legislation

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    Rabies bill passes. see more

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI-WEBER:

    SESSION OVERVIEW

    The Legislature adjourned sine die on May 31, 2019, ending the scheduled 90-day session six legislative days early. During the session 739 bills were introduced, and 294 bills were passed. Unless otherwise noted in the chart below, new laws will become effective September 1, 2019.

    Bills that were introduced but that were not acted upon remain available for consideration by the Legislature next session. There are approximately 60 bills advanced from committee and on General File that have not yet received any debate.

    During the session, the Legislature passed a $9.3 billion biennial budget. The budget package reflects a two-year average spending growth rate of 3 percent. The budget transfers $51 million in each of the next two fiscal years to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund, bringing the fund’s total to $272 million and results in a cash reserve balance of $372 million.

    Lawmakers deliberated intensely on other ways to provide property tax relief throughout the session, considering proposals to raise revenue through adding new sales taxes – including on veterinary services on pets – and also through a general sales tax increase. Based on strong opposition to the revenue raising portions of the bills, no proposal had the required 33 votes to advance past a filibuster. 

    The second session of 106th Legislature will convene on January 8, 2020. There are 60 scheduled legislative days in the second year of the biennial session.

    BILLS OF INTEREST

    This year the NVMA tracked 19 bills and took a position on 7 bills. Below are the key bills from the legislative session. For a complete list of all bills of interest, CLICK HERE.

    Bill that Passed

    LB61 (Halloran) Change and eliminate provisions relating to rabies

    NVMA Legislation

    NVMA Position: Support

    • Better aligns Nebraska law with current scientific recommendations for rabies management. Allows the Department of Health and Human Services to adopt updated rabies vaccinations standards according to Compendium of Animal Rabies and Control. 
    • Effective September 1, 2019

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

    NVMA Position: Support

    • Waives first-year licensing fees for occupations under the Uniform Credentialing Act (including veterinary and veterinary technician licensing fees) for individuals who are identified as low income, part of a military family, or a person between the ages of 18 and 25. 
    • This act becomes operative on January 1, 2020.

    Bills Held Over

    LB289 (Linehan) Change provisions relating to county assessor inspections of real property for property tax purposes

    LB314 (Briese) Adopt the Remote Seller Sales Tax Collection Act and change revenue and taxation provisions

    LB497 (Friesen) Adopt the School District Property Tax Authority Act and change revenue and taxation provisions

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

    NVMA Position: Oppose

    • The NVMA testified against taxing pet-related and veterinary services, opposing LB314LB497, and LB507 at their respective committee hearings. 
    • LB289 did not originally include new sales taxes, but it was amended by the Revenue Committee to include the revenue raising options and then advanced out of the Committee as the main property tax relief bill for the session.
    • When the amended provisions of LB289 were originally announced, taxes on pet-related or veterinary services were not included. Even so, opponents to the bill held a press conference opposing sales taxes on veterinary services—and the Revenue Committee reacted by adding this tax back in to the bill. 
    • The coalition of opponents to the bill (which included the Governor) stood strong and held the bill from receiving a vote. It is important to note that the bill remains for consideration next session, when the pressure for property tax relief will be even higher.

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

    NVMA Position: Support

    Held in the Government Committee

    • Prohibits cities, villages, and counties from imposing an occupation tax or license fee greater than $25, or from imposing licensing requirements on professions or businesses subject to state licensing requirements.

    INTERIM

    The following list of interim study resolutions, which provide an opportunity for Senators to examine an issue outside of session, are those flagged as being of interest to the NVMA. What happens with these studies is highly dependent upon the interest level of the introducer, committee, and stakeholders involved. Some resolutions may get absolutely no attention or action, while others may prompt formal committee hearings, round tables discussions, and/or written reports. 

