Bills on the Move
Two years ago at this time, during the first session of the two-year biennium, state senators were still mired in gridlock over the Legislature’s rules. There was little progress on the floor during those heated and tense days. It’s quite the contrast to this year as bills are moving at a rapid pace. Just last Friday, 20 bills were advanced on General File (the first of three rounds of legislative debate). While most of these bills are fairly technical in nature thus far, the Legislature has advanced legislation that will have important benefits for working families. One such bill, LB306 (Crawford) passed last week with a 29-11 vote. LB306 will allow workers who quit work to care for a family member with a serious health condition to be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits while they seek other employment that can accommodate their schedule.
One of the legislative offices that provides important work to inform the Legislature is the Legislative Research Office (LRO). Senators and staff will sometimes ask LRO to conduct special research on issues that may be more time intensive. They also produce several publications, including Counties at a Glance that offer important demographic and economic information. The office takes on heightened importance every ten years during redistricting as they provide the interactive mapping and technical support to assist in that process.
Can you hear the People Testify?
Committees are putting in lots of extra hours to get through the more than 740 bills and proposed constitutional amendments this session. Last Thursday was a particularly eventful day as the Revenue Committee heard lengthy testimony from veterans on LB153(Brewer) to expand the income tax deduction for military retirement pay. At the same time, the Judiciary Committee hearing lasted more than seven hours that day with a series of bills related to LGBT protections, including LB167(Hunt), which would prohibit conversion therapy for minors and LB627(Pansing Brooks), which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing employment nondiscrimination statutes. Dozens of people showed up to testify on each bill, with proponents outnumbering opponents. Lots of people waited hours to tell their personal stories. In Nebraska, every bill gets a hearing and the people serve as a unique check and balance on lawmakers. The people always have the opportunity to be heard.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad took a very timely picture of a rainbow over the Capitol on the same day the LGBT legislation was set for hearings. The photo was posted by both Senators Pansing Brooks and Hunt and widely shared on social media platforms.
Until Next Week.
Your Capitol Fly on the Wall