We started the third week of the 103rd Legislative session with bill introduction concluding, and started committee hearings which will likely continue through March. Since the session is scheduled to last 90 legislative days, we are tentatively scheduled to adjourn June 5th.
One of the most important and difficult issues the legislature works on during the long session (90-day session) is the biennial (two-year) state budget. When the session convenes there has already been a significant amount of work done on the budget. I will give an overview to familiarize you with the process.
Last September, agencies submitted their budget requests to both the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and the Legislative Fiscal Office (LFO.) Both offices review and analyze the multiple budgets. The analysis from the Department of Administrative Services is turned over to the Governor, to assist in the development of his budget, while the analysis from the Legislative Fiscal Office goes to both the Appropriations Committee and the Legislature.
By January 15th the Governor is required to submit his budget. The Appropriations Committee then spends the rest of January and much of February reassessing agency requests and crafting their preliminary budget recommendation, this must be reported within 30 legislative days after the Governor’s submitted his budget. After the committee has submitted their budget recommendation, public hearings start. This is the time for everyone to weigh in on the proposals. Once hearings wrap up, the committee spends another month to review all of the requests, comments, and public input to construct a final recommendation to present to the Legislature. In a 90 day session, the budget bills must be submitted to the body by the 70th day.
The budget bills go through a very similar process as regular bills once advanced out of committee. During floor debate, the bills are accompanied by an updated financial status report by the Fiscal Office to show the financial situation of our state for the biennium as well as the next two years. This is updated daily and is helpful to understand where our budget stands. The bills are debated on General and Select File, and Senators are able to amend the bill as long as they have 25 votes. During final reading, the number of votes required for passage of a budget bill is dependent upon if it has an emergency clause, meaning the bill will become law as soon as the Governor signs it. A bill with an emergency clause requires 33 votes or 2/3 of the body. Bills without an emergency clause must receive 30 votes if the appropriation is greater than the Governor’s recommendation. However, if it is at or below his recommendation, a simple majority of 25 votes is required.
Passed bills then move to the Governor’s desk. The Governor then has a couple of options. He can wait 5 calendar days (excluding Sunday) to sign the bills into law, he can not sign it and let the bill become law. He also can veto a bill in its entirety or line-item veto.
If the Governor vetoes or line item vetoes any bill, the legislature can override it. This process begins with the Appropriations Committee reporting the impact of the vetoes, they then have the option to motion to override either all of the line-item vetoes or just part of it. There must be 30 votes to override a Governor’s veto in Nebraska.
Once this process has concluded the budget bills go into effect. If the bill does not contain an emergency clause it will take effect July 1, the same day the new fiscal year begins.
This will hopefully help you understand the important budget making process in Nebraska. As always please do not hesitate to contact my office if I can be of any assistance to you or your family. My Capitol office number is (402) 471-2712 and you can always reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.