Session Review: General Affairs

Senators made several changes to the state’s gaming and liquor laws this session.

Among the bills passed was a measure that makes several changes to the utilization of gaming funds for services to the state’s problem gamblers.

LB6, introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, establishes the Nebraska Commission on Problem Gambling within the state Department of Revenue. The nine-member commission will be required to develop operational standards for a Gamblers Assistance Program – also created by the bill – and will oversee the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund.

Members, appointed by the governor from lists supplied by the General Affairs Committee, will include members of the medical and mental health care fields, as well as representatives from the banking and finance industry, education and consumers of problem gambling services.

Members will serve three-year terms and will be reimbursed for expenses.

The commission will:
• appoint the director of the Gamblers Assistance Program;
• evaluate the scope of problem gambling in Nebraska;
• contract with treatment providers for services; and
• create public awareness and outreach programs.

LB6 passed on a 48-0 vote.

A measure intended to pave the way for historic horse racing in Nebraska survived a filibuster on general file but was not scheduled for select file debate this session.

LR41CA, introduced by Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, would place a proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2014 general election ballot regarding historic horse racing. If approved by voters, the amendment would allow wagering on the results of live, replayed or delayed horse races at licensed racetracks where live racing occurs by a pari-mutuel method.

Two additional bills dealing with historic horse racing were heard by the committee.

LB73, introduced by Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy, which would remove the current formula used to determine the number of required live race days at tracks across the state to qualify for interstate simulcasting. The bill instead would require a statewide total of 49 live race days, with at least one live race day scheduled at each track. The bill remains in committee.

LB590, introduced by Lautenbaugh, would authorize the state Racing Commission to license and regulate pari-mutuel waging on historic horse races. The bill was advanced by the committee to general file 6-2 but was not scheduled for debate. A Lautenbaugh motion to indefinitely postpone LB590 is pending.

A bill that would amend the current five-minute time limit required between Keno games received first-round approval from lawmakers but was not scheduled for select file debate.

LB273, introduced by Wilber Sen. Russ Karpisek, would reduce the time that Keno operators must wait between games to three minutes.

A measure seeking a proposed change to the Nebraska Constitution that would allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate new forms of gaming in the state with voter approval also remains in committee.

LR34CA, introduced by Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher, would place a proposed constitutional amendment on the general election ballot that would allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate any game of chance, lottery or gift enterprise.

Several changes to the state’s liquor laws also were considered this session, including a measure that creates six new State Patrol positions to improve enforcement of liquor laws.

LB579, introduced by Karpisek, makes available several State Patrol investigators to spend the majority of their time on liquor law enforcement. The funding in LB579 ensures that six patrol positions will be designated for liquor enforcement.

The bill passed on a 42-1 vote.

Lawmakers also passed a bill that allows nonresidents to use a state-issued identification card to purchase alcohol. To purchase alcohol a customer currently must provide one of the following accepted forms of identification:
• a valid driver’s or operator’s license;
• a military identification card;
• an alien registration card;
• a passport; or
• a Nebraska state identification card.

LB173, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash, adds to that list a state identification card from any state. The bill passed on a 47-0 vote.

LB230, introduced by Karpisek, allows the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission to issue alcoholic liquor shipping licenses only to alcohol manufacturers and licensed retailers. Craft breweries, distilleries and farm wineries will be required to notify any Nebraska wholesaler if they intend to ship products already sold in the state and must not ship products that state manufacturers or wholesalers have agreed not to carry.

The bill passed on a 44-0 vote.

Two bills related to the state’s liquor laws failed to advance from committee.

Hyannis Sen. Al Davis introduced LB653, which would increase the beer tax from 31 cents to 36 cents per gallon. The committee voted 8-0 to indefinitely postpone the bill.

LB444, introduced by Krist, would require that retail liquor license holders employ only individuals who are certified to sell or serve alcohol. The bill also would require that an employee or authorized representative of the licensee who is 21 years or older be on the premises at all times. LB444 remains in committee.

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