The 2017 Legislative Race Begins!

Welcome back to the blog. The Race Begins!

Race for Chairs

Tension, drama and surprises were in full effect last week as the 105th Legislature kicked off its first session.  Family smiles and picture-posing were abound as the Legislature convened with the ceremonial swearing in of new and re-elected members. Those ceremonial activities quickly gave way to the serious business at hand, including the election of a Speaker and Committee Chairs. Senator Jim Scheer, District 19, was elected Speaker of the Legislature.

Controversy followed when Committee Chairmanships went in unison to conservative Republicans, as more moderate candidates in both parties were defeated. There were further tensions as the Committee on Committees made their report on Committees assignments for members. The full Legislature accepted the Committee assignments, but not before some conservative members expressed their displeasure with the makeup of committees. Senator Bob Krist, District 10, who was defeated earlier in the week by Senator Dan Watermeier, District 1, said Nebraska’s nonpartisan Legislature was “dead.”

These stories from the Lincoln Journal Star and the Omaha World Herald highlight some of the first-week tensions:

Lincoln Journal Star:
Don Walton: Showdown in the Legislature
Joanne Young: Senators sort out what happened in opening day 

Omaha World Herald:
Michael Kelly offers a reminder of the legacy of George Norris and our nonpartisan Unicameral.

Race for Offices

Once chairmanships were chosen, legislative staff had to act quickly to move offices. Forty Senators either moved into new offices or changed rooms. Two Men and a Truck were on hand to help people move offices, as two legislative staffers busily moving to a new office could be heard in the hall referring to themselves as “Two Women and a Stolen Cart.” Staff bypassed each other in the halls as everyone wondered where everyone was headed. Coalition members need not worry about finding Senators. The Legislative website is already updated with new room numbers for each Senator.

Race for Bill Introductions

Amidst the flurry of activity, the following bills pertinent to Coalition member’s mission were introduced, including:

LB 65: Sponsored by Senator Matt Hansen, this bill provides income tax credits for caregivers.

LB 104: Sponsored by Senator Kate Bolz, this bill provides for a surrogate to make health-care decisions.

LB 109: Sponsored by Senator Sue Crawford, this bill requires guidelines to ensure safety of a minor or dependent whose parent or guardian is arrested.

LB 69: Sponsored by Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, this bill phases in an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit from 10% to 20% of the federal credit allowed. Senator Adam Morfeld also introduced his own bill, LB 129, which increases the Earned Income Tax Credit.

LB 120: Sponsored by Senator Paul Schumacher, this bill provides for medical assistance coverage for family planning.

LB 122: Sponsored by Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, this bill provides visitation rights for family members who may be denied visitation rights arbitrarily by caregivers.

Race for Results

As bill introductions continue this week and into next week, hearings are on the horizon. The race for legislative results is upon us!

Up this week: The Governor’s State of the State Address is scheduled for Thursday. With a budget shortfall of $900 million, the Governor’s budget and tax proposals will be something to keep an eye on and we work to protect priorities for Nebraska families and children.

The Capitol Fly on the Wall

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