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Week six of the first biennium of the 105th Legislature consisted of days 23 through 27 of the 90-day session.
Many of you have been frustrated, and rightfully so, by our lingering debates in the mornings on the floor of the Legislature. Apart from adopting adjustments to the current state budget and advancing it to the third round of debate known as Final Reading, we continue to be at a stalemate. Indeed, we are in the middle of a filibuster begun by those who are opposed to making a rule change that would make it easier to end a filibuster, a motion known as invoking cloture. The rule, first put in place in 1991, established the number of votes required to adopt a cloture motion at 33 votes. That means, that if just 17 senators did not vote yes for cloture, the motion failed. What is being proposed is to lower the number of yes votes needed to end a filibuster to 30, but with the caveat that the cloture motion fails if 17 or more senators vote no. Many senators believe that requiring 30 votes to pass a cloture motion makes sense. That is the same number of votes required to override a veto by the Governor, as well as the same number of votes needed to suspend the rules to disallow more amendments or debate. The proposed rule change would make it easier to invoke cloture so that policies favored by the majority will not be so easily stopped by a small minority. It is essential to good government that an elected majority be capable of passing legislation. We are perhaps, I believe, much closer to ending this particular filibuster and will then be able to begin debating legislation.
On Tuesday, the Agriculture Committee held a public hearing for LB 600, which makes changes to the Livestock Brand Law. The Brand Committee, a self-supporting cash fund agency, has encountered much turmoil over the past year which resulted in a critical audit of the agency, and resignations of a member of the Brand Committee, its director, and other key staff members. Because of past problems, the agency placed an emphasis on selecting a new director based on administrative ability. The primary purpose of LB 600 is to give the brand committee the flexibility to do that.
The Revenue Committee held a public hearing for LB 338 on Wednesday that lasted well into the evening. LB 338 is the bill I introduced in partnership with Governor Ricketts to reform the method of how we value agricultural land for property tax purposes. It would adopt an income-based approach, a method already used in the states of Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota and other states, to better align assessed values with farm incomes. LB 338 would help stabilize valuations, and make property taxes more predictable and more in line with the ability to pay. I believe it will provide a fairer solution — over the long term — to the property tax burden without raising or imposing additional taxes, something desired by a few other rural senators. I understand that we must balance the need for reform of ag land valuation with the needs of local governments that rely on property taxes. The Revenue Committee will consider many property tax bills this year and will work toward putting together a package of property tax bills, which I hope includes LB 338, that can be debated on by the whole body.
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, two doors south of previous 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.