Floor debate on priority bills continued this week. It was the first week of full day sessions with all of the committee hearings behind us. Debate on mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of human trafficking (LB 289) was very spirited and took up two full days. I was surprised by the number of Senators who objected to tough, long sentences in prison for people convicted of this despicable crime. I certainly didn’t object.
LB 356, a bill that would fund about $75,000 for a “Civic Engagement” program faced tough bi-partisan debate, so much so the Speaker used a very rare rule and put a “Speaker Hold” on the bill so it could be properly amended. The tough debate on this bill I believe foreshadows things to come. We have a very tough budget situation where we are nearly $1 billion dollars in the red. Bills that will cut tens of millions in spending are coming up. Every penny counts, even $75,000 for civic engagement. Had the speaker not put this bill on hold, I would have voted against it. We MUST cut spending. We have no choice. Nebraska’s Constitution requires a balanced budget. I am so thankful it does.
The Revenue Committee has met in Executive Session all week. So far, they haven’t reported any bills to the floor. By my count there are about fifteen bills that address property taxes in the Revenue Committee. The governor’s bill, LB 338, will likely come out of the committee, as well as others. My bill, LB 576, would cap property taxes for four years beginning in 2019. I think it’s a great idea, but I am not filled with optimism this bill will make it out of the Revenue Committee. There are quite a few really good ideas on property taxes in the form of several different bills this session. I think there will be a bill come out that is amended to include a number of these different good ideas.
My priority bill, LB 340, was advanced to Enrollment and Review on a 39-0 vote last week. This bill will reorganize State agencies so the Department of Veterans Homes will come out of the Department of Health and Human Services and go under the Director of Veterans Affairs. It is going to be on the agenda next week for debate and voting to select file. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think this will be the very first piece of legislation I get signed into law by the Governor. It saves tax money and delivers better care for Nebraska’s Veterans.
I received a lot of calls this week on LB 502. This bill would establish “Constitutional Carry” of firearms, otherwise known as “Permit-less Carry.” This has generated a lot of interest both pro and con. This caused me to learn an old political lesson.
I learned that the voices of opposition are always more numerous and much louder than the voices of support. I mention that because it is just as important for me to receive calls and letters from people who SUPPORT something I am doing as it is for me to hear from those who OPPOSE something before the legislature. I do my best to “represent” the 43rd District. To do that, I need to hear from everyone. No matter which side of something you are on, please take a few seconds and give us a call. 402-471-2628.
I want to thank everyone who contacts my office letting us know where you stand on bills before the legislature. Please keep your calls and letters coming. Please contact the office if you would like to set up a time to visit with me, or you have any concerns about what is happening in YOUR legislature.