It was horse massage.
It brought national, even international, attention to the Unicameral as well.
Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte says even the Wall Street Journal interviewed him about his horse massage bill, LB 596. That, after stories appeared in the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and even the London Daily Times.
“I thought I was joking when I introduced the bill. I said every senator looks for a defining moment or a bill that defines them. I’m afraid I have,” Groene said to laughter from colleagues during legislative floor debate this session. “But I do know that there are three ladies in my county who are anxiously awaiting this outcome so that they can pursue their lifelong dream of being equine masseuses.”
The issue came to the forefront when three women approached the legislature after learning about the regulatory barriers facing those who wanted to massage horses in Nebraska, at least who wanted to do it legally.
Only veterinarians and human massage therapists can practice equine massage in Nebraska and it takes 1,000 hours of training to become a human massage therapist. Licensing requirements set out by the Department of Health and Human Services also state 150 hours of animal therapy courses are required, despite the fact that no Nebraska college offers the needed courses.
Requirements will change if Gov. Pete Ricketts signs the bill into law. LB 596 passed the legislature on a 46-0 vote. It lifts the restrictions and the state regulatory oversight.
Groene pointed out to the body that his bill isn’t limited to horse massage. An amendment sponsored by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha broadened it to include cats and dogs.
“And now, my neighbor boy, when I hire him to watch my dog and he pets him, he’s now legal,” Groene said, again eliciting laughter from legislators. “Thanks to Ernie Chambers.”
Chambers noted laughter benefits a legislative session.
“This kind of activity lends itself to a lot of humor and that’s good in and of itself,” Chambers told colleagues. “Even discussing it relieves tension, stress, and will bring a little bit of peace in the valley.”
AUDIO: Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha and Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte discuss LB 596 during legislative floor debate. [7 min.]