Inside the Rotunda, Week 4

What’s Recess?

On scheduled recess days, like today, the business of the Nebraska Legislature continues. Legislative staffers take the opportunity to catch up on their tasks and get ready for the hearings and floor debates ahead.  Senators have meetings and lobbyists continue twisting arms and making their cases.

In fact, the Judiciary Committee has had so many bills referenced to it that Judiciary Chair Laura Ebke has opted to schedule a full day of hearings on February 9, which is a scheduled recess day.  Senator Patty Pansing Brooks introduced six of the bills up for hearing that day. The joke around the Capitol is that this is a “just punishment” as Senator Pansing Brooks introduced 14% of the bills in the Judiciary Committee. We know this because Senator Ebke counted! All in good fun though!

While we are on the topic of referenced legislation, you may be wondering how a bill gets referenced to a committee.  The process begins with the Revisor of Statutes, who makes an initial determination as to where a bill should be referenced. This is based on subject matter and what acts of statute are involved in the proposals. Then, a nine-member Reference Committee, composed of the members of the Legislature’s Executive Committee makes its determination. The process isn’t always without political controversy, as we saw this last week when Senator Bob Krist made a motion to withdraw a bill to protect landowners in the path of the Keystone pipeline. Senator Krist said the Referencing Committee wrongly referenced the bill to Natural Resources instead of Judiciary, which normally handles issues of eminent domain. Krist said this referencing decision was intended to prevent the bill from moving forward in the more conservative Natural Resources Committee.

Tax Intrigue

The tax debate is starting to get into full swing for the session as LB829 (Erdman) had its hearing last week. Questions on costs dominated the hearing.  Open Sky Policy Institute has a great brief on the negative implications of the bill. Interestingly enough, Governor Ricketts is using campaign dollars to attack Erdman’s proposal. Progressive senators may hold negotiating power on tax bills. Some progressives have already signed on to LB1084 (Briese). Many are assessing how much of a win public schools could get in any tax deal – and that may determine where things ultimately go.

Until Next Time,

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall