Lawmakers last week debated bills dealing with licensees, property sales tax, school resource officers and industrial hemp, among others.
A proposed amendment focusing on the shortage of dental care providers in rural areas was heard by the Health and Human Services Committee Feb. 14. LB 312, introduced by Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair, would allow dental hygienists with licenses to participate in residential care in a hospice service or a home-health agency. This bill would potentially help the 22 Nebraska counties with no practicing dental hygienists. No immediate action was taken.
On Feb. 14, the Revenue Committee heard a proposal that would raise the sales tax rate and impose a tax on high incomes to provide state aid to public schools. LB 314, introduced by Sen. Tom Briese of Albion, would raise the sales tax rate from 5.5 to 6 percent and require sales tax for candy, soft drinks and bottled water. Kathy Siefken, executive director of the Nebraska Grocery Industry Association, testified in opposition stating that the change in taxable items would be expensive for many small grocery stores in the state. The committee took no action.
On Feb. 14, the Judiciary Committee considered a bill that states police officers would no longer serve as school resource officers. LB 589, introduced by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, was opposed by the Hastings Chief of Police, Adam Story. Story said the bill would have a negative impact on the safety of schools. Chambers said the programs disproportionately have an impact on disabled students and students of color. The committee took no action.
The Health and Human Services Committee heard a bill on Feb. 13 that would amend the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to help fight the opioid addiction crisis. LB 556, introduced by Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha, would allow states to share interstate data and Medicaid access to this program. No one testified in opposition to this bill and no action was taken.
On Feb. 12, The Nebraska Retirement Systems Committee heard LB 565, introduced by Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, that would require the spouse of a deceased retirement system member to be the default beneficiary. The committee took no action.
On Feb. 12, the Agriculture Committee heard a proposal that would regulate the growing of industrial hemp in Nebraska. LB 657, introduced by Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, would provide a registration program for hemp growers and a licensing program. The committee took no action.
The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee heard a proposal on Feb. 12 that would repeal the present motorcycle helmet requirement. LB 378, introduced by Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair, would give riders 21 and older the option to wear a helmet, but would still require eye protection. The committee took no action.