Session Review: General Affairs

Lawmakers made changes to the regulation of mechanical amusement devices, the Nebraska Lottery and vapor and tobacco products this session.

General Affairs Committee chairperson Sen. Tom Briese

Alcohol and tobacco

LB149, introduced by Sen. Dan Quick of Grand Island, raised the legal age from 18 to 19 for purchasing and possessing tobacco products, electronic nicotine delivery systems and flavored liquids containing nicotine.

Individuals younger than 19 who purchase or use tobacco, electronic delivery systems or flavored liquids containing nicotine will be guilty of a Class V misdemeanor and an individual selling or providing such products to those under 19 will be guilty of a Class III misdemeanor.

The bill does not apply to alternative nicotine products that are not sold in combination with a substance containing nicotine, tobacco or tobacco derivatives. LB149 passed 45-0.

Non-licensed home alcohol brewers can now participate in certain public events. LB235, introduced by Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue, allows home brewers to offer their product without a permit at exhibitions, festivals, tastings and competitions as long as the alcohol is not for sale. The bill was approved on a 45-0 vote.

Farm wineries were redefined under a bill passed this session. LB592, as originally introduced by Albion Sen. Tom Briese, would have addressed the state Liquor Control Commission’s ability to close establishments under the Liquor Control Act.

Those provisions were removed and replaced with portions of LB584, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers, which reduce from 75 to 60 the percentage of fruit or other suitable agricultural product grown in Nebraska required to meet the definition of farm winery. The bill also increases from one to four the number of branch outlets that allow sampling and sale of a farm winery’s product.

LB592 passed 47-0.

Briese also introduced LB591, which would allow a municipality or county board to apply to the LCC to create an alcohol impact zone. Among other provisions, the bill would require that an application include evidence that chronic public intoxication or illegal activity associated with alcohol sales has harmed the quality of life within the zone.

The bill remains in committee.

Two bills introduced by Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas also remain in committee: LB682, which would tax alcoholic spirits as proof gallons—liquor that is at least 50 percent alcohol; and LB723, which would lower the per-gallon excise tax on beer, wine and spirits.

Gaming

LB538, introduced by Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, added electronic games of skill to the definition of a mechanical amusement device and requires the state Department of Revenue to determine if such devices are games of skill or chance.

Device distributors will pay a $500 application fee, submit a sample game to the department, provide evidence that the device is a game of skill and provide an affidavit to the tax commissioner that no functional changes will be made to the device’s hardware or software without the commissioner’s approval after the license is granted.

LB538 also requires game owners to pay an annual $250 licensure fee per device, sets a maximum number of devices per establishment, sets 19 as the legal age to play devices and prohibits use of credit or debit cards for payment.

The bill was approved on a 44-0 vote.

In another change to gaming law, the odds of winning will be posted on all Nebraska Lottery advertisements.

LB252, introduced by Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln and passed 45-0, requires that all state lottery ads disclose the odds of winning the largest prize in a font no smaller than 35 percent of the largest font used in the ad. Online advertisements must disclose the odds in at least 10 point font.

Two additional bills were advanced by the committee but were not debated this session.

LB137, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Carol Blood, would require daily fantasy sports operators—like Fan Duel and Draft Kings—to register with the state Department of Revenue.

LB41, introduced by Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha, would increase revenue directed to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund.

Both bills remain on general file.

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