We are entering an important and active portion of the session as we begin all-day floor debate on senator and committee priority bills.
There is an adage in the statehouse that we’re halfway through the legislative session, but have 90% of the work ahead of us before adjournment.
Committee hearings concluded on February 24th. We now will meet as a full Legislature for all-day debate on bills that advanced from committees. There are over 100 bills with priority status that will be competing for time during the next seven weeks. There are several other bills eligible for expedited review (termed “Consent Calendar”) that will fill our days. We also must review and modify the two-year state budget to make sure that we continue to match revenues with expenditures after adopting the original budget last May.
One of the priority bills that is well on its way to approval is a bill I mentioned in a previous column. LB 1118 would encourage the development of large data center projects in our state by providing strategic tax incentives. These businesses would house the necessary infrastructure for search engines, encrypted data storage, and other services in the field of electronic commerce.
Nebraska is particularly well-placed to take advantage of new data center opportunities. We are centrally located nationally, have abundant and affordable power, and an excellent workforce. Our universities and colleges have excellent programs that develop and enhance the skills necessary for this field of work.
Our Legislative District is in a very strong position to compete for new data centers with our new Technology Park, available infrastructure and utilities, and Metro Community College’s green data center management degree program. I am confident that Fremont will be in the running for every new data center project that is looking to locate in Nebraska.
LB 1118 was amended on Select File (2nd round of debate) to enhance our state’s competitiveness with other states for mid-sized data center projects. The bill will require a data center to employee at least 30 new employees and invest at least $200 million in qualified property to receive incentives. This change will increase the likelihood of Nebraska landing multiple new data center projects. I am exciting about the opportunities that this bill will create for Nebraska and Dodge County.
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Laurie Smith Camp upheld most of Fremont’s citizen-initiative ordinance on illegal immigration enforcement and prevention. As most of us expected, Judge Smith Camp ruled that it was entirely appropriate that Fremont require employers to make sure potential employees were lawfully eligible for employment in the U.S. The U.S. Supreme Court made it clear last May in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting that Fremont was permitted to do so. The judge also agreed that Fremont could require disclosure of legal residency when issuing rental occupancy licenses and those determined to be unlawfully present in the U.S. could be reported to the Department of Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement. I’m certain Fremont’s victory has been noted in the U.S. Congress and I am hopeful that our nation’s federal representatives will take action to enforce our immigration laws.
It is nice to see that citizens truly can make a difference when their government representatives don’t listen. We may be seeing a similar development in the next few days in the Unicameral. My voter ID bill has received great support from across the state, but a small minority of senators appear to be determined to ignore Nebraskans’ opinions. A July 2010 Caltech/MIT study examining support for election reform in the United States reported that 79% of Nebraskans supported requiring ID. No other reform measure came even close. (Other categories: internet voting – 24%; vote by mail – 14%; automatic registration – 36%; election day registration – 37%; election day holiday – 50%; election day on the weekend – 38%). Responses were similar nationally with 75% of Americans supporting requiring ID. It is my sincere hope that my colleagues will take these results to heart when voting on my bill.
Please continue to share your thoughts with me on issues before the Unicameral. I can be reached at 402.471.2625, email@example.com, or District 15, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509.