Senator Hansen’s Bill LB 304 “Cottage Foods” Passes First Round of Debate

By Senator Ben Hansen

It was a great week at the Capitol as we moved through a good amount of committee and senator priority bills.  As I mentioned in an earlier column, the rest of the 2019 session is going to be made up bills senators have chosen as their priority bills or bills the different committees have identified as priority bills for the session.  I really felt like we were able to make some progress this week, taking action on some big issues.

We kicked off Monday with debate on my priority bill, LB 304.  As a reminder, the bill would allow individuals and families to sell the same cottage foods sold at farmers markets from their homes.  We made some changes to the bill to require producers have their water tested if using a private well, register with the Department of Agriculture, and to clearly label the foods they sell.  On the floor I talked about how selling cottage foods could help a family make ends meet or could help kick start a small business, giving them the experience and funds to expand.  Nebraskans produce food for the rest of the world so it makes sense that these same producers should be able to sell food directly to consumers from their homes.  It’s a pure form of farm-to-table food production and one that we should encourage.  My priority bill passed the first round of debate with 41 votes.

Another major bill passing the first round of debate was LB 512 introduced by Senator Linehan.  The bill is the Department of Revenue’s annual cleanup bill, making changes as needed to Nebraska tax law.  Senator Erdman brought an amendment to include parts of his LB 482, introduced to make changes in assessment of destroyed property.  Sen. Erdman’s bill was introduced on January 22nd, long before the floods ravaged our region and even before they were predicted.  The new changes would allow for a reassessment of damaged property for tax purposes.  For example, if a building was damaged by a natural disaster, a landowner could request the building to be reassessed while it is being rebuilt or repaired.  Once the building is restored it would then be assessed again for tax purposes.  This bill, although not its original intent, could provide tax relief to victims of the flood and I was happy to vote yes on the bill along with 41 other senators.

On Thursday I and other senators on the Health and Human Services and Appropriations committees received a brief from state officials on the expansion of Medicaid, set for an implementation date of October 1st, 2020.  There’s a lot of work to do and I expect to be a part of many more hearings and briefs about expanded Medicaid as the year goes on.

The Revenue Committee is expected to release its proposals for property tax relief next week.  I’ve spoken about property taxes many times on the floor, and I’m excited to begin in-depth discussions about the #1 reason I ran for the legislature – property tax relief.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at




Senator Hansen’s “Cottage Foods” Bill Up For Debate Soon

Greetings to all in District 16 and the surrounding region.  As the recovery from the flooding progresses I want to thank all the volunteers who’ve donated time, money, and resources to the victims of the flooding.  I’ve seen many stories on social media and in the newspapers about the incredible support pouring into Nebraska from around the country.  Times like these are good reminders that treating people with love, respect, and dignity is still the foundation of our culture.  I hope you all are as encouraged as I am by the response people have had to those affected by the flood.  We are all truly blessed to live in America, and specifically Nebraska!

This was the final week of public hearings in the legislature.  I greatly enjoyed being part of the Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Business and Labor Committees this year.  In each of these committees, I was able to utilize my education and experience to represent the many interests of our district.  It was a great learning experience and I am excited about serving on these committees during the next session.

Since committee hearings have wrapped up for the year we will move to full days of debate starting on April 2nd.  Though we’ve accomplished a fair amount so far, we have quite a ways to go before the session ends on June 6th.  We can expect the remainder of the session to filled with debate on property tax relief, corrections issues, industrial hemp, a new business tax incentive package, and budget issues.  The Revenue Committee has yet to release its package of property tax relief bills and neither has the Appropriations Committee released its proposed state budget.  These two topics alone will be the subject of vigorous and extended debate.  On the floor this week I made a statement about the time that is wasted in the Legislature when we could be discussing important topics like property tax relief.  I’m hopeful we can begin discussing tax relief soon now that committee hearings have ended.

My priority bill, LB 304, will be up for debate soon on the floor.  Though I wrote about it briefly in last week’s column, I want to refresh everyone a bit.  This bill is referred to as a “cottage foods” bill and would allow producers to sell the same low-risk cottage foods already sold at farmers markets from their homes or at other events.  The foods sold must be shelf-stable baked goods or other products not required to be time or temperature controlled.  To bring this bill out of committee, I worked on an amendment that would require producers to take and pass a food handler’s class, have their well water tested if served by a private well, and register with the Department of Agriculture.  By including these non-burdensome requirements, I was able to ensure senator and stakeholder concerns were met and there was no opposition to the bill.  I expect this bill will face little opposition during debate, and I’m excited about the positive effect it will have for many constituents in District 16.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at


This Cold Weather is “For the Birds!”

News Column

John Wilson

Extension Educator

February 7, 2019


This Cold Weather is “For the Birds!”

This morning, before I came to work, I was stumbling around in the dark in 8F temperatures and sub-zero wind chills with a flashlight to make sure all of my bird feeders and waterers were well stocked for my feathered friends. I feed the birds year round, just to draw them close to the house because my wife and I like to watch them. We always have a good variety of birds around. It’s mornings like this one that I question my sanity… although my wife questions it all the time.

