Hughes' views: Goal to offer certainty for agriculturists

LB227, the ag nuisance bill I introduced, was filibustered during the first reading on general file on April 8. However, I had enough votes to bring it back for a second three hours on Wednesday, April 10, and to break the filibuster that day. It was eventually passed through to select file. 

Before it is heard on select file, I will bring a new clarifying amendment forward. Throughout this process I have amended the original bill which I believe resolves the concerns of a few senators. 

The Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Farm Bureau, my staff and I have worked diligently to answer all questions, decipher the legal language and create compromise with previously-opposed Senators. 

We are still in the process of making the bill more amicable to some of the senators by introducing another amendment. By doing so, I feel we are gathering more floor votes which may assist in getting this bill passed. 

I want to remind everyone the goal of this legislation is to offer certainty for agriculturalists who want to make an investment in their operation from frivolous lawsuits like those in North Carolina. Providing surety is a cost-free way that we as a legislative body can spur development and grow Nebraska’s economy. 

On another very important note, I have received multiple letters regarding nursing homes and Medicaid reimbursement rate issues. The constituents who reached out to me have highlighted four different bills related to this issue. Those bills are LB181, LB403, LB404 and LB468. Since this is a priority issue for so many constituents, I want to discuss the status of these bills and where I see them going. 

• LB181, LB403 and LB404 appeared in the Appropriations committee March 25. None of them were prioritized and have not been scheduled for general file.

• LB468 appeared in the Health and Human Services committee March 1. It was prioritized by Health and Human Services, which means it will be heard on the floor this session. Since then, an amendment to the bill has been filed by the committee. It has not been placed on the agenda yet. 

While it is possible for the three bills in Appropriations to advance out of committee, it is highly unlikely for them to appear on the agenda because they were not prioritized. 

It is also unlikely because the budget is coming out on Day 70, May 2, at which time we pause all other business and focus only on the budget. On a brighter note, the Appropriations Committee may choose to incorporate the ideas from those bills into the budget. 

Even if that happens, we are back to the same story. Our state has limited funds to split between government services like K-12 education, programs for the elderly and vulnerable, and paying for corrections and prisons, plus everything else. 

To top this off, we have not seen the effect of Medicaid Expansion which was voted into law last year and will take effect on Oct. 1, 2020. Yet, we will have to build money into the budget this year to pay for the increased bureaucracy to administer the additional Medicaid funds next year. Those Medicaid Expansion funds will not address or increase Medicaid reimbursement rates. 

I am aware of the issues for nursing homes and facilities in our area, and appreciate the outpouring of feedback regarding it. I am also aware of the budgetary strain we are facing, and the need for property tax reform. Creating this year’s budget will be a challenge. 

The Grant Tribune-Sentinel

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