Bill advances that would waive initial health care licensing costs for some Nebraskans

Bill advances that would waive initial health care licensing costs for some Nebraskans
World-Herald News Service

Licensing fees. Nebraska would waive initial health care licensing costs for young Nebraskans, low-income residents and military families under a bill advanced Thursday.

Legislative Bill 112, introduced by State Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha, cleared first-round consideration with no dissenting votes.

Howard said the measure would help people get started more quickly in health care professions.

She said several other states already waive or reduce such fees for certain groups.

“Not being able to afford a license should never be a barrier to starting a career path,” she said.

Under the bill, licensing fees and the cost of criminal background checks needed for licensing could be waived for the initial licensing year.

Howard said the cost of the waivers would be spread among the thousands of licensed health care professionals in the state and would amount to only a few cents each.

The bill would make waivers available for young adults ages 18 through 25; low-income people, including those on public assistance programs, such as Medicaid or food stamps, or whose income is less than 130 percent of the federal poverty level; and military families, including active duty service members, veterans and their spouses.

Reducing property taxes. The Legislature’s Revenue Committee sent a clear signal Thursday that property tax relief will be their top priority in 2019.

The committee, meeting in executive session, decided to defer any action on Gov. Pete Ricketts’ proposal to increase a tax break for military retirees until after taking action on a package of proposals to lower property taxes.

LB 153 would provide about $12 million a year in income tax breaks for such retirees, which the governor said would help retain highly trained workers.

But senators on the Revenue Committee said that a property tax package needed to be advanced first, then it could be determined whether the military veteran proposal could go forward.

State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Omaha said she hopes to get that package to the floor of the Legislature by mid-April to provide plenty of time for debate.

Taxing Internet sales. A bill that would require collection of Nebraska sales taxes on online sales by companies outside the state was advanced on a unanimous vote Thursday by the Revenue Committee to debate by the full Legislature.

LB 284 is a combination of three proposals and could become effective as early as April 1.

U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for states to begin collecting the tax on Internet sellers like Amazon, eBay and Etsy.

It had been a sore point for years among brick-and-mortar retailers in Nebraska, who were collecting taxes on sales and maintained that Internet firms got an unfair price break.

Tax deed sales. The Revenue Committee also advanced LB 463, which would give owners of property in which taxes were delinquent more rigorous notification that they risk losing their property.

Senators said they may try to amend the bill during floor debate to require that newspaper notices include the name and address of the delinquent taxpayers, not just the legal description of the property.