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Two weeks ago, the Legislative Council met in Omaha. Many people have not heard of this body of the Nebraska Legislature, but it serves an important function. The Legislative Council consists of all members of the Legislature, and serves as an investigative body during the interim. When it meets, it discusses policies, reviews interim studies, and looks into how statutes already put in place are working and considers changes. Although the majority of the Legislature attends this summit, no formal action can be taken on anything.
While there, I found it to be an excellent opportunity to visit with the incoming senators who will be freshmen during the 2017 session. I enjoyed speaking with many of them about what their priorities are for their upcoming years in the Legislature, and getting to know a bit about their backgrounds and the various paths which they took to elected office.
The Tax Rate Review Committee met on November 16th to discuss the state’s current fiscal climate. The members of the committee are the Speaker of the Legislature and the chairs of the Executive Board, Appropriations, and Revenue. The committee adjourned without recommending any action on projected budget deficit. Nebraska Tax Commissioner Tony Fulton stated during the hearing that low commodity prices is the primary reason for revenue shortfall. Also on the 16th, the Appropriations Committee held 4 interim hearings, LR 502-a study to examine the use of revolving funds within the Department of Administrative Services, LR 517-a study to examine the long-term fiscal sustainability of the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund, LR 580-a study to examine the Department of Health and Human Services’ policies for dealing with disallowances and audit exceptions by the federal government which have resulted in large fines and having to return money to the federal government, and LR 588-a study to determine best practices in drafting tax legislation and determining the fiscal impact of tax policies.