Legislative Round Up, Week 2

Nonpartisan Legislature

After a tense first week in the Legislature over chairmanships and committee assignments, the second week saw battles over rules and referencing.

The Rules Committee defeated controversial measures that would have increased the bar for filibusters by requiring 17 votes on the floor to sustain a filibuster, rather than 33 to invoke cloture. The Rules Committee also defeated a measure to end the secret ballot for chairmanship votes. Don Walton highlights the events in the Journal Star.

There has also been tension on the floor as Senators debate motions to move (re-reference) bills relating to guns and abortion to different committees. A motion by Senator Ernie Chambers would move LB 68, (a measure that would strip local authority to regulate guns) from the Government Committee to the Judiciary Committee. Similar bills have been referenced to the Judiciary Committee in the past. Also on the agenda is a motion to reassign a bill dealing with abortion (LB 59) from the Judiciary Committee to the Health and Human Services Committee. These battles may seem mundane, but they carry significance because the Government and Military Affairs and Health and Human Services Committees are widely considered more conservative than the Judiciary Committee. Joanne Young details the battles in this Journal Star story.

Deficit Appropriations Bills

The Appropriations Committee will have hearings Tuesday on the Governor’s deficit appropriations bills (LB 22, LB 23 and LB 24).

These bills would cut appropriations already allocated for the current biennium. The process for this raises a lot of red flags and the cuts would affect a great deal of programs. Cuts to programs for children and cuts to Probation are two areas getting particular scrutiny. Probation cuts would harm programs that keep people out of prison at a time when overcrowding, lack of programming and understaffing remains a considerable problem with our Corrections system, as outlined in the recent LR 34 Report.

Governor’s State of the State/ Budget Cuts

Governor Pete Ricketts gave his annual State of the State address last week, unveiling his plans to cut the $900 million budget deficit. As the Omaha World Herald notes: “Ricketts plan would cut payments for those who care for abused and neglected children, Medicaid recipients and developmentally disabled and mentally ill people. Meanwhile, his tax plan would ease property taxes for farmers and starting in 2019 and reduce the top individual income tax rate starting in 2020.”

Paid Family Leave

Senator Sue Crawford introduced LB 305 last week, a bill to establish a Paid Family Leave System in Nebraska. CSN was happy to host an event last week to inform Senators and staff about the need for paid leave and highlighting components of the bill. More to come on this important topic in the weeks ahead.

Kids Count Report Released

Voices for Children released its annual Kids Count Report last week. This report covers considerable data affecting children well-being in economics, juvenile justice, health and other measures. New this year is an online format for the report called NEteractive. The Voices for Children team came to the Capitol to present its report to Senators and staff.

More Bill Introductions

Senators Kate Bolz, Sara Howard and Patty Pansing Brooks, all members of the Nebraska Children’s Commission, conducted a news conference last week to introduce four bills aimed at child welfare and juvenile justice. These bills would help recruit and retain child welfare workers, require judges to appoint attorneys to represent youth facing charges in court, allow youths leaving the juvenile justice system to get help transitioning to adulthood and create bridge custody orders for use when a child is removed from one parent because of alleged abuse or neglect and placed with the other parent.

Senator Adam Morfeld introduced LB 311, which would eliminate the eligibility provision for the SNAP program for those convicted of felonies.

To see all the introduced legislation so far this session, please click here.

End of Bill Introductions/ Hearings Begin

As bill introductions end Wednesday and hearings begin Tuesday, this blog will begin to explore a few of the major proposals in more depth in the coming weeks. Lots of bills are on the horizon that carry considerable significance during these tight budgetary times. Protecting our priorities will be as crucial as ever in the weeks ahead.

“The principles of a free constitution are irrecoverably lost when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.” – Edward Gibbon