We enter the final three weeks of the 2013 legislative session with important state budget bill deadlines as well as crunch-time debate on individual, committee, and Speaker priority bills.
By legislative rule, we must finish our work on the state budget on May 20. This provides the Governor with the constitutionally permitted five days (excluding Sundays) [Nebraska Constitution – Article IV Sec. 15] to sign, veto, or line-item veto provisions of the two-year state budget package. We expect several line-item vetoes by the Governor on different spending items included in the budget bills and it is my hope that my colleagues join me in supporting the Governor’s efforts to hold the line on spending. Nebraska taxpayers work hard for their money and we must expend no more than is absolutely necessary to perform essential government functions.
Nebraska’s capital punishment statutes were subject to a meaningful debate last week. Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha was the sponsor of LB 543, which would have changed the sentence for Class I felony convictions from death to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Nebraska is one of 32 states which have capital punishment as part of their criminal sentencing laws.
Differing points of view were aired on how to address the protection and safety of the general public. We also discussed the need for the security of the persons we entrust to guard our state prison inmates, as well as the inmates themselves, from criminals who have no regard for the lives of others.
I support the death penalty as the ultimate possible penalty for those who may commit the most heinous of crimes. It is a decision that I made after very serious consideration. Protection of the public is our most important job as state legislators. Many of my colleagues agree that capital punishment must be among the options in our criminal penalty statutes.
LB 543 will likely not be brought back for discussion this year. Senator Chambers moved to cut off debate on his bill on May 14 and his motion was unsuccessful. When these motions are offered and fail, the Speaker of the Legislature does not re-schedule them for debate until all other priority bills have their opportunities to be heard.
One of the remaining priority bills that I am looking forward to debating is my bill, LB 224. This measure, prioritized by Senator Pete Pirsch of Omaha, would offer support to our state’s service-connected disabled veterans. Our state agencies contract for goods and services in a number of different areas. When these contracts are let, bidders have the opportunity to compete for these contracts. Our state law currently provides a preference for resident bidders over non-resident bidders. LB 224 would add a preference for service-connected disabled veterans in cases where all other factors are equal.
One of the best ways to reduce the unacceptably high unemployment rate for our Iraq and Afghanistan conflict veterans is to assist them in establishing their own businesses and creating new jobs for themselves and other Nebraskans. Winning a state contract can be a great launching point for new business owners. LB 224 does not increase the cost of any contract with the state. As veterans establish and grow new businesses in our state, LB 224 offers the opportunity for our state to partner with them to deliver necessary goods and services.
It was great to enjoy last Saturday’s Free Fishing and Park Entry Day. The state of Nebraska annually observes this tradition. Nebraska taxpayers contribute millions of General Fund dollars to the Game and Parks Commission for all of their activities, not including the millions of other dollars that we contribute through the payment of user fees. The opportunity to experience our parks and lakes without charge is a great way to showcase our parks and thank taxpayers for their investments.
Please continue to share your thoughts with me on issues before the Legislature. I can be reached at 402.471.2625 and firstname.lastname@example.org.