Week three at the Legislature, like most of Nebraska, was off to an icy start across with many closings of schools and businesses. We did not convene on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; although it was business as usual on Tuesday, which was day nine of the 90-day legislative session. We convened at 10:00 a.m.
The Legislature spent a considerable amount of time last week discussing the process for referencing legislative bills. The discussion was prompted by a sequence of motions to re-reference certain bills. Simply stated, the Reference Committee determines which standing committee a bill will be directed to for a public hearing. Each standing committee has jurisdiction over bills addressing certain topic areas. Legislative rules allow any senator who disagrees with the decision of the Reference Committee to offer a motion to change the referencing to a different standing committee.
One such motion was filed on LB 267, which was initially referenced to the Agriculture Committee. The primary purpose of the bill is to update the definition of hybrid seeds within a statute that prohibits misrepresenting seed as hybrid seed if the seed does not meet the standards of the definition. LB 267 also proposed updates to the authorities of the Department of Agriculture to enforce this provision. Because of these new enforcement provisions in the bill, it was believed by some that the referencing of the bill should be changed to the Judiciary Committee. As chair of the Agriculture Committee, I opposed the motion to re-reference the bill to the Judiciary Committee. After much debate, the motion to re-reference the bill eventually failed. I believe the discussion of what constitutes accurate representation of hybrid seed, which is of vital importance to farmers and the seed industry, should take place in the Agriculture Committee, not the Judiciary Committee. I pointed out that the enforcement provisions were identical, or at least very similar, to enforcement provisions of a number of regulatory programs administered by the Department of Agriculture, and that previous bills containing those same provisions were referenced to the Agriculture Committee without any challenge.
On Tuesday of last week I introduced LB 466, a bill that will eliminate the integrated practice agreement between certified nurse-midwives and physicians. Eliminating this requirement will give certified nurse-midwives the freedom to practice in areas where there may not be an attending physician in the geographical area. The bill also contains a transition to practice agreement that would require certified nurse-midwives to have 1000 hours of training before they could practice on their own. However, since no other state requires a transition to practice agreement, we are going to offer an amendment that strikes that burdensome requirement.
On Friday afternoon I presented LB 105 to the Judiciary Committee at a public hearing. This legislation updates the statutes that specify how much a debtor can exempt when they file bankruptcy. LB 105 increases the amounts, something that has not been done in 20 years. The bill seemed to be well-received by the committee and therefore may have a good chance of passing this year, but we’ll see. This is the third time I have introduced this bill and the third time it has been well-received. It keeps making it to General File, but then the session runs out of time.
Pastor Brian High from First Baptist Church in Tekamah was at the Legislature to open the day’s session with prayer on Thursday. We appreciate it when pastors statewide volunteer to pray before our session day. There are several days that remain open; please contact our office if your pastor is available and interested in joining us this session. We were also grateful to have Dr. Natalie Tymkowych from West Point to volunteer a morning to serve as doctor for the day. This is also an important service to help ensure we are able to maintain good health during our time in Lincoln serving our state.
Please contact me, my administrative aide, Courtney McClellen; my legislative aide, Brett Waite; or Rick Leonard, the Research Analyst with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or stop by Room 1022 (please note we have changed office location, 2 doors south of pervious office) if you are in the State Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online you can visit http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government. Live broadcasting is also available on NET2.