Inside the Rotunda, Week 14

Tensions Carry Over

After a period of tense floor battles, senators were more eager for compromise and conciliation last week. Thus is the ebb and flow of session. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing last week.

The Legislature did advance several priority bills with a consensus of the body, including LB268(Friesen) to make it easier for Nebraskans to switch telecommunications companies for broadband service.  Despite common perceptions from casual observers, most bills in the Nebraska Legislature pass with broad, bipartisan support. One bill that did not fare well last week was LB483 (Erdman) which hit the three-hour Speaker’s cutoff and was removed from the agenda. Senator Erdman said he doesn’t know if he will try and bring the bill back. The bill would change agricultural land valuations to a system that centers on production capability and earning ability tied largely to soil variations. Senator Steve Lathrop and others were skeptical. The debate foreshadowed further tax policy debates that are sure to hit the floor later this session.

Last week wasn’t all picnics and sunshine, however. Some of the animosity of the previous week carried over in a very personal way after Senator Tom Brewer was reported to have made comments at an event in Stanton, Nebraska referring to Senator Megan Hunt as transgender. Senator Hunt confronted him about the reported comments on the floor and Senator Brewer said “I don’t know what you are.” For the record, Senator Hunt identifies herself as bisexual, not transgender. Many in the body were offended at both the apparent lack of knowledge of what transgender meant and also by the idea that the term would be used in derogatory way. There was a lot of discussion “off the microphone” about the comments as senators debated just how far to press the comments in floor debate. If you ever watch floor debate on NET live, you will sometimes see senators and staff chatting in the background. Sometimes you can pretty accurately guess what the conversations are about. Other times, the mystery of those discussions can be intriguing. Senators Ernie Chambers and Joni Albrecht were seen having a lengthy discussion last week and everybodywanted to be a fly on the wall during that discussion. Yours truly wasn’t about to get caught snooping on that one though.

As for what to expect this week? Your guess is likely as good as mine. However, today’s agenda shows a number of bills that likely fall into the “consensus” category of legislation. Of course, Senator Chambers always beats to his own drum and he was at his oratory best at the end of last week while extending debate. Senator Chambers is fighting for some of the legislation that went down or was stalled earlier this session, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program eligibility for certain felons convicted of drug offenses (LB169– Hunt)

Two Routes for Medical Cannabis  

Keep a watch on the issue of medical cannabis. There are two routes progressing for medical cannabis to be legalized in Nebraska. LB110 (Wishart) is a priority bill, but advocates and senators aren’t depending solely on the Legislature to act. A petition drive is currently underway to place the issue on the ballot in 2020.

New Revenue Projections on the Horizon  

Mark your calendar for April 25. The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board will make new revenue projections that will guide the Legislature’s final budget decisions this year. The forecasting board meets quarterly and makes prediction on sales, income, corporate and miscellaneous taxes so that lawmakers can balance the budget.  In February, the last time the board met, it lowered revenue projections.

Until Next Time,

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall