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Thursday, April 13th was the 65th day of the legislative session. With the end of the 90-day session in sight, we will begin to have what are known as “late nights” in which floor debate will go past the traditional cut off time of 5:00 pm and instead will go to as late as 9:30 pm or later.
On one hand this is good, as it gives us more time to debate legislation. We have a number of bills that have priority designation which must be debated on the floor, as well as passing the state budget (more on that later). On the other hand, this does put a stress on Senators and staff. In the past tempers have flared and it is incumbent on Senators make sure that any legislative action taken during this time is the correct path.
As we approach day 70, we will begin debating the budget. Recently the Legislature’s Revenue Committee advanced a comprehensive tax reform package including property and income tax relief measures by a vote of 6-2.
LB461 would introduce an income-based assessment of agricultural property as well as a restructuring and reduction of Nebraska’s personal and corporate income tax rates. During my meetings throughout the district, one of the major concerns expressed to me is that taxes in Nebraska are too high.
While I agree that we need to take action to reduce the tax burden on our businesses and families, I want to make sure we don’t take overreaching steps or move too quickly and risk weakening our fiscal stability.
One of the major aspects of LB461 that I like is the fact that some measures would be enacted quickly, while others would occur in a series of incremental tax reductions based on state revenue growth projections.
Of course, one thing I’ve learned in my time here in Lincoln is that bills can change significantly as they work their way through the legislative process here in the Unicameral, so I want to stress that nothing is set in stone.
On the floor this week, my bill LB276, which modernizes the definition of hybrid seed corn allowed here in Nebraska, passed on to Final Reading. This is the last stage a bill goes through before being signed into law. In most instances, Final Reading is a simple event in which the bill is literally read by the Clerk of the Senate and then a final vote is conducted.
Nearly all bills which reach this point have had any changes already made and the vote is usually a formality. In rare occasions for some of the more contentious bills, there will be one more debate, restricted to one hour.
There will probably be another round of bills up for Final Reading as early as the week of April 24th.
Even though we are near the end of the session, our work won’t be over. During the time between sessions we have the opportunity to examine certain topics in more depth than the time we are in session allows.
These investigations are usually called Interim Studies or Interim Hearings. Though usually not dealing with any specific legislation, these fact-finding missions can result in legislation in the future, or help clear up issues regarding bills already introduced.