Inside the Rotunda, Week 12

Line in the Sand

Drama erupted in the Nebraska Legislature as senators drew a line in the sand to continue funding for health clinics that serve women and rural Nebraskans. The Legislature previously advanced the mainline budget bill, LB944, to Select File with language stating that “no funds disbursed under the Federal Title X Program are to be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning” and that none of the funds shall be granted to an organization that “performs, assists with the performance of, provides directive counseling in favor of or refers for abortion.” This language puts funding for existing women’s health clinics in jeopardy. However, senators last week prevented a cloture vote on Select File that would have ended debate and moved the bill to Final Reading (the last stage of consideration before a bill is sent to the Governor). Senators are working on a compromise on Title X funding so that the budget can move forward. In the event that a budget isn’t approved, legislators could be looking at a special session.

Wednesday’s actions by the Legislature came as a surprise to some and showcased the power of advocacy. Senators heard from a number of constituents who wanted them to fight to preserve funding for women’s health clinics. Capitol insiders who have been around a while said they don’t remember a social issue being injected in the budget in this manner, until last year, nor do they remember the budget ever having to come to a cloture vote. So, what is occurring is extraordinary.

Tax Buzz

The Governor’s tax plan LB947 has advanced from the Revenue Committee and will be up for debate this week. But expect LB1084 (Briese) to work its way into the mix as an alternative and potentially make its way on the floor. A number of public school advocates are favorable to LB1084 because its framework would mean more dollars for schools.

Prison Reform

In addition to budget and taxes, prison reform will be another hot topic for debate this week as the Legislature will take up a Judiciary Committee priority bill, LB841 (Pansing Brooks). This committee package contains a number of bills to deal with the overcrowding crisis in our Nebraska prisons.

May I have your Consent?

The Legislature will be taking up Consent Calendar items today and tomorrow. So, what exactly is Consent Calendar, you ask? Consent Calendar provides an avenue for noncontroversial bills to advance quickly on the floor. Senators request items for Consent Calendar and the Speaker has the final say on which bills are included. Bills may be removed from Consent Calendar by written request of three or more senators. In a short session where a number of bills have been successfully filibustered, some senators are going to be very happy to get some things accomplished this week.

Until next time,

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall