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Permanent Rules Adopted
On Friday, Day 49 of this session, the Legislature finally adopted permanent rules to guide our work for the rest of this year. Ultimately, the body agreed to adopt the rules as they existed at the beginning of the year. That means the amendments we had provisionally adopted after the Rules Committee made its recommendations in January were not incorporated in the permanent rules we adopted today. Even so, having permanent rules is important to the Unicameral’s ability to function as smoothly as possible, and I am pleased that the rules we adopted do not infringe on the ability of minority coalitions in the Legislature to function.
Speaker Priority Bills Announced
On Monday Speaker Scheer announced his 25 selections for speaker priority. Two of my economic development bills were selected: LB97 which allows municipalities to create Riverfront Development Districts in order to promote development along their riverfronts, and LB253 which will allow Sarpy county and cities within the county to collaboratively establish a regional sewer system south of the ridgeline to accommodate future development and growth. Several other important bills received Speaker priority designations, including Senator Krist’s LB300, which eliminates the statute of limitations on civil action for sexual assault of a child; LB481, which allows pharmacists to approve substitutions of FDA-approved interchangeable biological products for prescribed biologics, similar to the way in which they can substitute generic medications for brand-name prescriptions; and LB323, which would adopt the Palliative Care and Quality of Life Act. You can see the full list of all priority bills this session – senators’ personal priorities, committee priorities, and Speaker priorities – here.
LD45 Town Hall
On Tuesday I hosted a town hall at the Bellevue Public Library. Town halls are an opportunity to meet and hear from constituents, share information about what’s happening in the Legislature, and answer questions about state agencies and policies.
I appreciate everyone who was able to attend on Tuesday; and if you were not able to make it, you can of course contact my office any time.
Bill Hearings This Week
This week we had the final two hearings on our bills for the year. The first, LB592, is a bill to amend the Nebraska Advantage Act (NAA) and was heard in the Revenue Committee on Thursday. The NAA allows businesses with qualifying projects and investments to receive tax incentives, which largely come in the form of tax credits that can be applied to a number of different tax liabilities, including local option sales taxes. Local option sales taxes are approved by the voters of a municipality for a variety of specific projects such as, street improvements, irrigation systems, swimming pools, and other projects the voters believe to be necessary for their communities. Municipalities across the state have reported budget and planning issues for these projects that were the result of a significant loss of their local option sales tax revenues due to refunds under NAA. I introduced LB 592 so we as a Legislature can think critically about whether or not it is appropriate for state incentives to withhold a municipalities local option sales tax revenues that were approved by the voters for a specific purpose.
The second bill hearing was held in the Government, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee on Friday. LB139 would allow the voters of a county to decide if a nonpartisan election for county officers makes more sense in their own county. The county positions that voters could decide to elect on nonpartisan ballots include: county clerk, register of deeds, county assessor, sheriff, treasurer, county attorney, public defender, clerk of the district court, and county surveyor. Currently, citizens who register as nonpartisans cannot vote in the primary phase of these partisan county officer elections, and they cannot help to narrow the candidates. In Sarpy county, that is 23% of the registered voters. When all the candidates for a position are from the same party, these elections are decided in the primary phase and this results in the registered voters of one party selecting the officer that will represent all the residents of the county. The concept of allowing counties to hold nonpartisan elections for county offices has bipartisan support, and I trust the committee will give LB139 their fullest consideration.
Unicameral Youth Legislature
I invite all Bellevue high schoolers to apply for the annual Unicameral Youth Legislature, which this year will run June 11-14. High school students will take on the role of state senators at the State Capitol: participants will sponsor bills, conduct committee hearings, debate legislation, and discover the unique process of the nation’s only unicameral. The Unicameral Youth Legislature gives behind-the-scenes access to students who have an interest in public office, government, politics, law, public policy, debate or public speaking. Students will get to learn about the inner workings of the Legislature directly from senators and staff. Scholarships are available; you can get more details about the program here, or you can call the Unicameral Information Office at 402-471-2788. The deadline to register is May 15.
Kick Butts Day Student Meeting
On Wednesday No Limits Nebraska, an anti-tobacco organization, held its annual Kick Butts Day event here at the Capitol. As part of that event, small groups of high school students spoke to senators about their work to convince their peers not to smoke or use other tobacco products. The three students I spoke to were passionate and effective advocates for keeping tobacco out of the hands of teens, and meeting with them was a pleasure.
Avery Elementary Capitol Visit
I always enjoy speaking to 4th graders when they visit the Unicameral. On Thursday morning students from Avery Elementary took a tour and were recognized in the Chamber. It was wonderful to meet them all and welcome them to their state capitol!
St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Thursday was the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration for senators and legislative staff. These after-hours events are certainly fun, but they are also an important part of building relationships with colleagues. Spending time with other senators outside the Unicameral helps remind everyone that we have far more in common with one another than our voting records might suggest. It is much easier to work cooperatively and effectively together when those relationships exist.
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All the best,