    • LR186 (McDonnell) Interim study to examine the potential elimination of exemptions for goods and services under sales and use tax laws
    • LR207 (Briese) Interim study to examine the possible elimination of various exemptions of goods and exclusions of services under Nebraska's sales and use tax laws
    • LR220 (Halloran) Interim study to review provisions governing carcass disposal requirements and options
    • LR221 (Halloran) Interim study to review the resources and authorities of the Dept. of Agriculture regarding livestock disease prevention and response
    • LR222 (Halloran) Interim study to review the status of the implementation of the electronic brand document and reporting system by the Nebraska Brand Committee
    • LR226 (Howard) Interim study to examine and assess prescribing practices of health care providers related to opioids and the effectiveness of Nebraska's prescription drug monitoring program

    We welcome the opportunity to meet with your Board of Directors over the interim and to continue to share information about the work of the Nebraska Legislature. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us anytime:

    Katie Zulkoski – katie@zulkoskiweber.com – 402.405.3676

    Michelle Weber – michelle@zulkoskiweber.com – 402.984.5009

    We are honored to work on behalf of the Nebraska Veterinary Medical Association, and we welcome any questions or feedback you have on the 2019 legislation session.

    Cheers, 

    Katie and Michelle

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Legislature adjourns. see more

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI-WEBER:

    The Nebraska Legislature has adjourned sine die. The 2019 session is done, finished, complete. Final adjournment was set on the calendar for June 6, but the Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer is sending senators home early after most (all except four) of the priority bills received debate and final action for the year. There was only one priority bill held in committee, LB606 by Senator Mike Groene, which would allow land owned for purposes of water augmentation projects to be sold. One priority bill, LB147 also by Senator Groene—this one allowing teachers’ physical contact for student discipline, was pulled from the Education Committee (interestingly, this committee is chaired by Senator Groene) by 25 votes of the full legislature, but then no further debate was given to the bill. One Speaker priority, LB379by Senator Mark Kolterman to allow pay day lenders to loan dollars online, was advanced out of the Banking Committee but never scheduled for debate. And one priority bill, LB183 by Senator Tom Brewer to exempt military retirement benefits from income tax, was advanced out of Revenue Committee too close to the new ending date to be considered.

    The final day of the session the Legislature considered two veto overrides—one to create a regional metro transit authority and one to clear up marriage license statutory terms. Senator Justin Wayne was successful in overcoming the Governor’s veto on his transit authority bill. Senator Machaela Cavanaugh opened on her motion to override the Governor’s veto but then withdrew the motion, instead accepting a compromise solution the Governor offered to administratively change terminology on marriage license applications.

    During the 84-day session, Senators introduced 739 bills and passed 294 of those bills into law. Over the years the Legislature has traditionally passed around 40% of the bills introduced, and this year held true to that calculation. 

    Six bills were sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature over the last two days. Because the Legislature will not reconvene this year, any of these bills are potential victims of a gubernatorial veto that could not be overridden. Based on the bills passed, though, we don’t predict this happening.

    In other veto news, the Governor did not use his line-item veto authority on any items in the $9.3 billion budget. The Governor signed the package, touting its inclusion of “direct tax relief” through the $275 million annual Property Tax Credit Relief Fund and leaving intact 2% provider rate increases, $11 million water sustainability funding, and $11 million in additional funds for flood relief.

    CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST

    Worried that this is your last ZW Weekly? There is more to come:

    • A final session recap of bills that passed, bills that failed, and bills that we will be working on over the interim.
    • A email listing the interim studies of interest, with the rank order of each resolution assigned by the committee directed to study the issue.
    • Invitations for golf, lunch, dinner, or drinks. We love spending time with you and learning more about the issues that matter to you.
    • And finally, the 2020 legislative session is just seven short months away – ZW Weekly will be back in action on January 8, 2020.

    We’re wearing our seersucker to signal the official start of the interim,

    Katie and Michelle

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Property tax measure stalls out. see more

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI-WEBER:

    It was a big week in the Nebraska Legislature that included final passage of the budget and the collapse of tax reform and business incentives updates. With the Speaker calling for an early end to session, the Unicameral worked late into the evenings to make progress on bills.

    Budget Passed

    On Tuesday the Legislature gave final approval to the $9.3 billion biennial budget with no additional changes. The Governor has until midnight Monday to make any line-item vetoes.

    Tax Relief Stymied

    The Legislature took up a last-ditch effort to raise revenue to provide property tax relief. Last week, Revenue Chairman Linehan’s LB289, which would have raised $372 million in new revenue to fund property tax reduction, stalled on the floor and never gathered the support required to return to the agenda. This week Senator Briese offered an amendment to his priority bill, LB183, to eliminate 28 sales tax exemptions, including those applied to candy, soft drinks, bottled water, and a number of services (including non-livestock veterinary services), while increasing the earned income tax credit to help reduce the impact of sales tax increases on low-income Nebraskans. The motion to stop debate fell 10 votes short on a 23-7 vote, signaling the end of this year’s property tax debate. The failure to advance property tax relief may bolster efforts on a pending property tax ballot initiative.

    Interim Studies Introduced

    Senators had until Thursday to introduce interim study resolutions. The work that results from these studies is highly dependent on the level of interest of the Senators and committees involved. Some may receive no attention, while others will prompt hearings, reports, and legislative proposals for next session. Most interim study work is taken up on the fall. We have flagged the resolutions below as being of interest to you and will keep you apprised of any activity:

    • LR186 (McDonnell) Interim study to examine the potential elimination of exemptions for goods and services under sales and use tax laws
    • LR207 (Briese) Interim study to examine the possible elimination of various exemptions of goods and exclusions of services under Nebraska's sales and use tax laws
    • LR220 (Halloran) Interim study to review provisions governing carcass disposal requirements and options
    • LR221 (Halloran) Interim study to review the resources and authorities of the Dept. of Agriculture regarding livestock disease prevention and response
    • LR222 (Halloran) Interim study to review the status of the implementation of the electronic brand document and reporting system by the Nebraska Brand Committee
    • LR226 (Howard) Interim study to examine and assess prescribing practices of health care providers related to opioids and the effectiveness of Nebraska's prescription drug monitoring program

    Adjournment Expected May 31

    Upon adjournment today, the Legislature is in recess until next Thursday when we return for what is expected to be the final two days of session. Although tensions were elevated in the capitol at times this week, year-end celebrations have already begun to heighten spirits. We will report back next week on our hopeful lobbyist team victory over the legislators in this afternoon’s basketball game and all the best jokes from the capitol staff’s Saturday Night Live-style sine die skit show. 

    As always, the full list of bills we are tracking on your behalf is attached.

    CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST. 

    Have a great weekend,

    Michelle and Katie

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Early adjournment planned. see more

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER:

    The cheering you can hear out your window is Michelle and me celebrating the Speaker’s announcement that the Legislature will adjourn six legislative days early. Adjournment Sine Die was originally scheduled for June 6 and now has been moved to May 31. The six legislative days we have remaining will be taken up with yet-unsolved issues, including tax relief, business incentives, and military retirement benefits.

    It took two tries, but the Legislature was eventually able to advance the package of bills making up the next biennium’s budget. Out of all of the items in the $9.3 billion budget, the stalemate centered around a small-dollar study of long-term care reimbursement rates under Medicaid. The study language was ultimately left unchanged, and the main-line budget was given second-round approval on a vote of 40 ayes-7 nays-2 present but not voting.

    We continue to watch the movement of revenue-raising “tax relief” legislation being re-crafted in the waning days of session. Many of the iterations of the property tax bills contained an imposition of sales tax on veterinary services for pets, which the NVMA is opposing on your behalf. Thus far there are no property-tax relief that appear to have the support necessary to even re-appear on the agenda.

    Late Thursday, two revenue-raising property tax relief packages remained as long-shot candidates for continued discussion this session. Senator Linehan continues to push her LB289, which imposes a sales tax on veterinary services for pets, and Senators Friesen and Briese have combined forces on an amendment to LB183, a bill already on Select File (the second of three stages of debate). The amendment to LB183 removes sales tax exemptions on things ranging from veterinary services on pets to escorts, but does NOT raise the sales tax rate, and does NOT change the school funding or local taxing authorities.  

    CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST. 

    We’ll be spending our weekend practicing for next week’s Lobbyists vs. Senators basketball game. Wish us (and them) luck,

    Katie and Michelle

  • Sasha Honig posted an article
    Tax proposal debated. see more

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER:

    Budget given first-round approval

    “We're going to put politics in front of prudence," Appropriations Chairman John Stinner remarked as Senators debated an amendment to the state’s $9.3 billion biennial budget this week. Despite Senator Stinner’s warnings to shore up the state’s rainy day fund, he was out-voted as Senators redirected $50 million over two years from the state’s cash reserve to property tax credits for which Governor Ricketts supports increased funding. As amended, the budget would bring the Property Tax Credit Fund to $275 million annually.

    The rest of the Appropriations Committee budget was left intact with the mainline budget bill (LB294) gaining first-round approval with a vote of 42-4. Opposing Senators criticized the budget for overspending, including on higher education, but did not any offer any amendments to change what they considered to be the offending provisions.

    Property tax/Sales Tax proposal debated

    On Monday lawmakers debated legislation to reduce property taxes by raising sales tax revenue and directing the additional revenue to state support for school funding. Revenue Chairman Lou Ann Linehan, sponsor of LB289, called the bill a tax structure “rebalancing.” She claims the significant increase in aid would reduce the state’s overreliance on property taxes to fund K-12 education and provide meaningful property tax relief for every property owner in the state. While several Senators rose in support of the proposal, it was criticized by others. Senator Chambers decried the half-cent sales tax increase as a “cruel, heartless and unfeeling” burden on the poor. Senator Chambers filed several amendments, including one to remove the repeal of the sales tax exemption for veterinary services. No vote was taken on this amendment. Lincoln Senators Bolz and Morfeld expressed concern about the proposal’s effect on urban school districts. The bill is now on a “Speaker’s hold” and will return to the agenda when Senator Linehan can demonstrate sufficient support to advance the bill—which she does not currently have. Senators are discussing possible changes to the bill, but no additional amendments have been filed.

    Seventy-four days of the 90-day session are now complete. Please let us know if you have questions of any bills of interest.

    CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST. 

    Have a great weekend!

    Michelle and Katie

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Continue to oppose sales tax on pet services. see more

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER:

    We’re rocking and rolling in Lincoln. Tax relief proposals are coming together, the Appropriations biennial budget proposal was released, and the Legislature voted (41-8) to override the Governor’s first veto of the session. And there are still 20 days left in the session.

    The Revenue Committee advanced the long-awaited property tax relief bill (LB289) on Tuesday. The bill the committee ultimately advanced proposes removal of even more sales tax exemptions to help pay for an increase in state aid to schools under this aggressive new plan. The committee also proposes to raise revenue by increasing Nebraska’s state sales tax rate from 5.5% to 6% beginning July 1, 2019, and increasing cigarette taxes by 36 cents to $1 per package. And though it saves property taxpayers money, the Personal Property Tax Exemption was not even spared and is proposed to be repealed beginning in tax year 2019. Finally, the bill provides for a floor of $115 million for the Property Tax Credit Fund for tax year 2019 and beyond.

    Despite the work of NVMA members contacting Revenue Committee senators and testifying in opposition to the proposal, the committee advanced the bill with a repeal of the sales tax exemption for veterinary services for pets still included. We aren’t alone in our misery though; the bill also repeals sales tax exemptions for moving services; storage services; clothes cleaning services; transportation network company services; beauty and personal care services; tattoo or other body modification services; maintenance, painting, and repair services to single family homes; interior design services; limousine, taxi, and other transportation services; commercial lawn care, gardening, and landscaping services; parking services; swimming pool cleaning and maintenance services; dating and social escort services; teleflora delivery services; wedding planning services; weight loss programs and services; personal training services; motor vehicle repair and maintenance services; and purchases by a Fine Art Museum.  The committee further proposes to add sales taxes to bottled water, candy, and soft drinks. 

    Debate on this bill begins on Tuesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. Contacting your senator over the weekend in opposition to the sales tax on pet services would be helpful addition to the chorus of opposition surrounding the bill. 

    There is at least one confirmed opponent of the pet services provision in the legislative chamber – Senator Chambers stood up on the legislative floor this week to complain specifically about adding a sales tax to veterinary services and vowed to stop the bill because of it. His arguments focused on the burden this places on pet owners who are seniors or otherwise have a fixed-income.

