As expected, the last week of the legislative session has been full of many late nights. Although we have spent hours discussing trivial things at times, we did manage to deal with the things that needed to be done.
LB1092, introduced by Senator Annette Dubas, would have allowed roads projects to be financed by bonds. The state could have taken on bonds totaling up to $200 million with a maximum fixed interest rate of 5 percent. We currently operate under a pay-as-you-go system when it comes to financing our roads projects and I have felt all along that we need to stay that way. This bill failed on Final Reading with a vote of 27-16-6. The bill needed 30 votes to pass because it had some constitutional language in it.
LB1098 was advanced to Governor Heineman with a vote of 48-0-1. Introduced by Senator Tom Carlson, LB1098 would increase the membership of the Natural Resources Commission from 16 members to 27. The commission make up will consist of wildlife conservation groups, public power districts, surface and ground water irrigators, and cities. The purpose of the commission is to help the state prepare for water shortages, prepare for floods and water quality problems. The intent of this bill is to insure the state has the ability to assist local governments and give the state the ability pay for water projects with an annual appropriation of $11 million. This is a lot of tax payer money and I am not completely comfortable with the new spending. We as a state, unfortunately, have a lot of complicated issues with water, particularly in the southwest and in and around our larger cities. This should help.
An item that is of particular interest to District 17 is LR41CA, introduced by Senator Scott Lautenbaugh. LR41CA would allow betting on ”historical horse races” at Nebraska’s thoroughbred tracks by using what is essentially a slot machine. This constitutional amendment failed to get enough votes on Final Reading but Senator Lautenbaugh filed a motion to reconsider which passed allowing LR41CA to have one more vote. It did prevail with a vote of 30-17 so it will go to the voters of the state this fall. If it is adopted this fall, communities would then be able to vote on allowing it in their communities but remember it is only allowed at thoroughbred tracks. I have been, and continue to be, opposed to this idea. It does not allow for casino type gambling which some people want. What it will do is allow expanded gambling by these “historic horse race” machines being placed at a few select sites. It is now up to you, the voters, to decide.
LB505, a bill that was introduced to require insurance companies to offer autism coverage finally found a home in LB254. Senator Colby Coash, introducer of LB505, had made several attempts this week to amend this much needed bill into other bills but was unable to attach to any bill that successfully advanced until it landed with LB254. This bill would allow for up to 25 hours a week of covered therapy until the insured individual turns 21. It is estimated that 1,000 individuals in our state will benefit from this.
On April 9th Governor Heineman signed into law LB96 a bill that I am proud to have co-sponsored. LB96 exempts farm machine repair and replacement parts from sales tax. This will allow our Nebraska implement dealers to compete more fairly with surrounding states which have no sales tax on these items. On a final note, LB766, a bill that I introduced was signed by Governor Heineman on April 10th. This was a clean-up bill I introduced dealing with the tuition assistance programs offered to National Guard members.