Last week I told you about the Legislature advancing and Governor Ricketts vetoing LB610, the gas tax increase. It passed on Final Reading with a vote of 26-15-8. On Thursday, May 14th, we took up the motion to override the Governor’s veto. With a vote of 30-13-6, the Legislature decided LB610 would become law notwithstanding the objections of the Governor. I voted to sustain the veto.
Beginning January 1, 2016, the gas tax will increase by 1.5 cents and will increase every January 1 for the three more years giving us an increase of 6 cents over four years. Supporters of this legislation claim that extra revenue generated will provide us with smoother roads and safer bridges I guess time will tell.
LB643, introduced by Senator Tommy Garrett of Bellevue, the Medical Cannabis Act received first round approval. The bill would allow patients to have and use the drug to treat specific conditions and illnesses. There are some issues and concerns with the bill that Senator Garrett is working on addressing before the bill is debated on Select File. One of the concerns he will be addressing is making sure the drug will ONLY be available in pill or liquid form. While I have some reservations about this bill, I do recognize the benefit that medical marijuana can bring to some individuals and think it is worth working on which is why I voted for it.
LB623, introduced by Senator Jeremy Nordquist, allows the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for driver’s licenses. Currently, Nebraska is the only state that does not allow the issuance of licenses to the group of young immigrants that were brought to our country illegally as children. In 2012 President Obama issued an order saying that immigrants granted a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status were eligible for work permits, Social Security numbers, and a two-year deportation deferral that can be renewed. The bill advanced to the second round with a vote of 37-8. I do not support this bill.
The bill to repeal the death penalty, LB268, easily advanced to Final Reading. As you know, I have struggled with how I was going to vote on this bill and I still do. Earlier this week it was announced that Nebraska had purchased the three drugs necessary to carry out a lethal injection execution, allowing us to carry out an execution something we have not done since 1997. Senator McCoy, of Omaha, introduced an amendment that would have sent this issue to the people of Nebraska to vote on. While I supported this amendment, others did not and the amendment failed. Given the recent events at the Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, I now find it hard to vote for the repeal of the death penalty. There are a few cases, where I am now convinced that regrettably nothing else can suffice. Governor Ricketts has said that he would veto this bill if it comes before him. I will vote to uphold his veto.
A few weeks ago, I told you about LB599, a bill that would lower the minimum wage for young part time workers. In a surprising vote today (May 15th) the bill failed to advance to the governor. LB599 needed 33 votes on Final Reading because it was modifying the ballot imitative that was passed last November. While the bill had the support on the first two rounds of debate, today the bill died with a vote of 29-17-1. Those among you who think that the Legislature does not listen to you, should know that this turn around came as a result of pressure from the people of Nebraska.
In other news, Governor Ricketts has declared a state of emergency because of the H5N2 avian flu virus. By declaring an emergency, funding will be available to help contain the virus that threatens the $1.1 billion poultry industry in Nebraska. Just this week the Nebraska Department of Agriculture has identified two farms in northeast Nebraska that have the virus.
Next weekend we will celebrate Memorial Day, I will be speaking at the event in Wayne.