a certificate containing required information on the pet being purchased, requires pet shops to maintain documentation on pets for the duration of the pet being housed at the shop and for at least a year after sale, and prohibits pet shops from knowingly selling inbred dogs. The bill prohibits municipalities from enacting law to regulate activity governed by this statute.
    • Senator Geist said the bill was brought to her by Citizens for Responsible Pet Ownership and is meant to protect Nebraskans from “radical groups” like HSUS pushing their agenda. There have been more than 200 restrictive pet store measures passed nationwide, generally limiting pet stores to only selling shelter or rescue animals, mostly at the municipal level. California’s statewide law became effective at the beginning of this year.
    • Mike Gonidakis, an Ohio attorney working for Citizens for Responsible Pet Ownership, was the sole proponent of the bill, saying the bill supports consumers getting pets by the means they wish to.
    • Opponents included the presidents of both the Nebraska Humane Society and Capitol Humane Society of Lincoln, expressing opposition to preventing local governing authorities from passing ordinances more restrictive than this bill as needed to protect animal and public welfare. The City of Omaha, which used the Nebraska Humane Society for animal control, expressed support for the Humane Society’s position. Other individuals testified in opposition, expressing concerns about puppy mills.

    The Unicameral Update provided coverage on the hearing:

    Preemption of local pet store ordinances proposed

    The Agriculture Committee heard testimony Feb. 26 on a bill that would bar municipalities from enacting ordinances to regulate pet stores.

    The Dog and Cat Purchase Protection Act requires pet shops, dealers or commercial dog or cat breeders to give purchasers a disclosure statement containing information about their new pet at the time of sale, including its date of birth, sex, vaccination records and a record of any serious health problem that does or may adversely affect the animal.

    LB382, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Suzanne Geist, would require sellers to make that statement available for customer review. It also would require pet shops to maintain records documenting the source of each pet for at least one year after its sale.

    Additionally, the bill would prohibit pet shops from knowingly selling a dog that was produced by inbreeding or linebreeding a dog with its own parent or offspring.

    As introduced, LB382 would prohibit municipalities from regulating pet shops.

    Geist said the additional records requirements would protect Nebraska consumers and that bill also would shield pet stores from potential action by local governments to restrict the sourcing of puppies and certain breeds of dogs.

    While no such ordinance currently exists in Nebraska, Geist said, animal welfare groups are urging cities across the country to require pet stores to source dogs only from animal shelters rather than breeders.

    “I’m sure there are bad actors out there,” she said, “but to wipe out pet stores as a class of business, I think is not wise.”

    Geist brought an amendment to the hearing that would allow municipalities to adopt local laws or ordinances governing permits, licenses, fees, housing requirements or public safety regarding pet animals. It would not preempt any municipal law, ordinance or regulation already in effect.

    Testifying in support of the bill was Mike Gonidakis on behalf of Citizens for Responsible Pet Ownership, a national nonprofit. Gonidakis said cities in other states have banned pet stores that do not source their animals from rescue shelters, effectively shutting down stores that sell only purebred dogs. He said LB382 is needed to prevent that from happening in Nebraska.

    Jack Cheloha, lobbyist for the city of Omaha, testified in opposition to the bill. He said Omaha has not shut down a pet store during his 25 years working for the city, and no group has approached the city council with a proposal to restrict them.

    Although Geist’s amendment would preserve part of the city’s ability to adopt local animal welfare ordinances, Cheloha said, “it’s still something that we’re not comfortable with.”

    “We just don’t see the need for any preemption in the bill whatsoever,” he said. “It’s just not a problem in Nebraska.”

    Robert Downey, president and CEO of the Capital Humane Society in Lincoln, also testified in opposition, specifically to the proposed preemption of local ordinances.

    “The challenges that can be presented to animal control authorities in different locales can be vastly different,” he said. “Local governing bodies need to be able to react to those challenges without having their hands tied by state law which prohibits them from being more restrictive than the state.”

    Misty Christo testified in opposition to the bill on behalf of the Nebraska Rescue Council. She said cities in other states have passed ordinances banning pet stores from selling puppies from puppy mills. Businesses opposing those measures now are seeking protection from state legislatures rather than sourcing their animals from shelters, rescues and responsible breeders, Christo said.

    “[LB382] appears to regulate the very industry that it protects,” she said, “but in reality it would place meaningless restrictions on pet stores and secure the puppy mill-pet store pipeline by preventing localities from enacting laws that regulate the sale of puppies in pet stores.”

    The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

    Please let us know if you have any questions about the bills we are tracking on your behalf. Any bills that had a status change this week are indicated in bold.


    Happy March!

    Michelle and 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: 


    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


    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:


    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


    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


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


    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.