With one week left until adjournment for the year, the Legislature has taken full advantage of this 60-day session. We’ve routinely stayed late into the evening in order to get through all the priority bills. The following are a few of the more notable bills the Legislature has addressed.
On March 26th, the Legislature passed by unanimous consent, the main budget bill, LB 935. This bill adjusts the 2009-11 biennium budget, reducing overall spending by 1.1% over the two-year period. The adjustment was needed after Nebraska’s revenue forecasting board lowered their projections by $31.7 million for the current biennium. After cutting the budget by $334 million last year in the special session, additional cuts were difficult to make. However, the budget was balanced without raising taxes.
Another note-worthy bill was LB 1110. This bill would offer prenatal care to pregnant, low-income women who do not qualify for Medicaid, regardless of immigration status. For obvious reasons, this was a controversial piece of legislation.
Until recently, the state had provided prenatal services to low-income and uninsured women through the Medicaid program. The state was notified by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that unborn children could not be counted for the purposes of determining Medicaid eligibility. This left some women, many undocumented immigrants, ineligible for prenatal care. LB 1110 was introduced to create a new program under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to provide prenatal care to women and their unborn children.
Due to the threat of a Governor’s veto, LB 1110 was bracketed by its introducer, Sen. Kathy Campbell, on March 17th. With this act, LB 1110 was effectively killed and will not be debated again this session. While I do not know how I would have voted on the final version of the bill, I philosophically oppose state funding to those here illegally.
Finally, LB 952 also received a lot of attention. This bill, which I co-sponsored, exempts sales tax on the fees paid by customers to replace sewer, natural gas and water infrastructure. LB 952 was introduced to reduce the cost of a federally mandated sewer separation project in Omaha.
The project’s total cost is close to $3 billion and the sales tax will add an additional $325 million to the amount metro-area taxpayers must pay. This is a double-tax and I do not believe Nebraskans should have to pay this extra tax to pad the coffers of state and local governments, especially on a federal unfunded mandate. Despite the bill’s considerable support, it was killed on March 24th when it failed to gather enough votes to end a filibuster.