A bill debated Tuesday afternoon offered some senators a perfect opportunity for jokes and payback to Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, who had spoken against and in some cases had stalled bills they had offered.

The bill (LB596) would exempt horse massage from regulation by the Department of Health and Human Services, and define what those equine massage therapists could do. 

"There are horses being denied massage services in Nebraska because of undue government regulation," the bill's statement of intent said.

If it passes, Nebraska would join 13 other states that don't require licenses for massaging a horse. The bill is part of a larger national trend to reduce barriers to licensing.

Groene argues that in a state where horses generate an estimated $700 million annually in supplies and services, it doesn't make sense to restrict equine massage.

"It's an industry," he said. "They eat a lot of oats, they do a lot of business with veterinarians, but they can't find a masseuse in the state of Nebraska. This is serious. It's affecting our ag economy."

Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, whose bill to require lawyers for youths across the state charged with crimes was thwarted, in part, by Groene, took the bill and its timing as "divine intervention."

In her speech on his bill, Pansing Brooks listed those things she was not going to do or say, in contrast to what Groene had said about her bill (LB158).

She wasn't going to move to kill his bill, she said. She wasn't going to say it was unnecessary, and that no one in her district requested the bill.

"I'm also not going to be rude and say this is a 'stupid bill,'" she said. "I am not going to oppose it because 'a bunch of people are sitting around over wine and cheese trying to solve the problems of children,' or maybe it should be beer and brats to solve the problems of horses."

And she told Groene she had heard from no horses in her district being denied massage services because of government regulation, she said.

His bill is about horses getting massages to relax spasms, relieve tension and enhance muscle tone. Her bill, she said, is about 14- to 18-year-old youths having appropriate access to constitutional rights.

"So do we really want to be the Legislature that intervened when horses were denied the right to massage, but 14- to 18-year-olds have to buck up and represent themselves?" she asked.

No action was taken on the bill Tuesday.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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