The content of these pages is developed and maintained by, and is the sole responsibility of, the individual senator's office and may not reflect the views of the Nebraska Legislature. Questions and comments about the content should be directed to the senator's office at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Legislature has completed 44 of the 60 days allotted for this session. With so many pressing issues, it could be argued we couldn’t afford to lose an hour of debate time. So quite appropriately, we began the week by taking up a bill concerning Daylight Saving Time (DST). When I was first elected, my wife indicated I should do something about this issue. She is not alone in this; changing the clock twice a year generates a great deal of communication to all the senators, from all sides of the issue. Sometimes the ‘internal clock’ doesn’t change as easily as the one on the wall. Younger people adapt more quickly, those older or with a more rigid routine may adapt less easily.
Sen. Briese of Albion has introduced bills every year on DST, and this year made it his priority. During a brief discussion on the floor, Sen. Erdman, from the Panhandle area, suggested keeping standard time all year as well as combining all of Nebraska into one time zone. However, the bill advanced to the next round of debate by a wide margin without amendments. Then surprisingly the next day, the U.S. Senate passed a measure to maintain DST all year by unanimous vote, a rare occurrence. So in the end, Congress may end up doing the heavy lifting on this bill and it could come about quicker than we thought.
After that fast start to the week, the process slowed down to talk through the budget. You can find the entire budget document on the homepage of the legislative website, under “recent legislative information”, about fourth in the list. www.nebraskalegislature.gov
In the first year of our two-year biennium, seven bills were used to complete the budget. In this second year, we have just three bills, to make adjustments to that main budget passed last year. LB 1011 modifies appropriations from last year for specific programs and agencies.
LB 1012 takes care of fund transfers and includes some of the big proposals such as the “Star Wars” water and tourism bill, the “Perkins County canal”, and so on. This bill was filibustered by Sen. Lathrop and some other senators who want criminal justice reform, or because they do not see the need for a new prison. LB 1012 sets aside $175 million for building a prison, but would need future authorization for these funds to be used. We need to wait on that until more information about prison sentencing reforms, construction projections and location comes in, which may not be available until August.
The third budget bill, LB 1013, makes changes to the cash reserve (or “rainy day”) fund. Last year the amount in reserve was $700 million to $800 million. This year we started at $998 million, and now with our strong economy and the federal funding flowing into Nebraska, we sit right at $1.7 billion. A previously unheard of number. Some of these funds will be expended for specific projects.
After approving the budget bills, about $450 million will remain available for bills pending on the floor. Every day, the legislative fiscal office puts together a running total of how much of that has been “spent”. The funds might be allocated to an actual program, or it can mean the amount is decreased by tax cuts, which lower the amount of available revenue to the state. Either way, I firmly support leaving that cash fund in a strong position going forward when changes in the economy inevitably occur.
As I mentioned, Sen. Lathrop of Ralston led the discussion on criminal justice reforms in sentencing, parole, and so on. A judicial study completed last year produced more than 20 recommendations and some of those were included in his bill, LB 920. Sen. Wayne of Omaha argued the state should be investing in areas like census tracts in North Omaha, especially if there were funds for prisons, recreational lakes and other proposals.
As a member of the Appropriations committee, I heard the testimony on all of these funding requests. Our task was then to decide on the best use of both state and federal money and the merits of projects all across the state. We had more full day hearings than ever before and listened to a vast range of needs and reasonings for a share of the dollars. We had to look at the big statewide picture and how that would play out over time. We will find out over the next five years if it was done well, and what needs still exist.
I also want to emphasize the difference between the state’s general budget and the bill we will debate next week on American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) requests. From the 84 bills asking for one time federal ARPA funding, the Appropriations committee combined about 40 of those together in one bill. That ARPA package has been unanimously designated a speaker super priority by the Executive Board of the Legislature, giving the Speaker the ability to control the order of amendments taken up, and the amount of time spent on each amendment.
Please continue to contact me at email@example.com or call 402-471-2620. I look forward to hearing from you and discussing your concerns. Thank you.