Inside the Rotunda, Week 15

The Temperature of the Capitol

The temperature in the Nebraska Capitol can often seem a metaphor for what is happening on the floor. At the beginning of last week, fans were brought out in the Chamber to cool senators down. By the end of the week, we needed heaters in the offices again. For yours truly, it felt like a song of ice and fire (I had to get a Games of Thrones reference in here somewhere, right?). The completion of the HVAC project to replace the Capitol’s old-fashioned heating and cooling system and provide some stability in the temperatures will truly be a welcome sight.

During the week’s hot period, senators were hung up with rigorous debate on LB227 (Hughes), a bill to shield farms and grain warehouses from nuisance liabilities. Opponents argued it would allow agricultural operations to expand without compensating a neighbor who could be adversely impacted by the expansion. After the bill hit the three-hour debate cutoff without resolution, the bill was shelved. However, it was scheduled again later in the week and the Legislature passed it.

As temperatures cooled, senators also passed a variety of less controversial bills. It was the kind of week where most of the intrigue appeared to happen off the floor, setting the table for future battles to come.

Tax Battles Ahead

Perhaps the biggest of those future battles will be on taxes. The Governor and various senators appeared to set some clearly drawn battle lines last week in dueling news conferences. The Revenue Committee is still working out details of a plan, but members unveiled a framework last week. The Governor held his own news conference and made it clear he doesn’t like the approach members of the Committee are taking. Certain members of committee are trying to provide property tax cuts that are revenue neutral, in large part by eliminating sales tax exemptions. Senator Lou Ann Linehan, who is Chair of the Revenue Committee, and the Governor had a rather testy exchange as covered on NET Radio. Some rural senators pushing for large property tax cuts don’t appear happy either. Many progressive senators who are not included in negotiations are sitting back and watching developments. As the behind-the-scenes battles continue, check out Open Sky Policy Institute’s overview of 2019 bills.

Does My Insurance Cover That?

In the middle of debate on LB512 (Linehan), which provides property tax breaks for damage or destruction of property due to a natural disaster such as the recent flooding, Senator Chambers offered a moment of levity when he said “If you go to hell, is that a natural disaster?” The comment even produced a chuckle from Senator Mike Groene, one who is not easily amused. Moments like this are often just what senators need to help lower tensions.

Until Next Time,

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall