Inside the Rotunda, Week One

It’s Like Back to School

The scene had a “back to school” feel last week as staffers shuffled papers here and there,  lobbyists took their usual places in the Capitol Rotunda and senators laughed, teased and cajoled while getting down to the serious business of bill introductions. There is only one new member of the class as Senator Theresa Thibodeau replaced Senator Joni Craighead, who resigned over the interim.

Amid the flurry of last week’s activity, senators, staff and lobbyists had serious questions on their minds. Among them: Would there be a battle over the adoption of rules like last year’s 49-day standoff? (Answer: It remains to be seen, but some capitol insiders are seeing this as unlikely).

Tax policy also weighed heavily on minds as senators began pushing various proposals for property or income tax reductions. Already, Senator Steve Erdman has introduced a proposal for $1 billion in property tax cuts.  Other competing proposals are on the way. Meanwhile, Nebraska faces a budget shortfall of $200 million. It is smaller than last year’s gap, but there will be fewer options to balance it, according to Senator Kate Bolz. All eyes will be on the Governor’s budget deficit proposals, which should be announced in conjunction with the State of the State address January 10.

Getting to know the Revisor of Statutes

Many of you have likely seen the old “Schoolhouse Rocks” video, or CSN’s version of How a Bill Becomes a Law in Nebraska, but what a lot of people don’t know is who drafts the language and ensures that the proper statutes are updated? Who ensures they “harmonize” or don’t conflict with one another? In Nebraska, the answer is the Revisor of Statutes office. Their work remains largely out of sight for those outside the Capitol, but their work is vital to the process of lawmaking.

When a Senator, agency or lobbyist decides to have a bill drafted for consideration, they or their legislative aides work directly with an attorney in the Revisor of Statutes Office to get the bill drafted and revised, as needed. Once a Senator has signed off on the language for a bill and is ready to introduce it, the Revisors Office gets the bill “three-parted,” meaning put into three copies for distribution to the Clerk’s Office. It is the “three parted” copy that Senators take to the front of the Chamber for official introduction. So, if you ever hear the term “three part,” now you know what it means. You also can thank the Revisor of Statutes Office for the work they do to help keep bills clear on language, constitutionally sound and in harmony with other statutes.

Until next time,

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall