Highlights of the 2021 Nebraska legislative session

Highlights of the 2021 Nebraska legislative session

The first session of the 107th Nebraska Legislature has adjourned Sine Die, concluding regular legislative business in Lincoln until 2022. Now that all the legislating (except the forthcoming special session on redistricting) is complete, let’s summarize some of the ways senators expanded economic opportunities and freedoms for Nebraskans in 2021.

During the session, the Platte Institute weighed in on a total of 93 of the 684 pieces of legislation introduced.

Twenty-six of the bills we supported this session have been signed into law, and several more have been advanced for consideration next year, when bills can carry over into the short session. Here are some of the highlights:

Regulatory Reform

  • LB400 allows telehealth services to be provided without the requirement that the patient come to a hospital or clinic and allows for verbal consent in lieu of written consent to begin treatment, as to not delay the initial visit.
  • Barriers to new career and business opportunities were removed for Nebraska restaurants and bars, craft brewers, farm wineries, micro-distillers, locksmiths, real property appraisers, military spouses who are teachers, and a variety of health care-related practitioners.
  • LB72 was amended into LB274. The package changed a number of beverage-related laws, permanently extending a pandemic executive order allowing bars and restaurants to sell mixed drinks for home consumption, expanding product offerings including the “ready-to-drink cocktail,” and reducing excise tax rates on that new product category. LB274 also allows Nebraska’s craft brewers and farm wineries to sell their products for consumption at a farmers market.
  • LB83 builds upon a pandemic executive order and allows for virtual conferencing of public meetings subject to the Open Meetings Act for the sake of conducting business to address emergencies, such as flooding or tornadoes.

Tax Policy

  • Senators helped prevent economically harmful sales taxes on telecom and agriculture business inputs with LB182, LB595, and LB672.
  • LB432, an income tax package, decreases the top corporate income tax rate from 7.81% to 6.84% over a period of years.
  • LB644, also known as Truth in Taxation, or “the postcard bill,” requires that cities, counties, school districts and community colleges wishing to exceed a revenue neutral property tax levy rate beyond a proposed 2% allowable growth factor and real growth provide advance notice of intent to do so directly to property taxpayers via mail, and to hold a separate public hearing where taxpayers can provide testimony.

Over the interim, the Platte Institute will be working with senators and stakeholders to find paths forward for legislation that either remains in committee or on General File.

We will also be working with senators and Nebraskans who are interested in some of the proposed interim studies, which include:

  • LR131 – Interim study to examine the lack of affordable housing in Nebraska
  • LR191 – Interim study to examine the effect of universal recognition of occupational licenses on populations frequently negatively impacted by occupational licensing in the state

While not all the legislation that the Platte Institute supported this year made it across the finish line, I’ve got to hand it to our 49 senators. COVID-19 dealt our Unicameral unique challenges to navigate, and they were able to do so in 84 busy days. They removed barriers and provided economic opportunities that will help speed up Nebraska’s economic recovery as the state’s pandemic emergency declaration is set to expire June 1st.

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