The storm this past week placed a bit of a damper on the week’s legislative schedule, as Tuesday was designated as a “check-in day”. Check-in days are days where those who are able to get to the Capitol, come in and check in, and when a quorum of senators (25) have checked in, the body immediately adjourns. All committee hearings were postponed for that day. It took 45 minutes beyond the 10 a.m. start time to get a quorum–those who live in Lincoln, those who have session housing in Lincoln, and those who decided ahead of time to spend the night on Monday night, eventually got in. Most of those who drive in everyday made it home on Monday night before the storm hit, and ended up staying home and digging out of driveways for Wednesday’s session.
Items of interest that have been discussed on the floor this week:
A number of “consent calendar” bills which were on General File were moved to Select File. In order to be “consent calendar eligible” a bill has to be non-controversial (typically, meaning that no opposition was shown in committee hearings), and is typically something which is statutory clean-up or relatively minor in nature. A number of bills will likely be moved on the consent calendar this year.
A proposed constitutional amendment–which would make those 18 years and up eligible for service in the Legislature and other state office (currently, the lower age limit in 21) moved from General File to Select File after some debate. If that is passed on Final Reading, it would be put on the ballot this fall for determination by the voters.
On Thursday, two bills moved from Select File to Final Reading. One, LB136, would prohibit the so-called flying lanterns, which many have deemed to be a fire hazard above and beyond typical fireworks; the other, LB471, creates a universal, online, prescription drug monitoring system. While there may be some liberty interests at stake with both of these bills, the threat of doing harm to someone else’s property is significant enough with respect to flying lanterns that a majority thought it worthy of banning; and the increasing number of prescription drug related addiction (and crime)–not to mention the issues of health care providers wanting to make sure they aren’t prescribing drugs to people which may interact with drugs someone else has prescribed–meant that LB471 moved with virtually no opposition.
On Thursday, a filibuster was begun on Senator Watermeier’s LB188, which would define “innocent third parties” for purposes of being eligible to sue in the case of injury as a result of vehicular pursuit by law enforcement.
Before resuming the debate on LB188, the Legislature will act, on Final Reading, on some (or all) of these bills: LB176 (the Competitive Livestock Markets Act); LB47 (Anatomical Gift notation on Motor Vehicle Licenses); LB190, which makes a minor tweak to the current Concealed Handgun Permit application process, and allows spouses of active duty military members to waive some of the residence requirements as can the service member; LB285, which modifies some elements of the Civic and Community Center Financing Fund.
All in all, we continue to move through the session. As of last Friday, we had finished 21 days of the 60 day session. With 39 days to go, and many bills still being held in committee, or carried over from the last session–in addition to the new bills from this year–it seems likely that the combination of a sense of urgency to “get things done”, the inevitable filibusters, the desire of outgoing senators to “leave a legacy”, etc. will result in an interesting 2 ½ months–probably with both entertaining and frustrating moments.
Senator Laura Ebke