Inside the Rotunda, Week Ten

Digging in for a Fight

Some Capitol insiders have described the upcoming legislative week as the one that could “blow up” the session. This is because the budget bills will be up for debate Tuesday, following the release of last week’s Appropriations Committee Budget Report. It will be déjà vu all over again as the budget once again includes a controversial provision to restrict funding to Title X clinics that provide preventative health care services to women and rural Nebraskans. Because Planned Parenthood clinics offer these services, along with family planning, it injects an ideological fight about abortion into the state budget debate. Opponents were able to successfully filibuster last year and get the Title X language removed, arguing that it would be too impactful to women’s health care access, particularly in rural areas and also arguing that the budget wasn’t the place to be having the argument about restrictions on Title X providers. A filibuster is sure to take place again this year, with both sides digging in for a fight.

A filibuster may also take place regarding funding for the University of Nebraska, as Senator Steve Halloran and others have indicated they want to see more cuts to the University.  Nebraska University students and advocates descended on the Legislature last week to advocate for funding for the University. After perhaps being caught off guard by a movement against the University by some members of the Legislature, the University rebounded with a full-court press to remind people of its importance to the state. Nebraska Volleyball Head Coach John Cook was even seen in the Legislative Chamber. Maybe a successful “dig” following the latest legislative “attack”?

The Budget Process

The Legislature has until the 50th day to pass appropriation bills.  As of today, we are already on day 41. So, there isn’t a lot of time left in the 60-day session to get things done if the Legislature gets hung up on a cloture vote. Further, debate on the budget could produce hard feelings and make it difficult to pass other bills before time runs out on the session. Some senators may decide this budget is worth the kind of line in the sand that could “blow up” the session.

Horse Massages Redux

In case you missed it, there was a story in the Lincoln Journal Star regarding Senator Mike Groene’s horse massage bill, LB596. While providing a moment of levity, Senator Pansing Brooks took the opportunity to point out that if horses are being denied the right to a massage, perhaps the Legislature should also worry about denial of attorneys for children. Her LB158 would fix the problem, but Senator Groene has held up this bill with a filibuster. LB158 is on the legislative agenda again today and the vote count is close.

You can imagine that LB596 and the issue of horse massages has been ripe for endless jokes and puns. Some think the jokes have reached a point where senators are now beating a dead horse.

Until next time,

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall