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We have reached the halfway point of this session. I am fascinated by our process and am so pleased to be here. In the Appropriations Committee we are in the process of hearing from agencies and bills asking for money. I am astonished by the number of requests. Many are deserving of support but there is only so much money available.
Our big job will begin soon as we sort through all the requests. We will make tough decisions of which to fund and which will go no further.
As to floor debate, I have learned one big lesson: it is easier to pass a law than to change or repeal one. We need to be certain any law we pass is one we can live with “forever.”
Thank you for giving me the privilege of serving you. Everyone, have a great St. Patrick’s Day!
On this 45th working day, we are at the half way mark of my first legislative session. Several committees have completed afternoon public hearings. Appropriations, on which I serve, is still hearing requests from agencies and special interest groups.
Bills designated individual, committee, and speaker priorities go ahead of others when the agenda is compiled. LB 452, which I introduced on behalf of the Nebraska Medical Association, would create a baseline by which all health occupations and professions can follow as a guide in their health care advertisements. That bill was selected as a speaker priority.
LB 156, a bill introduced by Senator John Stinner of Gering, is my personal priority bill for this session. The bill would increase the aggregate amount of refundable tax credits for “Angel Investors.” This bill is to stimulate state economic development and create more jobs for Nebraskans.
The Speaker allowed one morning this week for committees to meet in “Executive Session,” which is a private meeting to determine which bills to advance for debate. A majority vote is required to forward a bill to the entire legislature.
I was disappointed that the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee deadlocked at 4-4 on sending LB 373, which I introduced, to the floor. The bill would require school buses manufactured after 2016 to have shoulder-lap belts for all passengers. Students would be required to have training and wear the belts. I was planning to designate LB 373 as my priority bill for this session. Priority bills are guaranteed debate before the end of the session. I will be studying other issues to use as my priority for this year.
A bill with much discussion this past week was LB 366, to increase for Medicaid eligible aged, blind, and disabled persons, who reside in an alternative living arrangements, the personal needs allowance from $50 to $75. I supported this bill, which was amended and moved to second round debate with a $10 increase, to $60 per month.
The past two weeks have been busy with hearings and floor debate. I introduced two major bills and also voted on two bills introduced by others.
LB 373, to mandate seat belts on school buses manufactured after 2016, was introduced February 23 in front of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. I had a school bus seat with three belts in the rotunda and it is now on display in my office.
LB 532, to fund a virtual medical learning center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, was introduced yesterday in front of the Appropriations Committee. I was happy to carry this bill, which would put Nebraska at the forefront of medical education and research.
LB 77, a bill to expand women’s health services, failed to advance from General File. I had many emails concerning this bill. In the end, I voted against the bill for the following reasons:
1. The Every Woman Matters Program remains in place.
2. The expanded services the bill would have provided are already available to people of all income levels by federally funded private agencies.
3. My vote was not against women’s health. It was a vote against our tax dollars paying for expanded services.
This week, on March 2nd, the use of cloture advanced LB 10 from General File. A cloture motion is allowed after eight hours of floor debate on one bill. The motion requires 33 votes. If the votes are obtained, there is a vote on the bill, which requires 25 to advance. If 33 votes are not obtained, the bill is done for the session. I voted for cloture and the bill.
LB 10, called the “Winner Take All” bill, would change the way the state’s electoral votes are designated. Frankly, I like the way Nebraska and Maine count their votes. When Nebraska first passed this issue in 1991, there was hope that other states would follow Nebraska’s lead.
Since that has not occurred in regard to the other states, Nebraska gives up a possible vote(s) in the Electoral College. I expect this will meet additional filibuster during Select File or Final Reading.
This first third of the Session I (we) have had a lesson in how to control the body by filibuster. I absolutely marvel at the capability of Senator Chambers’s knowing how to use the system to have the minority rule. Cloture will be the only way to pass a bill he doesn’t like – so far we haven’t taken any of the issues that far – I expect that to change in the next week(s).
The widely reported defeat of the Voter Photo ID was dead on arrival to the floor. There were difficulties with the bill itself and filibuster was begun. When the World Herald does a story and lists who votes for/against a bill realize that doesn’t necessarily mean those who voted for ending the filibuster oppose the measure. The body has to keep moving forward.
I will be interested in how LB10 – (Winner take all) fares on the floor. Nebraska is one of only two states that splits our electoral votes. You may recall Nebraska delivered one vote for President Obama in the ’08 election. This started in 1991 when Governor Nelson pushed for the separate vote and got it passed – previous attempts to return to winner take all have not been successful. The only way it could make it through this year is with a cloture vote – will there be 33 votes to move it forward?
The Appropriations committee has completed our preliminary review of all the agencies – it appears that we have been able to hold spending down. Even Senator Kintner feels we have been able to work together to bring some meaningful holding the line on spending – he is by far the biggest budget hawk on the committee – when he thinks we have done a good job of holding down spending you think you are on the right track. Next week the various agencies will start coming before us with their requests and trying to get cuts placed back in the budget. If you missed it, we appropriated $45 million dollars to the property tax relief fund – we have a goal to increase that number, but that won’t be known until the final days when all budget requests and floor debate are completed.
I’ve appreciated the opportunity to represent you in this esteemed body. We are truly 49 individuals seeking to do what is best for our great state. I am having a Town Hall meeting again tomorrow at the Hy-Vee store (132 and Dodge) in the upstairs meeting room between 9-10 am. Bring your questions and concerns.
Today I voted against LB 111. I am concerned about voter fraud. After all, living in Chicago for four years, there were frequent reports and allegations of voter fraud.
We need to protect our votes and voter rights. In the end, I could not support LB 111 as presented. Proponents could not recite any evidence of voter fraud occurring in Nebraska.
The bill did not address mail in ballots, which have the greatest potential for fraud.
Many college students, who choose to vote in their college town, do not have driver licenses with their voting address. They feel just as disenfranchised as the poor, elderly, and homebound when it comes to photo ID.
We already have a voter registration process in place, which does require verification of address and citizenship. The emails to my office overwhelming encouraged defeat of LB 111. In the end, 24 other senators agreed and LB 111 was defeated.
The Governor is required to submit a budget proposal by January 15th in odd numbered years. However, as this year, a newly elected governor may have until February 1st. This document comes as a budget recommendation in the form of bills introduced by the Speaker of the Legislature at the request of the governor.
Most of these bills are referred to the Appropriations Committee. However, substantive bills, such as tax cuts, go to the standing committee having jurisdiction over that subject. Such bills are not subject to the January 15th deadline. Any senator may introduce a bill that will cost the state money to implement. While they are heard in different committees, the fiscal staff attaches a note, which is an estimate of the financial impact of the legislation if the bills passes. These numbers must also be considered when crafting a state budget.
After reviewing the staff analysis of each agency budget request, the committee develops a preliminary recommendation to be submitted to the legislature 20 to 30 days after the governor’s budget submission. The preliminary report becomes the basis for discussion during public hearings with state agencies and other interested parties.
After bills are introduced, the committees schedule public hearings on each bill. The schedule is required to be published seven days before the hearing. I introduced my first bill last week in front of the Judiciary Committee. I have testified on behalf of other bills as a private citizen and podiatrist, but it was exciting to be the introducer of a bill. LB 209, to mandate mediation between public subdivisions before resorting to litigation, was brought on behalf of the City of Omaha. The bill remains in committee.
The budget process is governed and guided by provisions of the Nebraska Constitution, state statutes, and legislative rules. A full biennial (two year) budget is required to be enacted during regular legislative sessions held in odd-numbered years, which is the long, 90-day session.
The Appropriation Committee, which I serve on, spends January and February learning about the financial needs of each state agency. This is done with the help of the Legislative Fiscal Office. Fourteen veteran staff analysts and support staff have been briefing us on the state agencies, boards, and commissions in preparation for their budget requests. Some of the individual agency documents are over 200 pages. The analysts must isolate the key issues in the requests, analyze alternatives, and summarize the material.
Next week I will continue to tell you about the state budget process.
January 22, 2015
All bills must be introduced during the first 10 days of the legislative session. A total of 655 bills were introduced this year. I introduced five bills to begin my first term of office.
LB 209 will have a hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee on Friday, January 23rd. This bill creates the Political Subdivision Mandatory Mediation Act. The purpose of the bill is to require all state political subdivisions to submit to mediation before pursuing litigation. This will save time and taxpayer money.
LB 373, to Change School Bus Safety Standards, is a bill that has been introduced several times. It requires new school buses to be equipped with lap-shoulder belts for each passenger. The passengers would be required to use the belts.
LB 452 provides for advertising requirements under the Uniform Credentialing Act. This bill seeks to make sure those reading advertisements for health care can depend on the training and authorization of those producing the ads.
LB 453 changes how motor vehicle taxes are computed in a private transaction. Current law requires both the buyer and seller to pay the tax for the month of the sale. This bill makes the buyer only responsible for the tax imposed for the month of the sale.
LB 532 provides for an appropriation of funds for construction of the Global Center for Advanced Interprofessional Learning at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
All bills will be referenced to the appropriate committee for a public hearing. Hearings are announced at least seven days in advance. The committee then decides whether or not to advance bills to the entire body for debate. I will keep you informed of the progress of these bills as the session continues.
January 13, 2015
Welcome to my official Senator’s Page. I am pleased to represent the 4th District and look forward to visiting with you via this newsletter.
On this seventh day of the 90-day session we are spending mornings on the legislative floor while introducing bills. The afternoons are not yet hearing days but we are all busy with meetings to acquaint us with various issues.
I have been appointed to the Appropriations Committee and yesterday was chosen to be vice-chair. I will not have a second or third committee assignment as Appropriations meets five days per week. This important committee crafts a budget to present to the entire body, which we are constitutionally required to do.
Please contact me at my Capitol office via several means. You may write to Senator Robert Hilkemann, District 4, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509-4604; you may call me at 402-471-2621; or email at email@example.com
My two staff members are experienced women who have worked for several senators. Kate Wolfe is my administrative assistant. She will be first to answer the phone or greet you in person. Nanette Hessee is my legislative aide. She works with legislation and other state matters. They are both available to assist you.
My next post will tell you about bills I am introducing this session.