Inside the Rotunda, Week 13

Budget Advanced

The Legislature advanced the mainline budget bill, LB944, to Final Reading last week with language stating that “no funds disbursed under the Federal Title X Program are to be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning” and that none of the funds shall be granted to an organization that “performs, assists with the performance of, provides directive counseling in favor of or refers for abortion.” Senators added language to the bill to soften the scope of the referral limitation, and most senators who had been holding out on a compromise begrudgingly agreed to support it. Only four senators voted against advancement of the bill, indicating it will easily have the votes on Final Reading when it comes up tomorrow. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which would now be excluded from the funds under the deal, held a rally with supporters at the Capitol Thursday and delivered a petition to the Governor and other state officials. Several state senators wrote a column last week saying divisive social issues don’t belong in the state budget. The Omaha World Herald ran an editorial saying much the same.

Last-ditch Efforts

In the final weeks of session, it is common practice for senators to deploy alternative methods to try to save bills that appear dead. Two such methods were used last week.

Senator Lydia Brasch was successful in having her LB1069 pulled from the Education Committee and placed on General File. Legislative rules allow a senator to move to have a bill placed on General File with a simple majority of elected members, which is referred to as a “pull motion.” However, with limited time on the agenda, LB1069 may not be scheduled for floor debate before session ends. The bill would require all 8th and 11th graders to take the civics exam given to immigrants seeking citizenship. Public school advocates, including Stand for Schools, are opposed to the bill for many reasons, including the lack of cultural inclusivity in the test and because it does not provide the depth of knowledge students need.

Senator Theresa Thibodeau used another method last week to try to move LB747, which would provide that bottle clubs be regulated like other liquor establishments. Senator Thibodeau tried to attach LB747 to LB1132 (Pansing Brooks) on Select File (the second round of floor debate). LB1132 allows a process for trafficking victims to have their convictions set aside and records sealed when they are convicted of crimes that occur as a result of their status as a human trafficking victim. Research shows that bottle clubs are havens for human trafficking so Senators Thibodeau and Pansing Brooks thought the addition of the bill was a good fit. However, Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley, who was presiding, ruled that LB747 wasn’t germane to LB1132. So, this last-ditch effort wasn’t successful.  Legislative rules include language on “germaneness” but the interpretation can be rather subjective. Some interpret subject matter more broadly, while others believe sections of the law need to overlap in concrete ways for bills to be connected.

Time for the Tax Debate

The Governor’s tax plan, LB947, is set for debate tomorrow, following Final Reading on the budget. But expect LB1084 (Briese) to work its way into the mix as an alternative this session. This bill is being amended onto LB1103 (Friesen) and offers a tax plan more favorable to a number of public school advocates. Check out Open Sky Policy Institute’s policy brief on LB947 for a primer on the Governor’s tax initiative.

Until next time,

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall