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Late Wednesday night we finally passed LB944 – the main budget bill onto Select File. After days and days of heated debate mostly surrounding the Title X language of the bill. I want to commend Senators Bolz, Harr, Hilgers, Howard, Watermeier, and Wishart for working diligently together over the past few days in drafting AM2750 which created a comprise on the Title X language in the bill. The amendment clarifies that referrals for abortion would be limited to emergencies in which a physician determines a pregnancy would cause death or serious impairment of the woman’s physical health.
Additionally, neutral, factual, nondirective information about prenatal care and delivery and pregnancy termination would not constitute a referral for abortion. The bill still has two more rounds of votes before it can become law. My hope is that these rounds of debate will go smoothly and we can focus on other important bills still to be addressed. With just eight session day remaining, we still have one hundred and seven priority bills that have not made it to the floor for full debate.
I was very pleased to see that LB1040 offered by Senator Joni Albrecht of Thurston advanced. LB1040 offers commemorative birth certificates to mothers who suffer miscarriages before the 20th week of pregnancy. Currently we have commemorative birth certificates for children who have died after twenty week of gestation in statute. So this bill would now completely cover a medically diagnosed pregnancy from conception to birth. Senator Albrecht summed up the purpose and need for this bill when she said on the floor the bill was meant to help grieving families. It’s for those mothers forced to say goodbye to a child they loved and longed for, before they got to say hello. One in four women experience a miscarriage, she said, the majority within the first three months. Every pregnancy loss is a tragedy that has a profound impact on women and entire families.
LB1009 would allow the Nebraska Department of Transportation to raise highway speed limits. Many constituents have contacted my office over concerns of raising the interstate speed limit to 80 mph. I have the same concerns. Senator Murante, the bill’s sponsor, agreed to remove the interstate speed limit increase from the bill, and I supported the remaining speed increases. There is no good reason why there are two or three different speed limits on rural highways. Consistency of speeds I believe will increase safety.
This week also marked the beginning of the debate on consent calendar bills. Consent calendar bills are relatively noncontroversial by nature and they were voted out of committee unanimously by those members present. These bill are considered and are quickly advanced to the next legislative stage. Usually, a bill on consent calendar can be debated for no more than 15 minutes. This process is a very efficient way to dispense with “clean up” bills that address laws already in statute or bills that help state agencies work more efficiently and effectively. In just two days we advanced thirty-two consent calendar bills.
On Thursday, Senator Lydia Brasch requested a pull-motion for her bill LB1069. A pull-motion is a legislative procedure to move a bill that is stuck in committee to the floor for debate. It takes a majority vote of the body to pull a bill from committee. LB1069 is an update to the provisions related to the Committee on Americanism. After more than two hours of lively debate, the question was called. The vote was 27 yea’s 13 no’s and 9 not voting to pull the bill from committee. I voted in the affirmative. We need to educate our youth on the history and civic processes that make this the greatest nation in world.
Next Monday we will be addressing the Governor’s tax relief bill LB947. I am supportive of any property tax relief. I do have some concerns about LB947. I don’t feel this bill does enough fast enough on property tax relief. However, I am willing to listen to both my constituents and the debate on floor before I make a final decision on how to vote on this bill.
Just a reminder that I will have my last “Coffee with the Senator” l for this year’s legislative session on Saturday, April 7th , at the Medina Street Vault in Cairo. I hope to see you there!