After the Legislature gave final approval to the budget last week, members of the body quickly moved on to effectively kill some of the more controversial bills this session, including Voter ID (LR1CA) and a convention of states (LB1058). They also moved on to pass one of the priorities near and dear to the hearts of many CSN members, LB194 (Vargas), to help low-income Nebraskans who use payday lenders. Senator Vargas, his staff and CSN members worked tirelessly to reach a compromise on this issue. While several meaningful reforms were removed from the original bill, the version that passed includes closing a loophole and requiring reporting. It represents a step in the right direction.
Several tax bills were also intermixed in last week’s debate, including the Governor Tax plan, LB947. In addition, the Legislature debated LB1103 (Friesen), which offers a property-tax reduction plan more favorable to a number of public school advocates because of an amendment that replaces the underlying language with elements of LB1084 (Briese). Some of the more regressive elements of this bill (the one-cent sales tax increase) are offset by an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which helps the working poor. The Open Sky Policy Institute released a policy brief on LB1103 last week.
With none of the tax plans showing signs of moving forward, Speaker Scheer took to the floor to scold members of the body for not compromising. He announced he would bring those involved in the pending legislation together for a private meeting to work out a deal this weekend, which prompted protests from more progressive members of the body who felt they should be included in negotiations. Meetings were ongoing this weekend. Angst continues over the Yes on Property Tax ballot initiative that is currently gathering signatures for the ballot. Speaker Scheer and others say this initiative would create huge fiscal problems for the State next session, should it pass. However, with 17 senators able to filibuster any deal, a number of people are skeptical that any tax deal will move forward on today’s agenda. It is also uncertain if any tax measure would prevent leaders of the ballot measure from moving forward.
As the Nebraska Legislature prepares to adjourn Sine Die, the environment around the Capitol is about to slow down. Attention will soon turn to the 2018 mid-term elections. However, legislative business will continue. There will be plenty of interim studies to keep members busy. The legislative cycle will continue as senators work on new agenda items for next session, and lobbyists regroup and strategize to bring back legislation that didn’t make it across the finish line this session. Such is the nature of the Capitol where there is always old battles to be fought again and new battles waiting to emerge.
Until next time,
Your Capitol Fly on the Wall