The Legislature completed another productive week as we draw 12 session days closer to the end. On the agenda for debate were issues ranging from telecommunications to tax cuts and many issues in between.
LB 1114, introduced and prioritized by Speaker Flood, addresses inequity in the Municipal Equalization Qualify (MEF). Currently, the formula provides an incentive for municipalities with below average property tax levies to raise their levies to receive more MEF aid. With the adopted Revenue Committee
compromise amendment, cities may qualify for 20% of their original equalization aid without complying with the minimum levy provisions of current law. The legislation addresses the perceived unfairness in the formula; municipalities should not have to raise taxes in order to receive aid. This debate prompted
comparisons to our state aid to education formula and whether this strays from our needs assessments. I made the decision to support LB 1114 and determined the majority of District 16 towns will benefit. LB 1114 moved to the second round of debate.
Of much controversy this session is LB 970, introduced by Senator Cornett and prioritized by Senator McCoy, including the Governor’s proposed tax cuts. A scaled down compromise amendment was offered, and AM 2572 widens income tax brackets, taxing a greater percentage of income at a new lower bracket. This provides modest tax relief, particularly to low and middle income Nebraskans. As amended, LB 970 advanced to Select File 36 – 6.
LB 959, introduced by Senator Janssen and prioritized by Senator Coash, provides civil immunity to a current or former employer who provides certain information to a prospective employer upon written consent of the prospective employee. With the Business and Labor Committee amendment, information that may be provided includes: employment date and duration, pay rate and wage history, job description and duties, most recent written performance evaluation, attendance information, drug and alcohol test results, threatening or harassing behavior, and whether the employee is eligible for rehire. LB 959 advanced to the second round of debate.
The issue of human trafficking is addressed in LB 1145, introduced by Senator McGill, establishes a new penalty for pandering of persons under the age of 18, increases offenses, and penalties for subsequent offenses. Currently a misdemeanor, this change is significant to addressing an alarming problem happening in Nebraska and worldwide. LB 1145 creates a task force to investigate human trafficking and requires posting at strip clubs and rest stops where a person can seek help and encourages voluntary posting at other appropriate facilities. LB 1145 moved to Select File.
Ag Committee bills to change wheat and corn check offs passed the first round of debate as Committee Priority Bills. LB 905 changes wheat assessment to a percentage of value. LB 1057 increases the promotional corn check off from the current 1/4 cent per bushel to 1/2 cent per bushel, starting October 2012.
March 22nd debate included bills on Consent Calendar, which requires unanimous advancement from a committee with no opposition testimony. Only 15 minutes of debate is permitted on each bill. Among the bills advanced were:
- LB 1038, requiring lead testing for children residing in certain zip codes known to have high lead
- LB 819, allows military medals to be classified as unclaimed property and delivered to the state
I enjoyed students visiting from Lyons-Decatur Northeast and West Point on March 20. It is inspiring to have eager students visit our Capitol to see their Legislature at work. On March 23, a beautiful Legislative Recess Day, I appreciated coffees held in Decatur, Tekamah and Herman. It’s important to hear
what’s on the minds and thoughts of constituents. I also enjoyed a meeting in Blair, learning more about post flooding challenges, and for some families, the financing difficulties for repair work due to dramatically reduced property values. Saturday morning in Blair with work gloves and a rake, I joined over 30 volunteers helping families with flooding clean up. It was a good weekend that offered much insight, renewed energy and strength for the Legislative Days ahead.
Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to Keep the Good Life Growing,
Senator, District 16