Session Review: Banking, Commerce and Insurance

Insurance and commerce priorities addressed by lawmakers this session included insurance coverage for abortions, economic development proposals and regulation.

Senators approved a bill that limits health insurance coverage for abortions in Nebraska.

The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows each state to opt out of offering abortion coverage through qualified health plans offered in the act under a health insurance exchange.

LB22, introduced by Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy, opts out of allowing health insurance plans operating under an exchange to cover abortions unless necessary to prevent the death of a woman.

Additionally, the bill prohibits private health insurance policies in the state from providing coverage for an abortion, except through an optional rider paid for solely by the insured. A health insurance plan issuer is prohibited from providing any incentive or discount to an individual who chooses abortion coverage via a rider.

Senators voted 37-7 to pass LB22.

A similar measure introduced by Fullerton Sen. Annette Dubas, LB132, failed to advance from committee.

A variety of economic development incentives were approved this session, including a bill intended to facilitate development of industrial sites and buildings in Nebraska.

LB388, introduced by Lexington Sen. John Wightman at the request of the governor, creates the Site and Building Development Fund to provide financial assistance to public and nonprofit developers for land and infrastructure costs associated with development.

The fund will be administered by the state Department of Economic Development (DED) and will provide loans, grants, subsidies, credit enhancements and other financial assistance.

The bill transfers $1 million per year for two years from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to the Site and Building Development Fund. Continued funding will be provided by fees and up to $1 million per year of unused funds remitted from projects receiving Affordable Housing Trust Fund dollars.

LB388 passed on a 46-0 vote.

Senators also approved a statewide pilot program to provide technical assistance to small businesses.

Under LB345, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, DED will administer the pilot program, which will assist up to 40 Nebraska-based growth businesses, at least half of which will be located in counties with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants.

A qualifying business must have between five and 50 employees and annual sales revenue between $500,000 and $2.5 million.

The bill passed on a 47-2 vote.

Lawmakers passed a measure that eliminates three existing economic development programs and replaces them with the Business Innovation Act.

LB387, introduced by Kearney Sen. Galen Hadley at the request of the governor, requires DED to establish five programs to provide financial assistance to:

  • microenterprise entities;
  • companies or individuals creating prototypes;
  • programs to identify commercial products and processes;
  • companies receiving federal Small Business Innovation Research grants; and
  • companies using Nebraska public college and university researchers and facilities for applied research projects.

DED also is required to establish an innovation in value-added agriculture program to support small enterprise formation in Nebraska’s agricultural sector.

All programs created by the bill will be capped at between $1 million and $3 million per year. The bill repeals the Agriculture and Value-Added Partnerships Act, the Microenterprise Development Act and the Building Entrepreneurial Communities Act.

LB387 takes effect immediately and will discontinue in 2016.

The bill passed on a 49-0 vote

LB684, introduced by Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, establishes the Travel and Tourism Division Advisory Committee. The committee will develop a statewide strategic plan to cultivate and promote tourism in Nebraska. The department is authorized to hire a consultant to assist with the statewide strategic plan.

LB684 passed on a 48-0 vote.

Lawmakers passed three bills dealing with insurance and business regulation.

LB70, introduced by Boys Town Sen. Rich Pahls at the request of the state Department of Insurance, brings Nebraska’s Surplus Lines Insurance Act into compliance with federal law.

Among other provisions, the bill allows the state director of insurance to join the Nonadmitted Insurance Multi-State Agreement (NIMA) and repeals a tax levied by Nebraska in order to comply with a NIMA requirement that participating states have a single tax rate.

LB70 takes effect July 21, 2011, and passed on a 46-0 vote.

Also approved was a bill that requires vendors of cell phones and other portable electronic devices to obtain a license to offer insurance on those products.

LB535, introduced by Hastings Sen. Dennis Utter, establishes a limited lines insurance license to sell portable electronics insurance or provide similar coverage. Portable electronics insurance is defined as insurance covering repair or replacement of portable electronics due to theft, misplacement, damage, mechanical faults or similar damage.

Vendors interested in selling portable electronics insurance must apply to the state Department of Insurance for a one-year license that allows an employee or authorized representative of the vendor to offer insurance policies at each location at which the vendor sells portable electronics.

The bill passed 48-0.

Lawmakers passed a bill that exempts realtors from the Nebraska Professional Corporation Act. Sponsored by Schuyler Sen. Chris Langemeier, LB315 allows a designated broker under the Nebraska Real Estate License Act to be organized as a business corporation.

The bill passed on a 42-0 vote.

Among other bills heard by the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee were three that did not advance to general file.

Minimum liability policy limits on auto insurance in Nebraska would double under LB196, introduced by Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop. Under the bill, minimum policy limits would increase to $50,000 per person, $100,000 per occurrence and $50,000 for property damage.

The committee also heard testimony on two bills that would address the issue of condominium and homeowners’ association liens.

LB571, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Scott Price, would harmonize existing Nebraska law regarding such liens with the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act. LB614, introduced by Omaha Sen. Pete Pirsch, also would address condominium and homeowners’ association liens.

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