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Despite this session’s slow start the first session of the 105th Legislature adjourned sine die on the 86th day of the 90-day scheduled session. This session we worked to reduce the size of state government, strengthen our communities, expand job opportunities, and put the state on better financial footing. Among our many accomplishments this session, we were able to pass two budgets, one dealing with our current fiscal year that ends June 30, and the other budget passed is for fiscal years 17-18/18-19. The upcoming budget for the next two fiscal years will only increase spending by .6 percent for a total of $8.9 billion. The budget ultimately presented the most significant challenge this session, requiring collaboration between the Governor’s Office and senators. Unfortunately, we were unable to pass any legislation that would reduce income or property taxes. LB 461 offered some ideas on how to on to reduce taxes but as it was originally written I could not support it but with amendments that I helped draft it had the potential to become significant tax legislation providing relief for all Nebraskans. With the budget crisis it was extremely difficult to pass any meaningful legislation. I am hopeful we will be able to address similar legislation again next session.
The Legislature also established a special committee that will oversee the state Department of Correctional Services. LR 127, which creates this committee, will continue to study the issues addressed by the previous investigative committees and review the role of state agencies and their involvement in the justice system. The Executive Board appointed the following seven members to the committee, Senator Kate Bolz, Senator Tom Brewer, Senator Suzanne Giest, Senator Mike Hilgers, Senator Justin Wayne, and myself. This committee will meet several times over the summer visiting all the correctional facilities in the state and will be listening to officials, staff, and inmates on how the legislature can assist in making our Corrections Department better. The special committee will then brief the Judiciary and Appropriations committees in December 2017 and 2018 and issue a final report of recommendations to the Legislature before disbanding Jan. 19, 2019.
LB 46 which created “Choose Life” license plates was the first pro-life bill passed in the last five years. Nebraska joined 29 other states that currently offer the option of “Choose Life” license plates. 75 percent of the plate fees will be directed to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services’ Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
All bills that were introduced this year but were not passed or killed are still eligible for debate in January when the legislature resumes. The second session of the 105th Legislature is scheduled to convene Jan. 3, 2018.