Greetings from Lincoln! This week I’d like to talk a bit about our priority bill process in the Legislature. There are usually between 600 and 800 bills introduced each Session, and many of those come out of committee for debate on General File, so we do not always have time to discuss all of them during the time we have here each year. Because of this we have a process of allowing each Senator to choose a priority bill each year. Each standing committee is allowed two priority bills, and the Speaker of the Legislature also chooses several bills to be Speaker Priority Bills.
These bills will be debated as long as they have been advanced from the committee to which they were referred onto General File. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. After a bill is introduced, it is referred to a committee, which then holds a public hearing on the bill. Sometime after the hearing, the committee holds an executive session and votes on whether to advance the bill to general file, to indefinitely postpone the bill, or to take no action on the bill. These options are the same even if a bill is chosen by a Senator as a priority bill. For example, my bill, LR 2CA, which I had hoped to make my priority bill this session was not advanced out of the Government, Military, and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. So to choose that bill this year would have been a “waste” of my priority bill designation as that bill would not have had debate on the floor.
For this reason I chose LB 35, a bill which is vitally important to Scottsbluff and the panhandle as it will allow Western Sugar to complete their re-haul season. I am still hopeful that we can work out the concerns that some committee members have regarding LR 2CA over the interim. I would like to see that bill pass so that the people of Nebraska have a chance to vote on whether they would like to allow counties to choose a county manager form of government. If I had chosen LR 2CA as my priority bill, I would have asked that LB 35 be made a Speaker Priority so that it could still get passed this Session.
I’d also like to briefly mention the debate we are currently having over LB 84, the roads funding bill. Funding our highway budget is vitally important. We need good infrastructure. We also need to have the expressway system funded so we can get the Federal dollars to finish this project. Especially in our district, we need to have the Heartland Expressway funds available so that the highway goes through Nebraska and not Wyoming. You also may be hearing that LB 84 would fund roads at the expense of other programs, like Medicaid or childrens’ services. I do not believe this needs to be the case. It does not need to be either/or. The Appropriations Committee has the flexibility to craft our budget in such a way as to fund what needs to be funded and make necessary cuts.