Session Review: General Affairs

Lawmakers considered several gaming and liquor law changes this session, as well as regulation of e-cigarette products.

Senators passed a measure intended to pave the way for wagering on replayed horse races in Nebraska.

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

If voters approve the measure, proceeds from historic horse racing will be allocated as follows:
• 49 percent for elementary and secondary education;
• 49 percent to reduce property taxes; and
• 2 percent to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund.

Senators voted 30-17 to pass the measure.

Lawmakers also passed a bill that makes various changes to state law regarding the sale of liquor and e-cigarettes.

LB863, introduced by Wilber Sen. Russ Karpisek, removes a petition and voting procedure requirement in the Liquor Control Act for allowing the sale of hard liquor by the drink in Nebraska.

Included in the bill are provisions of LB861, also introduced by Karpisek, which adds vapor products to the list of tobacco-based items that are illegal to sell to minors younger than 18. In Nebraska, a vapor product is defined as any noncombustible tobacco-derived product containing nicotine that employs a mechanical heating element, battery or circuit.

Vapor product use by a minor will be a Class V misdemeanor. Selling a vapor product to a minor will be a Class III misdemeanor, which is the current penalty applied for selling other tobacco products to a minor. The bill also prohibits the sale of vapor products through a self-service display.

Tobacco and vapor product specialty businesses that do not permit minors on the premises unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian are exempt from the restriction.

Also included in the bill are provisions from the following:
• LB888, originally introduced by Gretna Sen. John Murante, which allows a local governing body to approve off-sale alcohol purchases until 2 a.m. by a two-thirds vote;
• LB680, originally introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, which amends the State Electrical Act to reflect updates in the 2014 version of the National Electrical Code;
• LB1052, introduced by Karpisek, which allows any licensed retailer engaged in the sale of distilled spirits to issue tasting cards to customers; and
• LB855, originally introduced by Cortland Sen. Norm Wallman, which requires a cemetery association that takes control of a cemetery from a county to mow it at least once a year and to make a good faith effort to map the cemetery.

During general file debate on LB863, senators declined to include provisions of two bills introduced by Karpisek that were offered as amendments: LB899 would have reclassified hard cider as beer and LB914 would have established a limited bottling endorsement.

The bill passed on a 48-0 vote.

A measure intended to clarify pari-mutuel wagering rules was bracketed during general file on a 25-2 vote.

LB642, introduced by Mello, would have clarified that it is illegal for any person or entity to accept pari-mutuel wagering except at a licensed racetrack facility. The bill also would have increased criminal penalties for accepting pari-mutuel wagers outside of a licensed racetrack facility.

Finally, the General Affairs Committee considered a measure that would have authorized local-option casino gaming in Nebraska.

LR416CA, introduced by Karpisek, would have placed a proposed amendment to the Nebraska Constitution on the November 2014 general election ballot that—if approved by voters—would have allowed a local governing body to place a measure on a local ballot to authorize casino gaming within its jurisdiction.

The measure did not advance from committee.

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