The Legislature on Tuesday gave final 37-6 approval to a bill that would allow college athletes in Nebraska to earn money through personal endorsement of products and use of their name, image or likeness.
The measure (LB962), sponsored by Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, was modeled after legislation enacted by California lawmakers a year ago.
The proposal, part of a growing movement that would dramatically alter the traditional status of amateur college athletes, will head to Gov. Pete Ricketts' desk.
Hunt's Nebraska Fair Pay to Play Act would also allow athletes to make money by promoting sponsored content on social media and by giving private lessons or hosting camps.
Opponents of the change have argued that it will ignite a new kind of bidding war in the recruitment of college athletes in which donors or business leaders may play a leading role in offering the prospect of lucrative endorsement prospects or opportunities to recruits.
Supporters have argued that universities, TV sports networks and other businesses are enriched by the performance of college athletes while they receive no financial benefit beyond athletic scholarships and accompanying benefits provided by the universities they attend.
"With more than 25 states looking at this issue, Nebraska has an opportunity to be a leader in providing economic freedoms to college athletes," Hunt said in a statement following enactment of the bill.
"Nebraska is the third state in the nation to enact name, image and likeness rights legislation," she said.
"We are already leading on this issue, exemplified by the University of Nebraska, which is already at the forefront of providing a name, image and likeness program for all athletes," Hunt said.
"By restoring college athletes' rights, we're sending a clear message to students across the country: You're welcome in Nebraska."
University of Nebraska President Ted Carter said he was "very pleased" by enactment of the bill and praised Hunt for "working closely with the university" on the proposal.
In other action, senators amended a bill (LB153) that would exempt 50% of military retirement benefits from the state income tax by delaying implementation from 2021 to 2022.
The delay was prompted by the uncertainties of revenue flow triggered by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, sponsor of the bill, said he was reluctantly delaying implementation in order to gain passage of the measure this year.
Brewer said the fiscal impact of the proposal has been estimated at $12.6 million during the second year when it is fully implemented.
The legislation would affect more than 13,000 military retirees who live in the state.
Senators also gave final approval to a bill that would create a new class of Game and Parks Commission motor vehicle permits for disabled veterans who are residents of Nebraska while raising annual and temporary permit fees for nonresidents.
Disabled veterans who qualify would be allowed a permit free of charge under the provisions of LB770.
Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @LJSdon
Reporter JoAnne Young contributed to this story.