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Following the Easter Holiday break, we started the four late night session press. Tuesday morning session was filled with continuing talk about the Title X funding provision in the budget bill LB944. After Senators were able to get their thoughts on the record, the bill was passed and sent to the Governor for his signature.
Following the vote on fixing the budget shortfall left from last year, we as a body shifted our focus to LB947 – the Governor’s tax relief plan. As anticipated, the debate was heated. In a rare event both Senator Erdman from the panhandle and Senator Morfeld from Lincoln agreed on a bill. They are both concerned that this bill does not truly address the tax imbalance issues in Nebraska. LB947 was filibustered. Given the vote to bracket the bill failed by only 25-9, clearly the proponents of LB947 do not have the 33 votes necessary to end the filibuster, I don’t see this bill being brought back to the floor this session.
What frustrates me most is that LB947 was the only tax relief bill that made it to the floor for debate this session. We have several bills dealing with tax relief that were stuck in various committees. If no property tax relief bill gets passed this session, I am confident that the good people of Nebraska will successfully reach the 80,000 petition signatures needed to get a property tax initiative on the ballot! The initiative proposed would provide a $1.1 billion in property tax reductions that would be distributed through a state income tax refund or credit equal to 50 percent of local school property taxes paid by Nebraska taxpayers.
Moving on to other bills addressed this week, LB902 from Sen. Bruce Bostelman from Brainard, exempts from the state’s public-records the registration of guns , the possession of guns or sale of guns. The bill advanced to select file with a 32-0 vote on Tuesday. I agree with Senator Bostelman who stated during debate that, the bill would keep gun owners from being targeted for fraud, harassment or abuse, and it would also prevent abuse victims who own firearms from having their personal information published. It does allow law enforcement agencies to access those records if needed.
On Thursday my priority bill LB1058 – Adopt the The Faithful Delegate to Federal Article V Convention Act was brought to the floor for debate. Article V Convention of States was written into the United States Constitution by our Founding Fathers as a safeguard against an all-powerful Federal Government, as I expected, opponents to the faithful delegate bill focused more on the concept of an Article V Convention rather than the intent of the bill which was to prepare the State of Nebraska for a call of a Convention of States by U.S. Congress by laying out who should be our delegates and rules which they can operate under. Their concerns of a “runaway convention” are fear tactics that remind me of the Chicken Little story where a small acorn falls on the head of Chicken Little and therefore the chicken assumes that the sky is falling.
There are so many safeguards built into the process that even if a crazy proposed amendment, note the key word proposed, such as removing the nineteenth amendment which guaranteed the right of citizens of United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Any proposed amendment would still have to be ratified by 38 of 50 state legislatures. That would mean the 76 different houses of state government must all pass a motion to ratify out of each of those houses. To pass ratification those same 76 houses, by a 51% majority, that would take roughly 2,800 elected state legislators, across 38 different states who MUST VOTE YES to ratify a proposed amendment and make it part of the United States Constitution! I could cite example after example of how the procedural processes during a Convention of States and the ensuing ratification process would keep the sky from falling.
Rather, I will focus on the fact that LB1058 fell ONLY two votes short of passing. I firmly believe that a faithful delegate bill to a called Convention of States will be passed by the Nebraska Legislature in the next year or two. With our national debt at 21 trillion dollars, which is rising every day, paired with the fact that our current Congress, and past Congresses have shown an unwillingness to act to fix their runaway spending, the people will rise up and demand a change. That change will come in the form of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United State Constitution through a called Convention of States. Currently, 28 of 34 States, including the State of Nebraska, required to force Congress to call a Convention of States have submitted applications. We are just 6 states away! Once a call has been made by Congress, states will need to act and that is when having a faithful delegate already on the books will come extremely useful to prepare and provide guidance to our state delegates.
Friday’s big topic was LB1103 introduced by Senator Friesen. The bill would require that the state government would pay 25% of the basic education costs of each local school district. Senator Tom Briese filed an amendment AM2808 which, in its essence, is his bill LB1084 that was stuck in the Reveune Committee which is chaired by Senator Smith who is pushing his own bill LB947. Senator Briese’s amendment is a complex set of tax changes including: Increasing the state’s sales tax, increasing the state’s cigarette tax, and removing other tax exemptions to help pay for K-12 education funding. At the time of this recording, the debate was at a stalemate.
I was encouraged that Speaker Scheer took control after hours of directionless debate by instructing all of the sponsors of the respective tax relief bills to meet with him in his office on Saturday morning to discuss these bills and see if they find some common ground. He further promised that he would put on the agenda for Monday all of the tax relief bill that have already made it to the floor for debate. Which allow each of them to have full debate.
This week was “Visit the State Capitol Week” for District #33, or at least that is the way it felt. Four different schools of fourth-graders came on four separate days. Fourth-graders from Juniata Elementary, St. Michael’s School in Hastings, Longfellow Elementary in Hastings, and our last group which visited on Friday, Centura Public Schools in Cairo. It is always a pleasure to visit with our future leaders.
I would like to thank the seventy plus people who came out and participated in our most recent town hall meeting at Kitty’s Roadhouse in Hastings. We had excellent exchange on issues that concern people in District #33.