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RECAP: 2016 Nebraska Legislative Session

STATE_CAP_POSTCARD

(image via Flickr user MCAD Library)

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The 2016 session of the Nebraska Unicameral adjourned Sine Die on April 20.

Bold Nebraska worked with partner organizations including Nebraskans for Civic ReformNebraska AppleseedCommon Cause Nebraska, Center for Rural AffairsNebraska Wildlife Federation, Nebraska Farmers Union, ACLU of Nebraska and Nebraska Sierra Club to bring you informed coverage of bills under consideration and actions to make sure your voice is heard.

We achieved some bold wins and saw some tough losses — check out our recap of the session below.

WIN

LOSS

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Below are the priority bills Bold Nebraska tracked during the 2016 session, associated campaigns, and final bill status.

INDEX OF BILLS:

  • Climate Change Special Committee (LR 455)

  • Corporate Pigs Bill—Packer Ownership of Livestock (LB 176)

  • Liability Insurance & Restrictions for Fracking Waste (LB 1070)

  • Eliminate Oil & Gas Commission’s ‘Promotional’ Role (LB 1082)

  • Public Service Commission Review of Utility Rate Increases (LB 1068)

  • Health & Climate Resiliency Task Force (LB 802)

  • Affordable Health Insurance for all Nebraskans (LB 1032)

  • Prohibit LGBT Discrimination in Workplaces & Housing (LB 586)

  • Fossil Fuel Divestment & Investment in Clean Energy (LB 1069)

  • (PACE) Property Assessed Clean Energy (LB 1012)

  • Renewable Energy Tax Credit (LB 423)

  • Redistricting Act (LB 580)

  • Wind Energy Development Deregulation (LB 824)

  • Digital Right to Repair (LB 1072)

  • Rural Community-based Energy Development (LB 736)

Climate Change Special Committee (LR 455) | Final Vote: Approved

Introduced by Sen. Haar, LR 455 would provide the Executive Board of the Legislative Council appoint a special committee to examine issues related to the impacts of climate change on the State of Nebraska.

LR 455: SUPPORT

  • The special committee would consult state agencies, political subdivisions, educational institutions, academic experts, advocacy organizations, and members of the public in exploring methods to address issues of climate change as well as opportunities to adapt, mitigate, and create resiliency related to climate change.
  • The committee would examine assessments of vulnerability, risks, and economic impacts, and examine opportunities, including methods of producing food, generating power, or protecting land and water that can be used to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change and that will provide jobs and economic benefits to Nebraskans.

ACTION: Call & email members of the Executive Board of the Legislative Council, and urge support for LR 455.

Corporate Pigs Bill (LB 176) | Final Vote: Approved

Introduced by Sen. Schilz, LB 176 would lift the prohibition on packer ownership of hogs. 

LB 176: OPPOSE

  • The bill would help big meatpacking companies who want to drive independent farmers out of hog production.
  • Urge your Senators to stand with family farmers in opposition to packer ownership of livestock. Let them know you are opposed to LB 176 and that farmers should own hogs, not packers!

BACKGROUND

This bill (previously introduced and defeated in 2015) would hand over all market control to the meatpackers and reduce farmers to little more than contract growers for the corporations.  The bill would allow pork meatpackers to own hogs as long as they had production contracts with hog producers. This would have the same effect as a repeal of the ban on packer ownership because meat processors are no longer building and operating hog CAFO’s.  They now use contract production to achieve the same two benefits that ownership provides:  control, and primary economic benefits, while passing the risks and responsibilities associated with production along to the producer.  LB176 would in effect make the hog industry in Nebraska like the chicken industry, and would open the door to allowing meatpackers to own cattle, which would be disastrous for Nebraska’s independent family cattle ranchers.  What is further troubling about this is the fact that Smithfield, the largest pork packer in the world, is now owned by the Chinese company Shanghui International.  There is a constitutional ban on the foreign corporate ownership of farmland.  Why would we allow foreign corporations to own livestock?  This failed system has transformed the chicken industry into a captive supply for poultry packers and driven many producers into debt and bankruptcy.

Watch this movie about one farmer’s attempts to expose the poultry industry’s abuse of animals and farmers:

Unchecked growth of corporate-owned pork has allowed rapid expansion of confined animal feeding operations in states like Iowa, where such expansion has threatened drinking water supplies and has virtually eliminated the open market system of price discovery and competition among packers for market share. The United States has lost 91% of its hog producers since 1980.  Do we really need to continue down this path of allowing meatpacking corporations to prey on family farmers by locking them into a treadmill system of debt?

