The 105th Legislature has reached the halfway mark of the 90 day session. As committees enter into the final weeks of public hearings, they may advance legislation to General File to for consideration by the entire legislature. A handful of bills have already been passed to further rounds of debate. Most notably, a revised budget for the current fiscal year has already been developed and passed, an unprecedented accomplishment in the Nebraska Unicameral.
Senators and standing committees have selected and identified their Priority Bills. For the remainder of the session, bills with a priority designation will move to the top of the agenda for floor debate. Those bills without an attached priority will not likely be debated this year, but will remain active on General File until the 2018 session. Each senator can select a single priority, each standing committee two, and Speaker Jim Scheer can select up to 25 bills for designation as a speaker priority. Thus, approximately 100 bills of the 667 originally introduced will receive a priority designation. You can access the listing of priority bills from the home page of the Nebraska Legislature’s website, www.nebraskalegislature.gov .
Among the priority bills are a number of issues that have been debated in recent years, including medical marijuana, an application for an Article V Convention of the States, designation of LGBT individuals as a protected class, repeal of Nebraska’s helmet law, and voter identification. In addition, several new and important topics have been prioritized. Bills guaranteeing our K-3 students are competent in reading before being advanced, providing clarity for teachers enforcing classroom discipline, and examining growth of education spending received priority designations.
I prioritized LB 661, the Shield Law bill I introduced in response to the overwhelming message sent by Nebraska voters to retain the death penalty. LB 661 is a step toward ensuring the state can carry out its statutory responsibility. If passed, LB 661 would protect the identity of manufacturers of anesthetic drugs used in lethal injection from harassment. It is also an important step in protecting a domestic supply of anesthetic drugs for medical use, which has been eliminated by the harassment and activism of death penalty opponents.
I selected LB 661 as my priority bill based on my belief that the Nebraska Legislature should be responsive to the voters of Nebraska. To not actively move toward overcoming the obstacles activists and legislative inaction have created is in blatant disregard of the will of Nebraskans. Additionally, the elimination of affordable, safe anesthetic drugs from the market presents an important social justice issue that must be addressed. The Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee, chaired by Senator John Murante, has yet to advance LB 661. My hope is that they will do so soon.
Much interest surrounds the consideration of tax reform legislation. Although two bills were prioritized by the Revenue Committee and several bills heard by the Revenue Committee were prioritized, few bills have been advanced to General File by the committee. At this point in the session, members of the Legislature outside of the Revenue Committee do not have any clear picture of what kind of tax reform measures may be brought to the floor. Work by the entire Legislature will begin once language has been made public.
It is important for constituents to recognize that bills may be changed significantly by committees from their introduced language. Committee amendments may completely replace the original bill when advanced to the floor. When you search a bill on the Legislature’s website, look toward the right hand side of the screen for “Pending Amendments”. There you can read the text of any committee amendments that have been placed on file when the bill was advanced. That will provide the most current language being considered.