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This past week has seen some progress and some setbacks. On the positive side, the Legislature passed the budget bills. Although the Governor has the authority to line-item veto specific items in the budget bills, he signed the bills with no vetoes.
There were several bills that were discussed for three hours but will not appear on the agenda again. The Speaker of the Legislature’s policy is to debate a controversial bill for three hours. If the sponsor can show him that there are 33 votes in support, which is enough to end a filibuster, then the bill will again be placed on the agenda. Among the bills failing to garner 33 votes was LB 389, introduced in an attempt to modernize Nebraska’s telecommunications statutes to allow for greater investment by small wireless communications providers in new technologies. Opponents argued that this bill would primarily benefit urban areas and not rural areas with the greatest need for better service. Proponents couldn’t reach a compromise with municipalities on the fee structure.
A bill which may resurface is LB 989. It proposes to allow the City of Lincoln to conduct pilot projects involving the testing of autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles can include vehicles without drivers, steering wheels, brake pedals or accelerator pedals.
LB 791 was one of two bills introduced as part of the Governor’s Initiative to ensure accountability and transparency in the Nebraska State Patrol after problems surfaced last year, resulting in the firing of the State Patrol Superintendent. As amended, the original language eliminating sergeants of the Nebraska State Patrol from the law enforcement collective bargaining unit and removing the requirement for the Attorney General to defend Nebraska State Patrol troopers against criminal actions was stricken from the bill. The measure requires a department’s commander to file reports with the Nebraska Crime Commission on officers who are fired or quit for incompetence, dishonesty, crimes, or violation of their professional oath, thereby giving the Crime Commission and law enforcement agencies more information when making decisions on hiring, in an effort to prevent less-than-reputable officers from finding employment at different locations. The amendments also allow employees to file harassment complaints with the State Department of Administrative Services rather than with their own agencies. This bill may be discussed again if concerns can be resolved.
LB 1058 proposed rules and procedures to guide a delegation to an Article V Convention of the States. Aimed at relieving fears of a “runaway convention”, opponents still questioned whether that is possible. Although I voted in support of it, LB 1058 failed to receive 25 votes for advancement. A cloture motion was taken on LR 1, which is a constitutional amendment that would have required voters to present identification prior to voting. The cloture motion failed by 9 votes.
LB 902 would provide an additional exemption to the public records statute for information obtained by a government entity regarding firearm registration, possession, sale or use. LB 902 received first-round and second-round approval this past week. LB 807, which would replace the statues of J. Sterling Morton and William Jennings Bryan with statues of Willa Cather and Chief Standing Bear in the U.S. Capitol, received first-round approval. These statues have been in place for more than 80 years. In 2000, Congress allowed states to replace the statues with new ones. There would be no state funding involved and the money raised for the new statues would also have to pay the expenses related to the removal and transportation of the replaced statues.