Session Review: General Affairs

Lawmakers considered changes to gaming regulations and passed a variety of measures this session addressing the state’s liquor laws.

Senators declined to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would have clarified State Racing Commission members’ terms of office and attempted to assist Lincoln’s horse racing industry.

Introduced by Wilber Sen. Russ Karpisek to harmonize the terms of two new State Racing Commission members, LB256 included provisions of LB299, also introduced by Karpisek.

The bill would have allowed a racetrack licensee to contract with another licensee to conduct all but one day of live race meetings on its behalf, and allowed a racetrack licensee in a county with a city of the primary class to contract with another licensee to conduct all live race meetings on its behalf.

Lincoln is the state’s only primary class city.

LB256 was given final approval May 18 on a vote of 26-17, but was vetoed by Gov. Dave Heineman, who said in his veto message that the bill would expand gambling beyond what Nebraska voters have authorized.

The override motion failed on a 21-23 vote.

Lawmakers passed a gaming measure that allows keno players to access tickets directly from a machine without relying on an attendant. LB490, introduced by Karpisek, amends state law prohibiting player access and activation from a machine.

Senators approved LB490 on a 44-0 vote.

Lawmakers also approved a bill that allows Nebraska credit unions to offer raffles to encourage members to save money.

Under LB524, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Amanda McGill, Nebraska credit unions are authorized to conduct a savings promotion raffle – a contest in which depositing a specific amount of money into a savings account or program earns an individual a chance to win a designated prize.

Each entry must have an equal chance of winning and raffle terms and conditions must be disclosed to participants. Credit union employees are prohibited from participating and credit unions may limit the number of chances to win a prize but not the number of deposits.

LB524 passed on a 45-0 vote.

Several changes to Nebraska’s Liquor Control Act were approved this session.

LB407, introduced by Karpisek, eliminates a requirement that the Liquor Control Commission correspond with municipalities through certified mail regarding license applications. The bill instead allows correspondence through regular mail and electronic delivery.

The bill contains provisions from two additional Karpisek bills.

LB249 allows a waiver to the state’s 300-foot restriction on alcohol sales near college or university campuses. Currently, only beer may be sold on or off-sale within the 300-foot zone.

The commission is authorized to grant waivers to the 300-foot restriction, taking into consideration the impact on current and prospective students, economic development opportunities and the academic mission of the college or university. A written waiver application will be required and the governing body of the affected college or university must be notified of the application by the commission.

LB336 allows certain commission employees to obtain part-time employment at a business that holds a liquor license, unless the business receives more than 50 percent of its gross revenue from the sale or dispensing of alcohol.

LB407 passed a 46-0 vote.

Senators also repealed an exception that allowed a Nebraska beer manufacturer also to own a beer distributorship.

LB279, introduced by Karpisek at the request of the commission, repeals the exception but allows a beer manufacturer to have ownership interest in a beer wholesale operation for two years upon the death or bankruptcy of a wholesaler owner.

The bill passed on a 46-0 vote.

A bill allowing limousine and private bus passengers to consume alcohol was approved this session.

Under LB281, introduced by Karpisek, passengers may consume alcoholic beverages if their chartered limousine or bus is in a public parking area or on any highway in the state as long as the driver is prohibited from consuming alcohol and it is not readily accessible to the driver.

The bill passed on a 42-6 vote.

Out-of-state liquor shipping application fees will continue to be directed to the state’s Winery and Grape Producers Promotion fund under a bill approved this session.

Currently, individuals outside Nebraska who apply for a license to ship liquor directly to a customer in Nebraska are charged a $500 application fee. Diversion of the fee to the producers promotion fund is scheduled to end April 30, 2012.

LB286, introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, removes the sunset date and passed on a 45-0 vote.

Among additional measures heard by the General Affairs Committee were two Karpisek bills addressing liquor laws.

LB294 would make it unlawful for a liquor license holder to sell or serve alcohol to any person prior to 6 a.m. on that person’s 21st birthday, and LB411 would raise the application fee for a special designated liquor license from $40 to $75 and the fee for a catering liquor license from $100 to $250.

Both bills remain in committee.

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