Last Days of Bill Introduction
Bill introduction ended on Wednesday of this short week. Over the first ten days, senators introduced 667 bills and 6 resolutions to create task forces or suggest constitutional amendments. Each of those 673 proposals will receive a public committee hearing in the coming months, where citizens can make their voices heard in support or opposition. On day 10 I introduced my final six bills for this session. You can find the full list of my introduced bills and resolutions here. If you ever have questions about my bills, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
Chaplain of the Day
On Wednesday my office had the honor of sponsoring Captain Mil Yi as the Legislature’s Chaplain of the Day. Captain Yi is the Command Chaplain for the US Strategic Command mission at Offutt AFB.
Accompanying Captain Yi were his wife, Nan, and daughters Candice and Catherine. It was an absolute pleasure to meet them all and welcome them to the Capitol.
Committee Hearings Begin
This week we had four days of committee hearings. Two of my bills, LB 74 and LB 77, were heard in the Urban Affairs and Revenue Committees respectively. Both of these bills are examples of simple, but important changes in the law. LB 74 updates and clarifies several parts of our municipal law that distinguish different rules for the unique situations of a large growing county, like Sarpy, by establishing that those rules apply in counties with populations up to 250,000. Some of those areas of statute currently apply to counties with populations up to 200,000. The changes in LB 74 ensure that these rules continue to apply for Sarpy cities as Sarpy grows.
LB 77 came out of conversations between the Tax Commissioner and representatives of Sarpy cities to make a process work more efficiently for both sides. The bill provides language that allows the Department of Revenue to get sales tax reports to cities who participate in one of their economic development incentive programs in a secure electronic manner. The current law requires that they information can only be accessed if someone from the city drives to Lincoln and views the information in the Department office.
State of the Judiciary
On Thursday morning Chief Justice Michael Heavican of the Nebraska Supreme Court visited the Legislature to deliver the annual State of the Judiciary address. He stressed the important reforms and improvements that we have seen over the past few years in our judicial system and raised concerns about the importance of maintaining our investments in these reforms, even in a tough budget year.
Rule Change Debate
The Rules Committee advanced four proposed changes to the Legislature’s permanent operating rules, which the full Legislature debated on Thursday and Friday.
The first rule change allows the Legislature’s Planning Committee, which focuses on long-term trends and data, to designate one priority bill each session. Priority bills are precisely what they sound like: they receive consideration before other bills once passed out of committee, and are therefore far more likely to be debated among the hundreds of bills introduced. Each Senator may designate one personal priority bill; standing committees have two priority designations each; certain special committees can choose one bill each; and the Speaker of the Legislature may designate 25 bills. The priority bill process does not guarantee a bill will be passed, but does allow senators and committees to identify the bills they consider most important, and these bills get priority in terms of time for debate.
The second approved rule change is to adopt a formal technology policy. Previously, the Legislature’s technology policy was informal and produced by the Legislature’s Executive Board. If the technology policy is in the Legislature’s formal rulebook, it will be both more accessible and easier to enforce when needed.
The third rule change we debated relates to the legislative fiscal note process. The Legislature’s Fiscal Office is an independent office within the Legislature, and the excellent analysts in that office are responsible for determining the future fiscal impact of all bills in a document called a fiscal note. We gave preliminary approval to a rule that allows senators and committees the opportunity to request one fiscal note during the summer and fall months, when the legislature is not in session and the bill has not yet been formally introduced. This rule will give senators the chance to plan ahead and better assess the monetary impact of their bills. Finally, we began debate on a fourth rule to change when fiscal notes are available for introduced bills. Currently, fiscal notes are published at least 24 hours before each bill’s hearing. Under the new rule proposal, that lead time would be increased to 48 hours. We will return to debate on this fourth rule change recommended by the Rules Committee next week.
Usually by now permanent rules have been adopted, but this has not been a usual year. On Friday temporary rules were extended so that we could continue debate. Although changes to secret ballot rules and cloture rules were proposed and discussed in the Rules Committee last week, none of those changes were advanced to the full Legislature for consideration. However, it is possible for an individual Senator to propose these rules on the floor, even though they were not approved by the committee. Our existing rules on leadership selection and cloture have played a critical role in protecting nonpartisan dynamics in the Legislature, and so I will defend their importance if any such amendments are proposed to change them.
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All the best,