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Week 12 of the 2nd session of the 105th Legislature consisted of legislative days 45 through 48.
We reconvened on Tuesday, March 20th for day forty-five of the short, sixty-day session after recess days on Friday and Monday. Those recess days were time well spent as I attended the 27th Annual Legislative Forum at Wayne State College on Friday and Monday traveled with the Governor, Agriculture Director Steve Wellman, and Assistant Director Mat Habrock to kick off Ag Week. Both events were excellent opportunities to connect with Nebraskans and listen to their thoughts about the state.
On Wednesday we returned to the budget debate that includes Title X funding. Title X is a federal grant program to provide individuals with family planning and preventive health services. According to federal law, Title X funds cannot be used to provide abortions. The Appropriations Committee advanced a budget with provisions requiring “objective independence” from abortion providers including “legal, physical and financial separation” in order to ensure that Title X funding is not used for abortion services in Nebraska. However, in an unprecedented measure, members of the Appropriations Committee that developed the state budget and voted it unanimously out of committee did not vote for the budget’s advancement on the floor, effectively halting the passage of Nebraska’s constitutionally mandated balanced budget. No Title X money would be directed away from organizations that do not provide or refer for abortion services under the budget’s language. Organizations that do not provide or refer for abortion services would continue to receive their allocation of Title X. A cloture motion to end debate allowing for a vote on the budget fell three votes short.
A bill to adopt Opportunity Scholarships, introduced by Senator Smith and prioritized by Senator Linehan, made it to the floor Thursday night. LB295 would allow a $0.75 tax credit for every $1.00 of donation to scholarship granting organizations. These donations are made for the purpose of providing educational scholarships to students to attend a nonprofit or private elementary or secondary school. In Nebraska, it costs about $12,000 per student per year to educate students in public schools. One study concluded that LB295 would actually save the state $3 million over the first three years while giving families the opportunity to send their children to a school that best aligns with their religious beliefs or family values. No vote has yet been taken on the bill.
Before adjournment Friday, we again debated the Appropriations Committee budget bill. Title X funding language reignited vigorous debate and another cloture motion to end debate on the budget fell two votes short. The Legislature must recognize the importance of funding the state government and understand the implications to the citizens of Nebraska if the budget is not passed this session. I will continue to support passage of the Appropriations Budget bill with the present language.
We enjoyed many visitors from the district this week. The 4th-grade classes from Arlington and Oakland-Craig schools visited the Capitol on Thursday along with Leadership Washington County. Friday was a very busy day for District 16 at the Capitol as I had the pleasure and honor of introducing Sasha Millicut as a 2018 Merit Mother as part of the Nebraska Mothers Association 2018 Recognition Day. Gregg Gahan, Pastor of Craig Alder Grove Parish, served as Chaplain of the Day at the Legislature and I was also able to join Chad, Erv, and Elaine Eisenmenger of West Point Design as they were presented with their award for the 2017 Sustainability Business of the Year.
Please contact me; my Administrative Aide, Courtney McClellen; my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell; or the Agriculture Committee Research Analyst, Rick Leonard, with questions or concerns at (402) 471-2728, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit my office, Room 1022, in the Capitol. If you would like to follow the Legislature online please visit netnebraska.org and click on the “Live & On Demand” button or simply follow this link http://netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government