2 Nebraska state senators self-isolate after virus exposure

State senators Adam Morfeld of Lincoln and Julie Slama of Peru sit in a balcony overlooking the Legislative Chamber, top left, in Lincoln, Neb., Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The two senators may have been exposed to the coronavirus and isolated themselves from their fellow lawmakers by taking seats in the upper balcony so they can still participate in legislative debate.

A southwest Nebraska lawmaker’s bill creating a new promotional “checkoff” program for dry peas and lentils won final approval Friday in the Legislature.

State senators voted 44-0 to send Legislative Bill 803, sponsored by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango, to Gov. Pete Ricketts’ desk.

LB 803 was one of five measures sponsored by west central Nebraska senators passed Friday as the 2020 session, suspended for four months by the COVID-19 outbreak, reached the midpoint of its 17-day home stretch.

Hughes, a Perkins County farmer, originally introduced LB 803 as the Pulse Crop Resources Act. Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk named the bill one of his speaker’s 2020 priority bills.

“Pulse crops” are harvested as food for their dry seeds and also help improve farm fields when grown in rotation with other crops.

Dry peas, lentils, chickpeas, garbanzo beans, faba beans and lupins are covered under the final form of LB 803. It was renamed the Dry Pea and Lentil Resources Act as part of a Hughes amendment adopted July 20.

The bill calls for a 1% excise tax on dry peas and lentils sold commercially. If Ricketts signs it, a five-member board would decide how to spend the proceeds to further promote their growth.

An accompanying appropriations bill (LB 803A) also won final approval Friday on a 42-0 vote.

Other bills by regional senators passed Friday were:

» LB 774, introduced by Gothenburg Sen. Matt Williams, which combines four bills to update state laws involving reinsurance, health and dental insurance and insurance tied to extended motor vehicle warranties.

Senators gave 48-0 final approval to the bill, a priority of the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee that Williams chairs.

» LB 858, introduced by Hughes, which also combines four bills changing laws affecting municipal cooperative financing, recycling, the Niobrara Council and a state fund for cleaning up petroleum spills.

A 47-0 vote sent the bill, a priority of the Natural Resources Committee, to the governor’s desk. Hughes is chairman of the committee.

» LB 899, a Hughes bill enabling public power districts to develop, buy and sell biofuels in order to help offset greenhouse gas emissions.

Senators gave 45-0 final approval to the bill, which Columbus Sen. Mike Moser made his priority for the session.

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