This is the first post by new Leavenworth St. contributing writer “Harry Bailly”. You can read his bio in the “Writers” tab above.
The Nebraska Legislature is back in session, and so is the parlor game of following the antics of the Unicameral. We can always have some fun discussing the unhinged rants of Ernie Chambers, but Deena Winter at Nebraska Watchdog does such a good job of covering that particular topic that there is no reason for me to weigh in.
(An aside: I always chuckle when people say that they wish that legislative bodies—like the Unicameral and, heaven forbid, Congress—would “do more.” I really wish that our elected overseers would do less.)
Instead, since I am a lawyer, I cannot help myself but to read some of the proposed bills and to think through how a particular bill—if passed—would affect real people in real situations, like my clients.
Before I get to that, I must nod in the general direction of Sen. Tyson Larson for his common sense cigar bar bill, intended to clip the wings of the Nebraska Supreme Court’s bizarre “special legislation” opinion released last year. As an occasional cigar smoker and general fan of liberty, I am pleased to see some support for the idea that adults may consume a legal product in an environment created by a legal, private business for the express purpose of consuming that product. And if adults may consume another legal product—namely, alcohol—at the same venue, all the better. (Despite my fondness for Larson’s bill—as well as my fondness for adult beverages—however, I cannot see the urgent necessity for another of Larson’s bills, the Drink All Night Long Act.
As of this writing, LB 118, the cigar bar bill, has advanced from committee. Chalk this up as a victory for liberty, tobacco, and alcohol.
My vote for dumbest bill introduced in this session—this was a hotly contested race—goes to Sen. Schumacher’s oddly named Modern Tax Act. The act imposes a 5.5% tax on loan interest, to be collected by the lender with regular payments. Economic stupidity aside, the bill would create a logistical nightmare. It sounds simple enough, until one considers the number of intra-family loans that exist in the agricultural realm.
I see it in my practice all the time: mom and dad want to sell the family farm to one of the kids. Instead of making sonny boy head downtown to his local bank, mom and dad agree to take a promissory note or to sell on contract. This is generally a good deal for all parties: the kid gets favorable loan terms, and the parents get an income stream and the peace of mind of knowing that the farm will stay in the family.
Under this scenario, Schumacher’s bill would turn the parents into tax collectors. They would be responsible for adding the tax to the interest and forwarding it along to the Department of Revenue every time dear son makes a payment.
I understand that with the focus on property tax relief there will be some crazy ideas to generate additional revenue, but this one is particularly bad.
Second place probably goes to Sen. Baker’s bill that—unintentionally, we are told—revoked the right of citizens to examine and copy public records. The bill was withdrawn, but perhaps it should have been read more closely before it was introduced.
With a new governor and many new members in the Unicameral, this legislative session should shape up to be fun to watch. Who knows, maybe we will see more senators sporting t-shirts instead of those stuffy suits and ties.