The 2010 Legislative Session was one that will probably be most remembered for its activities to keep our biennium budget in balance, for passing a wind energy development policy for the state of Nebraska for private producers without jeopardizing our all-public power status, and for prohibiting abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy.
We considered over one hundred “priority” bills during the sixty-day “short session” and passed nearly two hundred measures into law. Forty-eight bills were killed either in committee or on the floor, and two bills were withdrawn. Overall, we considered over eleven hundred bills during the two-year One Hundred First Legislature. I am pleased with the work we were able to accomplish in my first two-years of service as the representative from Legislative District 15.
The biggest challenge we faced during the 2010 Session was passing necessary budget adjustments to keep our biennial state budget in balance. The Unicameral is constitutionally required to keep a balanced budget. During some periods of economic growth, this becomes rather easy to do. During the 2009-2010 biennial budget, this became increasingly difficult. As you know, the state of the national economy experienced many challenges that made revenue and expenditure predictions difficult. Thanks to our budget process, we were relatively successful in making adjustments to our two-year budget as needed to meet the actual receipts and expenditures to keep state government going.
When legislative leaders and Governor Heineman agreed that a mid-year budget adjustment was necessary, we were called into special session in 2009 to make cuts to state agency appropriations. After reconvening last January, we followed the monthly revenue receipts reports and decided to make further budget reductions before passing the 2010 budget adjustment legislation unanimously on March 26th. While it is not easy or pleasant to make these budget reductions, our obligation to the taxpayers and the constitution made it necessary and recognized by all.
It is rare that budget reduction legislation passes without dissent, but this year’s Unicameral was able to recognize the importance and the need for making these cuts. Thank you to all the parties that contacted me throughout this session for your good ideas. And thank you to all the state employees in District 15 and across the state for working harder and longer for less to keep your state government operational. It is truly a partnership between us all to make sure that our state is efficient and accountable to its citizens. We may not be able to be all things to all peoples, but we Nebraskans stretch our dollars a long way when providing help to fellow Nebraskans.
Wind energy development in Nebraska got a big boost when the Legislature passed LB 1048 into law on April 9th. LB 1048 will permit private wind farms and private wind energy developers to construct transmission lines in order to export Nebraska’s abundant wind energy resources to out-of-state markets if the partners decide to do so. Revenues will be assessed in order to pay for the construction of these transmission lines. Nebraska has a long and storied all-public power status and LB 1048 will not change that whatsoever. We will all continue to receive low cost, reliable power from our public power producers. But for the first time, private producers of power in Nebraska will also be able to produce and export wind power for sale to out-of-state customers using self-funded transmission lines, if they so choose. All of the protections of Nebraska’s present power consumers remain in place. Opportunities for private production and export will expand greatly and we will most likely see at least two projects commence, one in the panhandle and one in northeast Nebraska, very shortly after the law goes into effect this summer. Nebraska can be very excited and proud that we will begin to experience the growth and possibilities that are available by tapping our vast wind energy resources in our state.
LB 1103 was introduced by Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood of Norfolk. He did an immense amount of work over the previous two years to determine where current law and current medical knowledge is regarding the development of unborn children. After consulting with medical professionals and conducting independent reviews of recent state and federal case law, Senator Flood introduced LB 1103 to prohibit abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy. After a good public hearing and much deliberation in the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, LB 1103 was sent to the full Legislature on March 18th. Good debate and discussion was held on the measure during floor debate, and the measure was passed into law on April 13th by a vote of 44 to 5. Some litigation is expected on the measure, but Speaker Flood and Attorney General Bruning have good information at their disposal with which to defend the state in any state or federal legal action.
On a personal level, I am pleased that the Legislature unanimously passed my proposal to expand the ability of Dodge County’s emergency vehicle manufacturers to deliver their products to market on April 1st. LB 820 will permit emergency vehicle manufacturers to deliver their products across our state, nation, and continent to customers in a uniform manner. Previously, the manufacturer was subject to different processes depending on whether the producer or customer drove the product to its end route. With passage of LB 820, regardless of the driver of the vehicle, the new vehicle will travel to its final customer in the same manner. Thank you to all the employees and associates of Dodge County’s many emergency vehicle manufacturers for your help and advocacy with this bill.
Over the 2010 interim, I have sponsored three interim study resolutions (LRs 520, 521, 522) to examine the impact of illegal immigration on the state of Nebraska. LR 520 asks the Appropriations Committee to examine the effects of illegal immigration on the state budget. LR 521 asks the Education Committee to examine whether the state should repeal provisions providing in-state tuition rates at our public postsecondary institutions for persons not lawfully present in the United States. LR 522 asks the Judiciary Committee to examine the legality of the State of Nebraska knowingly offering state benefits to illegal immigrants with a focus on the committee’s follow-up work on their own interim study in 2008 (LR 362) examining our benefits policies regarding illegal immigrants.
Please continue to share your thoughts with me on issues before state government. As always, I can be reached at 402.471.2625, email@example.com, or District 15, State Capitol, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509.