Capitol Digest: Nebraska Farm Bureau backs a property tax relief bill

January 29, 2019 GMT

The World-Herald’s statehouse reporters round up news highlights from the Legislature and state government into the Capitol Digest — a daily briefing for the political newshound with a busy schedule.

» A legislative heavyweight. The Nebraska Farm Bureau has picked its horse in the race to obtain property tax relief. The state’s largest ag group will back a multifaceted proposal from State Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson. Legislative Bill 497 aims to end the inequity in K-12 school financing across the state and eventually make the state cover 50 percent of all basic educational costs.

Right now, 150 of the state’s 244 school districts receive less than 10 percent of basic education funding from the state, according to the Farm Bureau, which picked the bill over those introduced by Albion Sen. Tom Briese. But Briese is among a dozen co-sponsors of LB 497 and has said it doesn’t matter which property tax relief proposal is passed, as long as one is.

One controversial aspect of LB 497 is that it proposes to do away with the sales tax exemption on groceries, which will bring opposition from advocates for the poor. Friesen has said no proposal on property tax relief will advance without amendment.

» Paying football players. Almost eight years after Nebraska joined the Big Ten Conference, a state law that would allow the University of Nebraska to pay its football players a “stipend” would be updated under LB 102 to refer to “Big Ten” instead of the “Big Twelve.” The 2003 law, introduced by Sen. Ernie Chambers, allows NU to pay players once four other states in the conference pass similar legislation, which is unlikely.

The law was passed to put pressure on the NCAA, which has not supported policies to pay players. Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos submitted a letter supporting LB 102, saying NU “continues to support this concept” and detailing aid already given to athletes.

— Paul Hammel and Aaron Hegarty