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The Nebraska Legislature reconvened the 2020 session on July 20th and in the first few days of session we were able to advance a number of bills that had previously been debated before we postponed the session in March. Many of the bills that I recently wrote about in my previous articles were advanced to the next stage of debate. LB 632, which includes LB 861, among others, is now on Select File. LB’s 803, 899, 931, and also LB858, which includes LB 367, are on Final Reading. Although I am happy that the bills that I introduced are moving forward, there is still a lot of important legislation that we must pass before we adjourn for the year.
Before the legislative session was postponed due to COVID-19, the Natural Resources Committee conducted a number of hearings for gubernatorial appointments. The Natural Resources Committee met on Wednesday of last week to confirm those 9 appointments. They will be voted on by the full body later in this session.
Confirmation of gubernatorial appointments is a seldom-publicized but important responsibility of the Nebraska Legislature. When the governor makes an appointment to certain boards and commissions, the appointee will appear before the relevant legislative committee for a hearing, usually answering questions about the duties of the board or commission they are appointed to, as well as about their personal qualifications. If the appointee is approved by a majority of the committee, the appointment will move to the floor to be voted on by the full body. A majority vote is required to confirm an appointment.
The Natural Resources Committee has general oversight over a variety of boards and commissions, including the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Nebraska Power Review Board, the Nebraska Environmental Quality Council, Nebraska Ethanol Board, the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and the Nebraska Environmental Trust, among others. These entities regulate our state’s natural resources. Individuals appointed to these bodies must appear before our committee for a hearing. Members of the public can attend confirmation hearings and may testify in support, in opposition, or in a neutral capacity for the appointee. This process serves as an important check on the power of the executive branch and gives the public a chance to weigh in on the appointments. We are also preparing for our final confirmation hearing of this session, which will be held on August 4th.
The Nebraska Forecasting Board met on July 23, 2020, to revise the current revenue forecast for the State of Nebraska. We were expecting the forecast to be lower, but it wasn’t by as much as people were expecting. For the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the projection was lowered by $50 million, which is about 1% of the state’s total tax collections. In Nebraska, we are faring better than other states. Still, we all must keep in mind that with this pandemic there are no certainties so we must remain vigilant and cautious.