Fly on the Wall 2022: SNAP re-entry bill fails to get a vote

We’ve nearly reached the end of the 2022 legislative session. Last week was a short one, with recess days on Thursday and Friday for the Easter Holiday.  Within those three session days: A proposal to allow the concealed carry of firearms without a permit was killed in a heated filibuster (LB 773); the bill to allow people with certain drug convictions to be eligible for SNAP benefits failed to reach a vote (LB 121); and senators wrapped up their legislative business for the session – barring anymore veto overrides-  by advancing a large stack of bills on Final Reading to the Governor’s desk for signing. 

Permitless Concealed Carry Fails

Senator Brewer’s priority bill (LB 773), called “Constitutional Carry” by supporters and “Permitless Carry” by opponents, was killed by filibuster in a somewhat surprising vote.  After a failed attempt at a compromise amendment with the Omaha Police, who were opposed to the bill without any amendment, the bill fell two votes short of the 33 needed to advance. It proposed to allow Nebraskans to conceal and carry firearms without the presently required permit – which entails training and background check requirements. Supporters like Brewer believe the Second Amendment “right to bear arms” granted in the US Constitution means citizens should not be restricted or denied access to firearms, and that the permit requirement is a violation of that right.  Opponents expressed concerns about the risk of allowing inexperienced, potentially violent or mentally unstable individuals to carry and hide deadly weapons without any training or education and without the knowledge of those around them.  Nebraska is already a strong Second Amendment state, they said, and the Constitution provides for a “well-regulated militia”, allowing for reasonable permit requirements.

It was a bit of a surprise that the measure failed by two votes, which could have come from two conservative members that Brewer apparently had counted as yes votes. Law enforcement officers’ opposition to the bill likely was the major factor in its failure, by allowing moderate members who otherwise typically support gun rights legislation to oppose it on the basis of supporting the stance of local police. Sen. Brewer has promised to bring the bill again next year, and in a fiery speech that raised some eyebrows, he called for gun rights advocates to pressure and intimidate those senators who have been opposed to the measure. This issue, he vowed, is not going away. 

SNAP Re-Entry Bill Fails

Senator Hunt’s priority bill that would have lifted the lifetime ban on SNAP eligibility for people with certain drug convictions (LB 121) failed to reach a vote on Monday, meaning it is dead for the year. It previously received exactly the 25 votes needed to advance from General File to Select File, as it didn’t face a filibuster in the first round. Making good on her promise, Sen. Slama filibustered it on the second round, bumping up the number of votes it would have needed from 25 to 33. While she had pledged to filibuster it anyway, the defeat of LB 773 earlier that day definitely contributed to her and others’ opposition to LB 121. Many opponents didn’t share concrete policy arguments against the bill and instead read “filler” material which they said was in retaliation for the defeat of “constitutional carry”. The Speaker said that with just a few days left in the session, he would not allow the body to spend hours debating any measure that clearly did not have the (33) votes necessary to advance. LB 121 did not have the support needed, so the measure was passed over after a couple of hours of debate. 

Several other senators with bills awaiting their turn expressed frustration at the Speaker for not giving them a chance to be heard. Even if a measure didn’t have 33 votes to break a filibuster, they said, it’s important to allow the body to have a thorough debate about the policy in question.

Other bills that advanced or passed:

  • LB 686 (Hughes) Changes the balance of Executive Board geographical caucus representation, which will impact who is appointed to the Committee on Committees (which assigns senators committee placements) – meaning we could see shifting dynamics in committees that have been firewalls against regressive policies, like the Judiciary Committee.

  • LB 921 includes a bill (LB 952) from Sen. John Cavanaugh, which will provide Medicaid enrollment assistance for people re-entering society post-incarceration. Access to healthcare is an important support for people reintegrating into their communities. 

  • LB 1173, a Health and Human Services committee bill, is a package of child welfare reforms that includes an end to the privatization of child welfare case management in the Eastern Service Area (think the St. Francis Ministries debacle); as well as portions of Sen. Hunt’s LB 932 to ensure due process for foster youth eligible for Social Security benefits while under the state’s care.

What Remains

Wednesday concluded with a tradition in which newer senators offer speeches in tribute to departing senators whose terms have concluded. It’s one of the more pleasant and unifying traditions in the Unicameral, and speeches are typically offered by a close friend of each departing senator in the body. This week on Wednesday it’ll be those departing senators’ turn to give their own remarks reflecting on their years of service. Those leaving office include Senators Hilkemann, Lathrop, Lindstrom, McCollister, Kolterman, M. Hansen, Pansing Brooks, Friesen, Williams, Gragert, Hughes, Morfeld, and Stinner. The loss of the institutional knowledge held by many of these members – several of whom are committee chairs – will have a substantial impact on next year’s committee makeup and the dynamics of the body. 

We also learned late Wednesday that the independent investigation of the misconduct allegations against resigned Senator Groene is complete, and a report has been issued. In summary, the report found that while Groene’s behavior was grotesque, he did not violate any laws. Groene’s legal representatives issued a statement from him later that day in response to the report, in which he accused legislative leadership and the governor of giving him bad advice that led to his hurried resignation.

Wednesday is the only session day this week and the final one of the year. It’s mostly reserved for closing ceremonies and speeches. However, it is also timed so as to allow for any final veto override votes to take place. I’ve heard rumor that part of the funding allocated for Senator Wayne’s North Omaha Recovery proposal (LB 1024) could be on the chopping block, but that’s only rumor at this point. It’s unclear whether any other measures are at risk for a veto.  If none are issued, there’ll be no voting or debate on Wednesday. 

Next week will be my final blog post for the year – unless we’re called into a special session – in which I’ll do a recap of the session.

Until next week,

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall