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An often quoted saying down here is that “making law is like making sausage, both are messy.” That is true when it comes to working on legislation within a bill, it is called compromise. We make sure the greater good is gained without doing harm to the minority.
What I have found distasteful is the practice of trading votes on unrelated legislation; that to me is closer to making slime rather than sausage. For example, there are several controversial bills: one related to tax credits for renewable energy, one that creates a new funding source for certain curriculums in public schools, one that increases the gas tax by 23.5%, one legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes, and one that grants rights for sexual preferences. I believe that none of these bills are supported by the majority of Nebraskans. But because senators will trade their votes for support of an issue that they are adamant about, suddenly legislation that is not supported by the majority of Nebraskans becomes law.
This behavior, I believe, is why politicians have the least respected occupation in America. It is also why less than 50% of Americans vote. I am willing to work with my fellow senators to make legislation better, such as I did with Senator Watermeier on LB106 – the zoning matrix bill – but I will not ever trade my vote.
Supporters of the budget are touting that the proposed biennium budget’s 3.1% increase is the third lowest in 30 years; that is not exactly true. They are comparing the proposed budget to final, adopted budget numbers. Absent from the 3.1% increase is the proposed $50 million cost of legislation still being considered on the floor to fund new government initiatives, and also the $55.7 million transfer of tax dollars from the Cash Reserve Fund to pay for the following: $25 million for UNL’s Global Center for Advanced Inter Professional Learning, $17.2 million to pay HHS’s Medicaid fine, $5.5 million to pay for the Republican River settlement to Kansas, and $8 million for Creighton University’s Dental School. When you add those expenditures into the mix, the growth is an increase of 4.4%. The other big factor is that since we have had huge increases in property valuations lately, the property taxpayers have contributed more to public education, and thus state aid to education is at a 2.3% increase. Politicians may want to take credit for the low increase, but the credit goes to the overburdened property taxpayers.
With LB525 politics came in to play again. Every standing committee has a cleanup bill which is used to align existing law with federal law or to fix minor errors. We had a senator bring up his previously rejected education-related priority bill as an amendment to the cleanup bill. This is not a normally accepted practice, but all the same, it is acceptable under the rules of the Legislature. That amendment was adopted with 25 aye votes (the bare minimum). The original committee bill had no fiscal note but the amendment added a $2 million cost to it over the objections of the chairman and other members of the committee, including myself.
LB423 is a bill dealing with renewable energy tax credits. Those credits will be very expensive to the taxpayers and I am working hard to defeat this piece of legislation. Nebraska Public Power is a great asset for Nebraska and has served Nebraska well. I believe that we must leave decisions on energy generation sources to them.
Things are moving fast, we have only 15 days left to get a lot a work done. In actuality, it probably would help the taxpayer if some of the work did not get done!