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As winter has persisted outside, the legislature persists in conducting its business at legislative hearings and floor debate. LB 710, which is my priority bill, seeks to clarify statutory language regarding plaintiffs who are allowed to request a court award of interest and attorney fees afforded within the statute for civil cases of $4,000.00 or less. The changes make clear to which plaintiffs the statute applies and establishes a uniform time-frame by which interest is calculated. The bill was heard by the Judiciary Committee and was clearly opposed by Senator Chambers. He believes that lower income people are adversely impacted by debt collectors. When the bill came to the floor for General File debate, often referred to as first round debate, Senator Chambers made it clear that he would filibuster the bill. Which he did. After nearly six hours of debate, I moved for Cloture, which can force debate to end. This vote has a high vote requirement (33) to protect the right of debate – but also allows an avenue to stop frivolous debate and advance an issue. The motion for cloture received 47 yes votes. The only no vote was Senator Chambers and one senator was excused for the day. The motion was successful to cease debate and LB 710 advanced to the next stage of debate, Select File, with 46 yes votes. The Speaker scheduled LB 710 for the next round of debate on Monday, February 12.
However, on the agenda, the bill preceding my priority bill is LB 758 offered by Senator Dan Hughes. His bill was also filibustered on General File by Senator Chambers. LB 758 would require state Natural Resource Districts and inter-local entities that buy private land for the development of a streamflow augmentation project to work with the county in which the project is located to reduce the project’s impact on the local property tax base. The bill is now being stalled on second round debate by Senator Chambers and will go to its full time limit before a cloture motion can be made. It is fortunate that I designated LB 710 as my priority early in the process in order to have it come up so quickly. I know my bill will make it through, but it is moving as slow as molasses.
I often hear that senators should shut down Senator Chambers, usually in a more colorful pronouncement. As frustrating as Senator Chambers filibusters are, as time consuming as his filibusters are, it is his right to speak and use the rules of the Legislature; and I would not want the system to be able to shut down anyone’s voice. The legislature has a process in place to eventually end a filibuster but at least the rules protect a lone voice or a voice of a minority group of senators who may object to a bill.
This week I have two bills before committees. First is LB 709 to be heard by the Urban Affairs Committee. This bill changes the statutes relating to plumbing boards and helps to streamline the process and clean up language that has been in place for decades. This bill was brought to my attention by the Beatrice City Administrator. It should not have any opposition at the hearing.
The second bill up this week would allow a person to use tires in building walls in a single family dwelling and have approval from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). A constituent was building a home using tires in the construction process. During the building, DEQ was made aware of tires sitting on the property, the home owner worked with DEQ to clean up the remainder of the tires and was allowed to continue building the home. This constituent asked that I introduce a bill to allow tires be used in this type of process.
As we near the half way mark of the session, I encourage you to contact me with any concerns or questions about legislation. firstname.lastname@example.org 402-471-2620