Here is your Final Report for the 2020 Nebraska Legislature. The Final Report contains a listing of all bills we tracked for you this year, including new bills introduced as well as 2019 carryover bills. Relevant information about the content, progress and final status of each tracked bill is included.
Bills signed by Governor Ricketts become effective three calendar months after adjournment (November 13, 2020), unless the bill has a specific operative date or was adopted with an emergency clause. Bills adopted with an emergency clause became effective the day after being signed by the Governor. All bills not enacted at the conclusion of this year’s Session were indefinitely postponed (IPP) and will not carry over into the next Nebraska Legislature.
The 2020 legislative session can be easily divided into two parts. The first 43 legislative days were completed before Speaker Jim Scheer indefinitely recessed the Legislature due to COVID-19 health concerns on March 25th. On that date, current fiscal forecasts projected excess revenue of $138 Million for the current (FY20-21) fiscal year, and $435 Million for the next biennium. When the Legislature resumed in late July to conclude the session, the toll of coronavirus-related shutdowns on Nebraska’s economy was evident. Fiscal forecasts were revised downward to project only $90 Million in excess revenue for the current fiscal year and a deficit of $403 Million for the next biennium.
Despite this challenge, the 2020 Nebraska Legislature persevered to pass a monumental compromise bill in LB1107. LB1107 was negotiated in the waning days of the session under which three major priorities were accomplished – property tax relief, passage of a new business incentives program, and partial funding for the NeXT Project at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The passage of LB1107 achieved two milestones on which the previous session failed – providing property tax relief along with an update and re-authorization of Nebraska’s business incentives program. It was almost not to be. With few days left in the session and the failure of LB1106 (the Revenue Committee’s property tax relief proposal), chances of success appeared slim. But a group of senators formed by Speaker Jim Scheer – dubbed the “Super Seven” by some – worked tirelessly to find common ground and broker the 11th hour deal. Senators John Stinner, Steve Lathrop, Lou Ann Linehan, Mike McDonnell, Tom Briese, and Mark Kolterman – along with Speaker Jim Scheer – deserve much credit for this achievement.
In all, over 130 individual bills were enacted this year, including:
- Military Retirement Tax Relief. LB153, introduced by Senator Tom Brewer, will exempt fifty (50) percent of military retirement pay from Nebraska state income taxes beginning in 2022.
- Rural Broadband Improvements. Two bills, LB992 from Senator Curt Freisen and LB996 from Senator Tom Brandt, continue the Legislature’s recent push for better broadband availability throughout Nebraska. LB992 enacts the Broadband Internet Infrastructure Act, which will facilitate access to easements for broadband providers. LB996 will improve the quality of broadband mapping in Nebraska, helping providers and policymakers identify areas where broadband availability is lacking.
- Flood Relief. As part of its budget adjustment package, the Legislature appropriated $55 Million to help Nebraska rebuild infrastructure damaged during the historic spring flooding of 2019.
The political focus in Nebraska now shifts to November’s general election. Legal proceedings are ongoing to determine whether two important ballot initiatives will appear on the general election ticket:
- Gambling Initiative. This initiative is a package of measures, including a proposed state constitutional amendment, to legalize casino gambling at Nebraska racetracks. After proponents of the measure submitted enough signatures for its inclusion on the ballot, Secretary of State Bob Evnen determined that the ballot language, taken as a whole, was misleading and refused to place the language on the ballot. Proponents of the measure have challenged Evnen’s determination with the Nebraska Supreme Court, which is expected to rule quickly on the matter.
- Medical Marijuana Initiative. This initiative would permit the use of medical marijuana in Nebraska. After verifying enough signatures were gathered, Secretary of State Evnen determined that the medical marijuana question would be placed on the general election ballot. That determination has been challenged at the Nebraska Supreme Court by opponents of the measure.
Twenty five (25) seats in Nebraska’s Legislature are also up for election in November. Several seats vacated by term-limited Senators will be closely contested, including: South Lincoln’s District 29, West Omaha’s District 31, and Bellevue’s District 45.
We have appreciated the opportunity to work with you this past session and look forward to working with you over the interim and next year. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you should have any questions.
Trent P. Nowka
Jon A. Edwards
Russell A. Westerhold