Legislative Roundup, Week 4

Rules Fight Continues

State Senators spent nearly all of last week’s floor debate fighting over the adoption of permanent rules, and have come to no agreement on how to move forward. As Don Walton notes in his latest Lincoln Journal Star column, the battle is:

“more than just inside baseball” because “changing the number of votes required to sustain a minority filibuster could be a major factor, perhaps even the key factor, in determining or shaping legislative decisions on huge issues like tax cuts, budget priorities, state funding for the University of Nebraska, the very shape of Nebraska’s future.”

In past sessions, sustaining a filibuster has come down to a single vote or two. Expect this battle to continue. Legislative staff are trying to pull together “interesting material” for floor debate.

Deficit Appropriations

The Legislature will have a break from the rules fight early this week as Senators take up the Governor’s Deficit Appropriations bills, including LB22 (Scheer). The Appropriations Committee has amended some of the cuts, including reducing the cuts for probation and juvenile services and other programs.

Hearings Watch

Today: The Education Committee will hear testimony on LB427 (Vargas), which requires schools to provide for private or appropriate facilities for breastfeeding and storage for student mothers. The Committee will also hear testimony on LB428 (Vargas), which requires each school district to adopt a written policy to accommodate pregnant and parenting students. Both bills are great for mothers trying to balance school, work and family.

Wednesday: The Revenue Committee will hear testimony on LB69 (Pansing Brooks) and LB129 (Morfeld), two bills that would increase the Earned Income Tax Credit. These bills take different approaches to the credit with LB69 offering a more rigorous increase. While these bills are great as standalone tax policy for working families, there are rumblings that some members of the Legislature might try to include an increase in the EITC in a broader tax compromise that would shift the tax burden in a more regressive direction. Advocates need to remain on guard to this possibility. Here are some policy basics about the Earned Income Tax Credit from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Also Wednesday, the Health and Human Services Committee will have a hearing on LB417 (Riepe), an omnibus bill that may be something we need to work against. Nebraska Appleseed is on guard with this bill.

In addition, the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee will hear testimony on LR6 Ebke), which would have Nebraska apply for a convention of states to limit government spending. A Convention of States for this purpose would drastically reduce funding for schools, health care and other priorities. For more information on the dangers of a constitutional convention, read this recent blog from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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

Budget and Taxes

LB337, the Governor’s income tax cut plan, is set for hearing Wednesday, February 8th. Senators are not hearing enough from advocates about how these tax cuts would eviscerate our revenue base and hurt people. These tax cuts are a top threat to our state’s people and priorities.

Refugees and Immigrants

The federal actions last week, banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries has an impact on our state and communities. Check out this great story from Zach Pluhacek highlighting one family’s struggles after the President’s orders. As we work to protect our state’s most vulnerable, these Nebraska statistics from the American Immigration Council offer valuable insight into our demographics and people.

“The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respected stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.”

-George Washington