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This column covers legislative days 31 through 34.
As February comes to an end it seems like winter refuses to. I’m not sure I’m ever going to believe that groundhog again, but I suppose the joke is on me if I ever believed him before! I hope you are all staying safe and warm in District 16.
We’ll take a break from property tax bill reviews this week and return to them in my next column. For now, I want to provide a quick review of the legislative process. Each bill must be first introduced by a senator, then it receives its public hearing where anyone may come and testify about the bill. A committee then discusses amendments to the bill and takes a vote on whether or not it should advance to General File, if it should be held until further changes are made, or if the bill should be held indefinitely in committee.
We dipped our toes into each stage of legislative debate this week. Bills are debated for the first time on General File, then for the second round on Select File. Amendments making changes to the bills can be offered during debate or discussed off the floor and brought at a later time. If a bill receives at least 25 votes it will advance to the next round. Periodically, as we did on Friday, we will fill the agenda with bills on Final Reading, making our final votes before the bills are sent to the Governor to sign into law. Each bill is read in its entirety on Final Reading with the exception of a few that are just too long to read. Senators voted on 45 bills during Final Reading last Friday.
Floor debate very energized on Thursday as Senator Brewer’s priority bill, LB 155, came up for debate. Constituents of Senator Brewer’s district comprised of Dawes, Sheridan, Cherry, Brown, Keya Paha, Grant, Hooker, Thomas, Blaine, Loup, McPherson, and Logan counties, filled the balcony as the debate heated up on the floor. The bill would have struck one sentence from state statute that says eminent domain for privately developed renewable energy generation facilities is a public use. Opponents of the bill argued this was an attempt at limiting the growth of renewable energy in Nebraska, but Sen. Brewer maintained his bill was about eliminating eminent domain for private development.
I agree with Sen. Brewer that eminent domain for private development should not be considered a public use. Nebraskans take pride in their land – families often own the same land for generations. Any private person or entity should be required to enter into good-faith negotiations if they wish to use another’s land. Eminent domain should not be available as a bargaining chip or final option for private developers. Though the bill fell two votes short of advancing, Sen. Brewer has vowed to bring it back next year.
As always, you’re welcome to contact my office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow along with the session please visit nebraskalegislature.gov or you may watch the live stream when available at netnebraska.org