This was a good reminder of one of the most important things you need to do if you feed birds in the winter… if you start, don’t stop! Birds become dependent on you and if you stop when the weather turns nasty and you don’t really feel like getting out and filling the feeders (like this morning), you can actually starve the birds you were trying to help.

I find I fill the feeders more often in the winter than I do at other times of the year, just because there are fewer alternative food sources available. This is especially true if there are several inches of snow on the ground that covers other potential food sources for them. When it gets snowy, I take a piece of tin and lean it against a post so the seed I scatter on the ground for ground-feeding birds won’t be covered with snow.

Based on our experiences, here are a few suggestions if you are feeding our feathered friends. Anyone who feeds birds knows how easy it is for seed to turn moldy in feeders. Moisture from snow or rain can leak into feeders and turn bird seed into potential sources of illness for birds. You should keep feeders clean to help prevent the spread of disease to backyard birds.

Clean and disinfect feeders on a regular basis, taking care to scrape out old moldy seed that collects in corners. Wash feeders in warm water with dish soap, then rinse. Disinfect them with a solution of one part of a liquid chlorine bleach to nine parts warm water. Make sure feeders are completely dry before refilling them with seeds.

Also, if possible, provide water for birds. This is extremely important during the winter because other sources of water may not be available. It seems chilly, but birds regularly use our heated bird baths. Besides water to drink, they use it to help keep their feathers clean which makes them, for lack of a better term, fluffier, which gives them better insulation against bitter cold temperatures.

Anyone who really enjoys bird watching won’t want to miss an event later this month…  and you can take part from the comfort of your own home. The annual Great Backyard Bird Count will be held on February 16-19. Participants are needed to count birds in their yards, neighborhoods, or other locations. Simply tally birds for at least 15 minutes on any day of the count, then go to and enter the highest number of each species you observe at any one time.

This program is conducted around the world. Coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada, the count provides an instant snapshot of birdlife around the world. Last year, organizers receive over 180,000 checklists during the event and recording almost 6,500 species of birds. Also, you can watch as the tallies come in at

Whether you observe birds in your backyard, a park, or a wilderness area, the Great Backyard Bird Count is an opportunity to share yiour results at It doesn’t have to be hard, it takes me about one cup of coffee at my dining room table to record the birds I see in 15 minutes. It’s fun and rewarding for people of all ages and skill levels–and it gets people outside… or you can do like I do and watch from inside, too!

Information from the Great Backyard Bird Count participants is even more valuable as scientists  try to learn how birds are affected by environmental changes. The information you send in can provide the first sign that individual species may be increasing or declining from year to year. It shows how a species’ range expands or shrinks over time. A big change, noted consistently over a period of years, is an indication that something is happening in the environment that is affecting the birds and that should be followed up on.

So, to take part in this activity for the birds, go to for online instructions and tally sheets… then enjoy our feathered friends. My wife and I have participated for many years… it’s easy and it’s fun! Just go to for all the information you will need.

We Had a Great Time at Great Wolf Lodge! Love My Family!

Christmas at Craig Cattle

Christmas with my hubby at Craig Cattle. It was a foggy drive there but better on the way home. We spent the day together. We wouldn’t have it any other way! Photo credits/Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

From Our House to Your’s, Merry Christmas!

Love My Girl!

Who is this cutie? Photo credit/Denise Gilliland, Editor and Chief/Kat Country Hub.

A Beautiful Sunset on a Gorgeous December Day

A beautiful sunset! All photos credit of Denise Gilliland/Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

Christmas Events at Oakland Heights

By Nancy Silvey

This week on Friday December 21st is the Residents Christmas party, dinner starting at 6:00 pm followed by entertainment by Wayne Miller and Santa Claus. Next week on Monday December 24th we will be handing out Christmas presents to the residents at noon, then for supper the resident will be having a special Christmas eve meal at 5:30 pm serving Oyster stew and chicken noodle soup.

Church Service for Sunday December 23rd will be given by Craig/Alder Grove Church at 2:30 pm with a luncheon following the service.  On Monday December 24th at 2:30 pm is a Christmas eve church service.

Activities for the week of December 24th   to December29th   are as follows, Reading Group, Manicures, Bingo with Methodist, Mike Barger, Bell Choir, Bible Fellowship, word games, Crafty Cooking, Let’s Play Ball, Friday Bingo, Saturday Music Video, and Lawrence Walk.

Volunteers signing in last week were; Judy Nelson, Anne Anderson, Patty Miller, Betty Hanna, Mary Donavon, Sandra Anderson, Nadine Anderson, Sue Beckner, Tammy Morphew, Monroe Johnson, Bonnie Fleischman, Dani Moseman, Mike Barger, Clover McCauley, and Makayla Johnson.

Guest Signing the guest book last week was: Brian Goracke, and Travis and Mary Stuenkel to see Jene Hightree.



People Flock to Memories Cafe for Free Food on Halloween

Memories was a hit during the Halloween festivities on Oakland’s Main Street. The cafe was giving away free hot dogs, beef burgers, chips, cookies and drinks for people to enjoy while out trick or treating! My granddaughter, Snow White, was one of those that enjoyed a break from trick or treating, stopping into Memories for food and refreshments! All Photos credit of Denise Gilliland/Editor and Chief, Kat Country Hub.

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