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The last few weeks have been very productive for me and the Appropriations Committee. Since day one, my priority has been the completion of Nebraska’s budget for the remainder of this year and into the next biennium. The current $900 million budget deficit has highlighted the importance of getting this accomplished.
After being elected as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, my first objective was passing LB22, the Governor’s deficit bill (which I call budget A). That objective was accomplished this week when the Governor signed it into law.
The Governor’s deficit recommendation was adjusted by the Committee through AM13. Some of these changes to the Governor’s recommendation included a $4 million adjustment to the Supreme Court for continuation of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, $3.5 million to developmental disability providers to cover a shortfall in Federal funding, and $5.3 million in reappropriations to the University of Nebraska for completed projects. The ultimate version of the deficit bill passed on a 42-3 vote on Final Reading.
As the Committee moves forward, we will have to develop a budget for the next biennium. Despite starting a week and a half behind schedule on the biennium budget, we have now finished work on the preliminary step. Next week we will start public hearings on each agency’s budget. This will be a great opportunity to have your voice heard in the budgeting process. Please do not hesitate to contact my office on how this can be done. My contact information is on the right side of this page.
In addition to my work on the biennium budget I have introduced a number of bills, three of which have been advanced from committee and now sit on General File, where they await the first round of debate.
LB99, 100, and 101 have “made it to the floor” where they await action by the Legislature as a whole. LB99 is a bill that would require business entities to give notice to their lenders when they convert their form of incorporation. LB100 is a bill which would streamline the standards of proof used by mental health boards when determining the ability of petitioners to buy or possess firearms. LB101 is a bill which would foster a competitive bidding process for the State’s main administrative arm, the Department of Administrative Services. This would be accomplished by putting limitations on contract renewals and extensions.
I introduced a number of other bills this session which have been referenced to my committee. Three of these bills are budget “shell bills.” Shell bills are placeholders which can be used to make adjustments to the budget later on this session. Since there are still unknowns such as future tax revenues in the following months, the Legislature may have to make some adjustments as we move forward.
In addition to the three shell bills, I have also introduced LB611, which is intended to facilitate transparency in the budgeting process. Under LB611 state agencies would be required to provide additional information during their budget requests. This would include information on the Federal funds they receive, the “strings” that are attached to those funds, and an operating plan in the event that fluctuations in Federal funds trigger liabilities to the State.
I have a number of other bills which are awaiting advancement from their respective committees. LB151 is a bill that would add oversight measures to state agencies during the auditing process. Under the bill, the State Auditor would be empowered to conduct a post-audit review to evaluate which corrective actions have been taken by governmental agencies.
LB222 was a major priority I brought this year which would implement oversight measures into Nebraska’s Tourism Commission. Last year, the Commission faced a public controversy in which its Director was fired after a scathing audit revealed lack of oversight and misuse of state funds. The bill I have brought would restructure the Commission’s board, require the adoption of formal rules, regulations, and would clarify its innovative grant program.
I still have two bills which have been introduced but yet to be heard in committee. LB496 is a bill which has been referenced to the Urban Affairs Committee. Under this bill, cities would be able to address workforce shortages in some areas by incentivizing housing developments to attract workers to those areas.
LB540 is a bill which would address Nebraska’s budget deficit by temporarily reducing the “needs based” component of the TEEOSA formula. The TEEOSA formula is the calculation that is used in determining how much funding goes to the various K-12 school districts across the state. This approach is one of the fairest ways to address Nebraska’s budget shortfall.
Lastly, I introduced LR32 last week recognizing the Dry Bean Commission’s 30th anniversary on February 7th. The Dry Bean Commission was created to facilitate and promote the industry in the state. Nebraska is the third largest producer of dry edible beans in the country, the largest domestic producer of great northern beans, and the second largest producer of pinto beans and light red kidney beans. This industry is vital to the district, and vital to the state.
As always, I remain open to your feedback on how I may address the issues that mean most to you. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions you may have. Thank you to those who have taken the time to express their views on various issues. My contact information is located on the right hand side of this webpage.