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We have 13 working days left in this session and the budget is sailing along without much debate. I have come to understand the power of the Appropriations Committee. A real concern I have is that any senator on the Appropriations Committee can sponsor legislation that is heard by the Appropriations Committee. That procedure leaves out the three rounds of debate on the floor that all other legislation must go through in order to become law. For example, the $25 million for the UNMC’s Global Center for Advanced Interprofessional Learning and its annual $5 million operational funding was tucked into LB657 – the 144 page, $10 billion mainline budget bill to fund state spending. I will look into proposing a rule change.
Another concern is the tradition that all nine members of the Appropriations Committee are sworn to show a united front in support of all aspects of the budget. The other 40 members of the legislature are left out of the debate that was shared in the executive meetings of the committee. I do not believe that to be good government. The only way to change the tradition is to make sure the next chairman of the Appropriations Committee is a proponent of free speech. It looks like, in real numbers, we will end up with over a 4% increase in spending, unless miraculously a majority of senators suddenly decide to become fiscal conservatives, and vote in favor of the taxpayers’ interests. But the interests of the lobbyists will probably win out.
I will not support LB643 – the medical marijuana bill – as it is currently written. I have heard from many parents looking to LB643 for hope that it will abate the severe seizures their children experience from a variety of causes. No one is claiming that marijuana cures any illness, but what is claimed is that it calms the effects or masks the pain caused by illnesses. We have to remember that there is a reason why marijuana is an illegal drug. Many individuals’ lives have been destroyed by addictive drug use; marijuana is one of those drugs. I will vote for LB390 – the bill that authorizes limited research on cannabidiol oil by the UNMC. In a perfect world, the two bills would be combined to create a pilot program that is well documented and studied.
LB605 makes changes to criminal sentencing and probation guidelines. Our prison system is at 159% of capacity. Either we spend millions to build and operate new prisons or we try to keep criminals out of jail. I support the attempt to rehabilitate nonviolent criminals by offering more probation options and related substance abuse programs. LB173 however, changes habitual criminal sentencing guidelines. It would let some habitual criminals out on the streets earlier. The reason the occurrence of violent crime is down is because we keep career criminals in jail. I will vote no on LB173.
LB360 increases state oversight of commercial dog and cat breeding and kenneling businesses. I voted for the bill. The sponsor of the bill also agreed to work with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture to put certain proposed daily animal care requirements in the regulations instead of in the statutes.
LB423 would have given $75 million of your tax dollars to renewable energy projects. It left out input from our Nebraska Public Power District, and it ignored the fact that we are already producing 11% of our energy from renewable energy, and that overall we have the capacity to produce over 25% more in electrical output than we use at peak load. I trust our public power system to make the right decisions on management of our electrical power. I helped with the successful filibuster to defeat this waste of tax dollars.
LB329 promotes agritourism by allowing farmers and ranchers to get involved in agritourism without the fear of aggressive lawsuits that could cost them their farm. I argued that it would allow the urban citizen a chance to have access to rural agricultural life if more rural residents were apt to open their land up to tourism. It passed general file (first round).
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