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At the conclusion of the past week, the 2nd session of the 104th Legislature was two-thirds complete. Despite the short period of time remaining, much work remains to be done, including General File discussion of many senator, committee, and speaker priority bills. The schedule over the next several weeks will include extended days for floor debate. The Unicameral will begin in the morning, standing at ease for 20 minutes in lieu of recessing for lunch, and work into the evening.
Since a bill without a priority designation or consent calendar status will not be heard on the floor, some bills may be attached to existing priority bills on General File or Select File debate as amendments. In some cases, committee priority bills may be completely gutted from their introduced version, with several bills being combined into a single committee amendment that replaces the original bill. Colloquially referred to as “christmas tree” bills, these bills can be quite extensive with many separate components. If you are following specific piece of legislation, be aware that it may be amended into another bill, or the bill debated on the floor may be drastically different from the introduced version. The website of the Nebraska Legislature has the most current pending amendments and language for each bill as it proceeds through the legislative process. I encourage constituents to check for updates concerning legislation that is active on the floor. You can also contact my office for an update on the status of a bill.
The budget bills will advance for General File debate on Tuesday, March 15. Since this is the second year of the biennial budget passed last session, the requests for additional funding are commonly referred to as “deficit requests”. The most significant impact to the General Fund was a decrease in the revenue forecast compared to the revenues projected when the budget was developed a year ago. Increases over the projected amount required for TEEOSA aid to schools further strained the budget. One time reductions of unspent appropriations in Department of Health and Human Services aid programs of $98.9 million were used to fill the revenue gap, while various cash fund transfers and a revised February revenue forecast added an additional $29 million to balance the budget.
The most significant long term changes to the General Fund included a 10 year extension of the annual General Fund contribution to physical plant upgrades in the University of Nebraska and State College systems of $11 million and $1.125 million respectively. Both funding commitments were extended through 2030.
Cash reserve dollars, also known as the “rainy day funds”, were recommended for three significant one-time projects. The Appropriations Committee has recommended the Transportation Infrastructure Bank, proposed as LB 960, receive $50 million from the cash reserve. A $27.3 million appropriation for the Department of Corrections to expand community corrections beds was also included in the recommendations. Additionally, $13.7 million has been identified to upgrade the levy system that protects Offutt Air Force Base from flooding. If passed by the full legislature, $91 million will be drawn down from the Cash Reserve Fund. The unobligated balance of the Cash Reserve Fund would then be $634 million.
As the debate begins on the budget and continues on priority bills, please do not hesitate to contact my office with questions or to express your position on legislation at 402-471-2732 or email at email@example.com. For daily updates during the session, please follow me on Twitter at @JohnKuehnDVM.
Senator John Kuehn, District 38