ACTION:

Liability Insurance & Restrictions for Fracking Waste (LB 1070) | Bill Withdrawn

Introduced by Sen. Haar, LB 1070 would require liability insurance for fracking wastewater injection well permit applicants and restrict permit issuance near groundwater aquifers.

LB 1070: SUPPORT

  • The bill would change the powers and duties of the NOGCC to require liability insurance ($1 million+) and restrict permits for wastewater injection wells if the groundwater aquifer is close to the surface.
  • Both the Groundwater Protection Council and the EPA said the insurance for such wells in Nebraska should be updated.

VIDEO: Watch Bold Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb testify in support of LB 1070.

jane_LB1070

Click to watch the video

Eliminate Oil & Gas Commission’s ‘Promotional’ Role (LB 1082) | Final Vote: Approved

Introduced by Sen. Schilz, LB 1082 would change powers and duties of the NOGCC, removing the “promotion” of the oil & gas business in the state out of the regulatory agency’s purview.

LB 1082: SUPPORT

  • The bill removes the “promotion” of the oil & gas business in the state out of the regulatory agency’s purview.
  • Provides for a periodic injection well fluid analysis and report, and bond notification requirements.
  • More public notifications and hearings about wastewater projects would be required,
  • Requires additional oil & gas well monitoring that is not being done now.

Click here for TIPS on what to say when you contact your Senator.

ACTIONCall and e-mail your state senator, and urge them to support LB 1082 to institute reforms at the NOGCC.

VIDEO: Watch Bold Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb testify in support of LB 1082.

jane_LB1070

Click to watch the video

Public Service Commission Review of Utility Rate Increases (LB 1068) | Bill Withdrawn

Introduced by Sen. Ken Haar, LB 1068 authorizes the Nebraska Public Service Commission to review electric utility rate increases consistent with the Electric Customer Protection Act in order to provide the public with additional protection against unreasonable and unjust charges.

LB 1068: SUPPORT

  • The bill includes the the Electric Customer Protection Act, 
  • In the aftermath of an unpopular and unfair “fixed fee” increase by OPPD, this bill aims to give redress to customers faced with paying discriminatory higher rates through oversight via the Public Service Commission.

Health & Climate Resiliency Task Force (LB 802) | Final Vote: Approved (as LR 455)

Introduced by Sen. Ken Haar, LB 802 would direct the creation of a task force with participation from academic experts, advocacy organizations, and members of the public in exploring methods to address issues of climate change on human health and well-being as well as opportunities to adapt, mitigate, and create resiliency related to climate change on human health and well-being.

LB 802: SUPPORT

  • The bill aims to create a Health & Climate Resiliency Task Force to gather data and create a plan to help Nebraska mitigate and adapt to the affects of climate change.
  • The Task Force will examine areas including:
    • Blizzards, droughts, fires, floods, heatwaves, and tornadoes
    • Food and food security, including changes to agricultural production
    • Vector borne illnesses; Air pollution; Water quantity and quality and impacts to ag, domestic use, and power production
    • Energy production and use
    • Ecosystems, including forests, wildlife, and habitat; Rural and urban communities
    • Mental health, including social change and migration

ACTIONCall and e-mail your state senator, and urge them to support LR 455 to create a Climate Change Special Committee.

Affordable Health Insurance for all Nebraskans (LB 1032) | Indefinitely Postponed

Introduced by Sen. McCollister, LB 1032 is an alternative to traditional Medicaid expansion and represents a bipartisan compromise that uses the federal funding to purchase private insurance.

LB 1032: SUPPORT

  • (via Nebraska Appleseed): Right now, 77,000 Nebraskans with low incomes have no way to afford health insurance, which hurts their families, our communities, and our economy. LB 1032, the Transitional Health Insurance Program Act, provides a way for these people to afford health insurance while bringing nearly $2 billion in Nebraska’s tax dollars back to the state.
  • LB 1032 will provide our friends and neighbors with the lowest incomes a way to get meaningful coverage so they can meet their health care needs, take care of their families, and be engaged in the workforce and their communities.

ACTIONCall and e-mail your state senators, and urge them to support LB 1032 to provide affordable health insurance for all Nebraskans.

Prohibit LGBT Discrimination in Workplaces & Housing (LB 586) | Indefinitely Postponed

Introduced and made a priority bill by Sen. MorfeldLB 586 would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the classes protected from discrimination in employment, public housing and accommodation under state law.

LB 586: SUPPORT

  • In Nebraska it is still legal to fire someone from their job, or to deny someone housing or public accommodations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love.
  • Currently, mental health care professionals have a license to discriminate when LGBT Nebraskans seek treatment or referrals for mental health care, and transgender students have no clear policy to ensure they can compete in extracurricular activities.

