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A new forecast of the State’s revenue was completed on Friday. The forecasting board raised its revenue forecast by $30 million for the two-year budget period that ends on June 30, 2017. By law, $17 million forecasted for the current cycle must go into the cash reserve, or rainy day fund. The remaining $13 million can be utilized for priority bills that have appropriation requests or revenue reductions. The Chairman of the Appropriations Committee had stated early this session that it would be our goal to leave $10 million for this purpose. The Appropriations Committee can now finalize our mid-biennium budget, with floor debate beginning March 9.
Individual and Committee priority designations were due on February 19, with Speaker priority designation being announced February 22. Individual Senators get one designation, Committees get two and the Speaker gets 25. Priority bills and consent calendar bills will be the only bills heard on the Floor for the rest of the session so selection of which bill to prioritize is really significant and can be a real balancing act between other bills of importance.
My priority bill is LB 1082. LB 1082, introduced by Senator Ken Schilz, is a bill to change certain provisions related to the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. It is a culmination of hearings, fireside chats, town hall meetings, fall hearings by the Natural Resources Committee, and attendance at an EPA review session and States First review. The bill would revise the policy and purpose of the Commission, eliminating the encouragement that it promote the industry, and replacing it with language that supports development of the industry in a responsible manner while promoting health, safety and the environment. The bill would require that notice of an application for a commercial underground injection well be provided to the affected local governing body and the NRD where the well would be located; require Class II injection well operators to sample and analyze fluids injected at least once annually and provide data to the Commission; and require operators to keep bonds current. The bill would authorize the Commission to conduct periodic sampling and reporting of injection fluids; certify and monitor produced water transporters; conduct periodic evaluations of financial assurance requirements; and to require public information meetings and forums for public interaction on permit applications.
Not all of the concerns expressed during the process are included in this bill because they were out of the scope of the Commission, and may be within the purview of the Department of Roads or Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. However, I believe the people of western Nebraska were heard loud and clear relative to this matter.