Legislative Roundup, Week 12

The Clock Ticks

Speaker Scheer has asked senators who have priority bills that are likely to generate extended debate to get advance vote counts. His email states in part:

“To facilitate being able to hear as many priority bills as possible, I intend to rely on the vote counts provided to me for bills that will likely require a cloture vote.  If the sponsor of a bill can show me that they have 33 votes, or are within reach of 33, I have no problem spending 6 hours on any bill.  However, if a bill is going to go to cloture and is not near the 33 vote threshold it will be scheduled for a specific period of time and then not scheduled on the agenda again until the sponsor can show me that he or she has the votes.” 

The specific period for debate is likely to be three hours or less. This puts pressure on senators, staff, lobbyists, and advocates to work vote counts now. With limited time for floor debate, it reduces the ability to run the clock, cut deals and increase vote counts on the floor.

Bills on the Agenda

It isn’t always easy to get advanced knowledge of when a bill will come up for floor debate. The Speaker schedules day-to-day, but he pads the agenda in a way that shows what is on the immediate horizon. Coalition members interested in specific bills should check out the Legislative website after adjournment each day to see what is coming up the following day.

Tomorrow’s agenda has LB289 (Pansing Brooks) at the bottom. This means, it is more likely to actually reach the floor Wednesday or Thursday, depending on how much time the bills ahead of it take. LB289 is a Judiciary Committee priority bill that increases penalties on human traffickers. The Women’s Fund of Omaha is advocating for this legislation. Check out their report, Commercial Sex Market in Nebraska, to learn more about the problem of human trafficking in Nebraska.

Click here for a link to the NET live stream of floor debate.

Tax Cuts and the Budget

According to the Lincoln Journal Star, a deal is taking shape to advance the Governor’s tax cut proposals LB337 and LB338.

“A panel of lawmakers signaled tentative support for two proposals by Governor Pete Ricketts. A working draft of the plan being hammered out by the Legislature’s Revenue Committee includes phased-in cuts to Nebraska’s personal and corporate income taxes, along with changes aimed at limiting property tax increases for farmers and ranchers.”

The Omaha World Herald has more on the potential deal, which would raid the Property Tax Credit Fund to pay for the cuts.

Meanwhile, the Revenue Committee heard testimony last week on LB373 (Schumacher), which repeals a number of previous tax exemptions that reduced revenue for the state. According to the Open Sky Policy Institute, 85% of exclusions claimed were by people with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of at least $1 million and 60% were from people with an AGI of at least $5 million. Check of this policy brief on LB373 to learn more. The policy brief states, in part:

“As the Nebraska Legislature looks for ways to close the state’s current budget shortfall, LB 373 provides an opportunity to examine revenue reductions passed by prior Legislatures in the same way lawmakers review appropriations through the biennial budget process. The measure also would increase General Fund revenue by $859 million over the FY18-19 biennium, which could help the state balance the budget and address pressing issues like corrections reform and our high reliance on property taxes to fund K-12 education.” 

The Appropriations Committee is developing its budget recommendations for full consideration by the body. To see how the budget process works, click here.

Child Care

A freeze on child care subsidies advanced to Select File last week, which is the second round of debate before Final Reading. Several Coalition Members, including the Holland Children’s Movement, would like to see this bill killed. Those with children are being asked to contact their child care providers to see if they take subsidies, in order to get them engaged in the issue. Lowering the rate of subsidies also lowers access to affordable child care.

Meanwhile, Senator Smith has introduced AM707 to LB233, which would also negatively affect child care subsidies. The Holland Children’s Movement is also geared up to fight this one.

Breastfeeding Accommodations for Student-Parents

The Education Committee has advanced LB427 (Vargas), a priority bill that extends breastfeeding protections to a mother attending a public, private, denominational or parochial schools and requires the school to provide a private or appropriate facility of accommodation for milk expression and storage. LB428 (Vargas) is being amended onto LB427. LB428 requires each school district to adopt a written policy which provides for standards and guidelines to accommodate pregnant and parenting students. ACLU of Nebraska has led the charge on advancement of these bills. CSN and the Holland Children’s Movement assisted the ACLU of Nebraska in a FOIA request over the summer which led to an ACLU of Nebraska report, which ultimately led to the development of these bills.

Health Care

With the United States House of Representatives canceling its vote to repeal the American Care Act, Speaker Paul Ryan is calling Obamacare the Law of the Land. Perhaps the time will become ripe again for a renewed effort on Medicaid Expansion for Nebraska. However, LB441 (Morfeld), which would expand Medicaid, is stuck in the Health and Human Services Committee and is not a priority bill this session. Nebraska Appleseed has been one of the chief proponents for expanding Medicaid.

“Health cannot be a question of income; It is a fundamental right.”

-Nelson Mandela