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We have 36 legislative days remaining to approve a budget, provide property tax relief, and do the general work of the citizens. Debate last week started with whether motorcyclists should be able to ride without a helmet, and finished with a bill to repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act.
LB641 provides pedestrian rights and duties to manual or motorized wheelchairs and bicyclists in crosswalks. A court had ruled that a person on a motorized wheelchair was not considered a pedestrian, so the law needed to be made clear. I asked the question, when is a bicyclist a pedestrian and under what circumstance are they considered an operator of a vehicle sharing the road with automobiles? Currently, bicyclists traveling along a sidewalk are expected to dismount and walk their bike through a crosswalk, and when traveling on a street they are expected to follow the vehicular laws of the road. In the end, bicycles were left out and LB641 moved to the next round.
LB538 requires legislative performance audits of business related, tax incentive programs. The Legislature passed it to the second round (called select file) of debate. It is a small start, but we ought to be able to gauge whether tax breaks for job creation is actually accomplishing its intended goal.
LB320 –Adopt the Aging and Disability Resource Center Act. This bill creates another level of bureaucracy intended to aid aging baby boomers. It adds $2.4 million to our children’s tax bill, yet it passed to select file. I will try to point out it duplicates existing programs.
LB56 allows Northeast Community College in Norfolk the opportunity to buy, at an appraised cost, the unneeded portion of state property that was formally the Norfolk Regional Center. The college is landlocked and has no place to expand. It moved to select file after clarifying that appraised value would be used instead of fair-market value.
LR7CA attempts to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to change legislative term limits from two, four year terms to two, six year terms. In 2012, the voters overwhelmingly rejected an attempted expansion to three, four year terms. The state government has worked just fine with term limits. With the latest blowup over Senator Chambers, I believe Nebraskans stand firm on term limits. After some initial debate it is back on the docket for Monday, but I will work to stop it from receiving the requisite 30 votes to get on the ballot.
LB47 would require a yes or no response to the organ donation question in order to receive a driver’s license. At present, you can choose not to answer. Freedom of speech concerns, coupled with whether the government has the authority to deny a driver’s license to a citizen that chooses not to answer an unrelated question, caused the sponsor to pull the bill for this session; that was probably a wise move.
LB128 repeals the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act. We ended the week in the middle of this debate. The original law was passed two years ago, and so far, only Sheridan County has adopted the program. This is Senator Chambers’s bill; he seeks to protect more than mountain lions. The varmints spread quickly, destroy grasslands, and their holes are dangerous to livestock.
As to Senators Chambers’s outbursts in the Judiciary Committee, I, like other senators, publicly expressed displeasure at his comments. My concern is for the safety of law enforcement officers. In comments on the floor, I told the Senator he should clarify to the young men in his district that he did not want them to act on the words he blurted out in a moment of anger. We, as a Legislature, have very little power to discipline a fellow senator. Only the voters in their district have the power to remove senators from office. The Legislature could censure him, but that is just a slap on the hand. Senator Chambers has always been a lone wolf; criticism only angers and encourages him, so I assume he will do as he has always done. The rules allow any senator to shut down the Legislature by dominating the discussion.