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My staff and I hope everyone enjoyed their Easter Holiday. After the four day recess it was full bore ahead for the unicameral. The week was full of high profile and controversial bills.
The week started out with LB640 introduced by Senator Groene, Chair of the Education Committee. LB640 looked to change the way schools were funded. Specifically how property taxes are calculated and distributed. The bill would provide property tax relief by lowering the maximum levy from 1.05 to 1.00. By doing so, property taxes will be offset by property tax relief aid. If funding fell short, local school boards can request to raise the mill levy to 1.03 with a super-majority of the board after a public hearing. I support this concept because it gives a voice to the local citizens who will be paying for an increase in their taxes.
On Wednesday, both the Medical Marijuana bill, LB622 and the “The Shield” bill – LB611 were debated. LB622 introduced by Senator Wishart is a bill looking to create an entire system and network for the growing, processing, dispensing and prescribing of marijuana in various forms to treat a variety of medically diagnosed aliments. What concerns me about the bill is the vagueness of how many of these complex issues are to be addressed and regulated. A lot is left up to be figured out later. I am not comfortable as a legislator of putting the cart before the horse. This bill was a refinement of a bill presented last session and I feel it still needs even more refinement before we would consider passing it into law.
The third highly controversial bill discussed on the legislative floor was LB661 by Senator Kuehn. This proposed legislation provides for confidentiality of information relating to a death penalty lethal injection. Basically, it would protect the identity of any person or entity that manufactures, supplies, compounds, or prescribes substances used in carrying out of the lethal injection as part of the death penalty process. The reasoning behind the bill is to protect from harm and harassment those individual and companies who make available these supplies needed to carry out the will of the people of Nebraska, who voted to retain the death penalty in our state.
All three of these bills had robust debate but were unable to garner enough support to end debate and move to a vote. Therefore, Speaker Scheer removed them from the agenda. Each of these bills may be brought back to floor if the Senator who sponsored the bill can prove to the speaker that he or she has the 33 votes to bring debate to a close and trigger a vote on bill.
Thursday was slated as the Consent Calendar day. The Consent Calendar refers to process where non-controversial bills receive limited debate, just 15 minutes, and then the bill is voted on for advancement to Select File. More often than not, these bill are simple clean up bills requested by governmental agencies and departments.
On Friday we will be starting to address the 2018-2019 biennium budget. I will spend much time discussing the budget during my address next week. I can tell you that I have been attending several meeting this week on budget to better prepare for debate to follow.
On the local scene, I want to congratulate the City of Hastings. The City of Hastings was awarded the “Governor’s Showcase Community Award.” This award recognizes the outstanding efforts by communities over the past five years who have demonstrated the ability to identify community development goals; combine local, state, and federal resources to achieve those goals; and successfully execute projects having a positive impact on the community. This is an incredible honor for Hastings. To see a picture of the presentation visit my Facebook page – Senator Steve Halloran.