ACTION: Call and e-mail your state senator, as well as members of the Judiciary Committee, and urge them to support equality for all Nebraskans and a vote in favor of LB 586.

Fossil Fuel Divestment & Investment in Clean Energy (LB 1069) | Bill Withdrawn

Introduced by Sen. Ken Haar, LB 1069 instructs the state to “begin the process of divestment from companies or funds that profit from extraction or burning of fossil fuels to the extent it is consistent with prudent investment strategies; and begin the process of investment in companies or funds that profit from creation of clean energy to the extent it is consistent with prudent investment strategies.”

LB 1069: SUPPORT

  • LB 1069 will begin to divest the state of Nebraska’s various investments that have holdings in Big Oil, coal or other companies that fund or profit from extraction or burning of fossil fuels.
  • On the flipside, the bill instead encourages investment in clean energy in Nebraska.

(PACE) Property Assessed Clean Energy (LB 1012) | Final Vote: Approved

Introduced by Sen. Mello, the bill will make it easier for home owners to make energy efficient updates to their homes.

LB 1012: SUPPORT

  • The bill would authorize municipalities to create energy assessment districts and provide property-assessed loans through outside financing to residential and commercial property owners for energy efficient updates to the property.
  • LB 1012 will help homeowners reduce their energy bills and increase the value of their property all while creating new, skilled jobs.

ACTIONCall and e-mail your state senator, and urge them to support LB 1012 to support efforts Nebraskans want to take to make their homes more energy efficient.

Renewable Energy Tax Credit (LB 423) | Indefinitely Postponed

Introduced by Sen. Nordquist last year and reintroduced this year by Sen. Schilz, LB 423 provides a tax credit for producers of renewable electric energy. The bill reforms renewable energy tax credit calculations for community-based energy development projects.

LB 423: SUPPORT

  • The bill would simplify the process for calculating renewable electric tax credits, increasing the likelihood of renewable energy development.
  • Includes option to receive a one-time credit that covers thirty percent of the cost of construction of a renewable electric energy facility.

ACTIONCall and e-mail your state senator, and urge them to support LB 423 to boost renewable energy in Nebraska.

Redistricting Act (LB 580) | Gov. Ricketts Veto

Introduced by Sen. Murante last year and again this session, LB 580 authorizes an independent commission to reform district lines in Nebraska based on population proportionality. The redistricting process aims to eliminate boundaries that favor one party, officeholder, individual, or group.

LB 580: SUPPORT

  • Commission members will not have access to political party affiliations or previous election results, establishing equitable districts.

Wind Energy Development Deregulation (LB 824) | Final Vote: Approved

Introduced by Sen. McCollister, the bill would help the development of Nebraska’s wind energy potential by making it easier for private development of renewable energy projects.

LB 824: SUPPORT

  • The bill would deregulate development of private wind energy, removing barriers that discourage significant investment in Nebraska.
  • Removes the requirement that developers negotiate a power purchase agreement in advance of project approval.
  • Takes advantage of the federal production tax credit for wind energy, which was just extended by 5 years.

ACTIONCall and e-mail your state senator, and urge them to support LB 824 and the expansion of wind energy in Nebraska.

Digital Right to Repair (LB 1072) | Bill Withdrawn

Introduced by Sen. Ken Haar, the “Fair Repair Act” would guarantee farmers’ and other citizens’ right to repair their own electronics.

LB 1072: SUPPORT

  • Tractor Manufacturers own the rights to diagnostic software and do not allow farmers or independent repair shops to have that software.  So, farmers have to take their tractors/equipment to dealerships to be repaired or it voids their warranty.  They can’t work on their own tractors in their own shop, and independent repair shops can’t fix them. 
  • This costs farmers more money and keeps independent businesses from opening up in small towns.

Rural Community-based Energy Development (LB 736) | Final Vote: Approved

Introduced by Sen. Friesen, the bill would encourage development of community-based energy development (C-BED) projects in rural areas. 

LB 736: SUPPORT

  • Currently, only NPPD, OPPD, Lincoln Electric System and Tri-State Electric may purchase energy from a C-BED project. The bill would expand that authority to include any public power district, public power and irrigation district, individual municipality, registered group of municipalities, electric membership association, or a cooperative. 
  • This costs farmers more money and keeps independent businesses from opening up in small towns.

ACTIONCall and e-mail your state senator, and urge them to support LB 736 to boost community-based energy development (C-BED) opportunities in rural Nebraska.

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