Over the Fence
A bi-weekly newsletter from Senator Tom Hansen
(May 22, 2009)
This week Governor Heineman accepted our $6.9 billion two-year budget plan without a single line-item veto. I was especially happy to hear that because as a member of the Appropriations Committee we spent our time producing a responsible budget. It’s good to know that the Governor had enough confidence in our decisions to recognize that.
The budget will actually cut state tax spending by 3 percent this year. For the next 2 years it is projected to increase 1 percent and will avoid any tax increases. It relies a lot on more than $500 million in federal stimulus funds and money that has accumulated in the state’s cash reserve fund.
The week began with discussion on a bill that would make lethal injection Nebraska’s method of execution. Since the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled last year that the electric chair violated the state constitutional prohibition against inflicting cruel and unusual punishment, the state was left with no legal method for carrying out the death penalty.
LB 36, introduced by Norfolk Senator Mike Flood was advanced to the second round after two days of debate. Issues covered included religious and ethical views, as well as practical problems on both sides of the issue.
The bill will require the Department of Correctional Services to establish protocol for conducting lethal injection executions, including the selection of the lethal substance or substances to be used. The Department will hold public hearings before any procedure is developed. It will also clarify that the identities of the execution team are confidential to the limits allowed under the Nebraska Public Records laws. At least two members of the media will be allowed to attend an execution.
While some senators offered proposals to change the process involved in the application of the death penalty, others supported repealing it all together.
Governor Heineman supports this measure and has indicated he will sign LB 36 which will make it become law this year.
Omaha Senator Tom White introduced LB 16, a bill which would have let the Legislature operate a site detailing state spending. But State Treasurer Shane Osborn operates a web site that already details where our state tax dollars are spent. So a compromise amendment advanced to the second round along with the bill that lets Osborn keep running the web site and maintaining government transparency.
Under the provisions of the bill, the Legislature tells the State Treasurer what information should be included on the site and, it prevents the Treasurer from having his picture and seal on it.
Legislation designed to discourage abortions headed toward final enactment after an emotional three-hour floor debate. Introduced by Lincoln Senator Tony Fulton, LB 675 would require abortion clinics to offer women an opportunity to view ultrasound images before proceeding with an abortion.
The bill does not force women to view the ultrasound image. Each woman has a free choice to view it if she chooses.
A bill that would have added an additional Lancaster County District Court judgeship was debated for several hours before being advanced to the final stage of debate. LB 35, introduced by Omaha Senator Brad Ashford, was amended with 14 other bills that contain a number of court-related issues important to the state Supreme Court. The portion that would have added another Lancaster County judge was LB 669 introduced by Lincoln Senator Colby Coash.
Governor Heineman had threatened to veto LB 35 because of the cost of implementing the $250,000 measure. Instead of eliminating the position completely, the Legislature compromised by putting off the judgeship for two years.
Speaker Mike Flood has announced that after conferring with each of us, he intends to adjourn the Legislative Session on May 29th of this year — that is 3 days short of the 90-day maximum. He will continue to monitor the progression of bills left to discuss, but as of today his plans are to adjourn on the earlier date.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day holiday!