    The Appropriations Committee released their biennial budget proposal (LB284) on Thursday morning, Day 70 of the 90-day session. Debate on this and all of the budget related bills starts next Wednesday. Notably, the Speaker has selected LB284 as a Speaker Major Proposal, which gives the Speaker the authority to determine the order of amendments considered during debate—an important reservation of power in a year when a number of budget amendments are expected. Trivia knowledge: the Speaker can designate up to five bills per session as Major Proposals, but we’ve never seen the tactic used to that extent.

    CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST. 

    We will send an action alert soon to give more information about contacting your senators in opposition to LB289. Thanks in advance for your work in doing so,

    Katie and Michelle

  • Katie Zulkoski posted an article
    Work focuses on 107 priority measures. see more

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER

    With 66 legislative days of the 90-day session now in the books, the Legislature continues to make steady progress on addressing the 739 bills introduced, with work now focused on the 107 priority measures. Progress has been so good that Speaker Scheer has announced there will be no need for “late night” sessions next week. He originally reserved 17 evenings for extended sessions, but is confident enough in the progress the Legislature is making to remove from the schedule the first three “late nights” that had been penciled-in for next week.

    Property tax proposal encounters great opposition

    Many Senators did stay late—until 11 pm—this Wednesday for the joint hearing the Revenue, Education, and Retirement Committees held on the property tax relief proposal. Revenue Chairman Linehan introduced AM1381 to LB289, the committee’s proposal to provide property tax relief through decreased property valuations, increased state aid to schools, new school levy restrictions, a ¾-cent sales tax hike, cigarette tax boost, and removal of several sales tax exemptions, including the sales tax exemption of veterinary care for non-livestock animals. The bill only drew four supporters to testify—two rural school representatives and two individuals—and was opposed by about 50 testifiers, representing a wide range of interests, including cities, urban schools, chambers of commerce, teachers, policy think tanks, retailers, real estate agents, contractors, and others. Dr. Lance Roasa testified in opposition on behalf of the NVMA, highlighting the necessity of the veterinary care and the impact on public health. Dr. Liz Farrington opposed the bill on behalf of the Nebraska Humane Society, focusing on the importance of shelter animal care and spay and neuter programs. The Revenue Committee has already began meeting to consider revisions, including limiting the sales tax increase to a half cent, removing other sales tax exemptions, and maintaining the Property Tax Credit Relief Fund.

    Economic forecasting board raises revenue projections

    The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board voted this week to raise revenue projections. The board provides an advisory forecast of general fund receipts that the Legislature uses to craft the state’s budget, which will be advanced by the Appropriations Committee very soon. Revenue projections for the current fiscal year were raised by $45 million to $4.76 billion. Total projected revenue receipts for FY2019-20 were raised to $4.88 billion, an increase of $10 million. The FY2020-21 projections remain unchanged. While this is good news, it is expected that most of these increases will go toward the state’s cash reserve fund.

    Governor issues first veto

    Governor Ricketts issued his first veto of the session this week, rejecting a bill that passed 43-6 to allow Gage County to create a sales tax without a vote of the people to help pay the judgment against the county for the wrongful conviction of the “Beatrice Six.” The bill, LB472 introduced by Senator Dorn, would allow the county's Board of Supervisors to vote to create a countywide half-cent sales tax for the specific purpose of funding the federal judgment. In his veto message, the Governor said "the Legislature has not authorized political subdivisions to impose new taxes on Nebraskans without a vote of the people." Senator Dorn has filed a motion to override the veto. Under the Legislature's rules, the Legislature will take up the motion within five working days. Speaker Scheer has scheduled the veto override for next Tuesday afternoon.

    Prescription drug monitoring changes clear second round

    The Legislature gave second-round approval this week to Senator Howard’s LB556, which would make a number of changes designed to make the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program interact more effectively with appropriate agencies, other state drug monitoring programs, and state and regional health information exchanges.

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

    CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST. 

    Enjoy your Arbor Day weekend—we will both be reading through kindergarten round-up (!) materials,

    Michelle and Katie

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

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER

    “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

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER

    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.

    CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE BILLS OF INTEREST. 

    Have a great weekend,

    Michelle and Katie

     

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

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER

    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

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER

    “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

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER

    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

    FROM NVMA LOBBYING FIRM ZULKOSKI WEBER

    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.

    CLICK HERE TO REVIEW THE 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