The Nebraska Legislature is currently debating a number of controversial social issues, which is creating hard feelings on the floor. It began last week during debate on LB44 (Chambers), which sought to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska. The vote fell short, as some opponents argued it has been too soon since Nebraska voters reinstated the death penalty at the ballot box. Even some senators who supported repeal of the death penalty last time were reluctant to do so again. A conservative block of senators, led by Senator Julie Slama, pushed for a vote on the floor in order to make it hard for senators personally opposed to the death penalty but representing districts that supported reinstatement. It opened up some old wounds from the Governor’s personal investment in the death penalty reinstatement and his successful efforts to get moderate and conservative Republicans who supported the repeal voted out of office. Senator Chambers wanted a vote on the bill at the three-hour mark and senators obliged. It provided a sad moment for some as Senator Chambers has worked for repeal of the death penalty for decades, and this likely marked his last effort. Some in the body were also upset that the debate took on a more political and less somber tone than years past. Part of the debate turned to the issue of abortion and whether one could truly be pro-life if they supported the death penalty.
Many senators took to the microphone on Friday to air their personal grievances after the Nebraska Republican Party sent out a news release attacking certain senators for not voting on the death penalty repeal. Senator Blood took to the microphone and talked about partisan and sexist attacks directed at her. Senator Blood mentioned attacks on social media about her physical appearance. Senator Mike Moser tried to respond in a way many considered tone-deaf. Senators Patty Pansing Brooks and Michaela Cavanaugh, among others, backed Senator Blood up. Many Capitol insiders, particularly senators and staff, see a pattern of behavior toward female senators that some believe needed to be called out.
This week looks like it may be just as contentious as LB209 (Albrecht) is on today’s agenda. This bill would require doctors and the Nebraska Department of Health of Human Services to provide information to patients of a disputed treatment capable of “reversing” a medication abortion, which is a concept not supported by science.
Budget and Taxes
After a brutal torrent of opposition at the LB289 (Linehan) hearing last week, the Revenue Committee went back to the drawing board to try to reduce opposition to its tax package. A broad range of interest groups are opposed to numerous aspects of the bill.
Meanwhile, Nebraska’s budget outlook brightened a bit last week. The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Board increased revenue projections by $55 millionthrough June 30, 2021. That money will go into the state’s cash reserve, also known as the rainy day fund.
The Speaker accepted requests from senators last week for bills they would like to have placed on consent calendar. The consent calendar mechanism provides an avenue for relatively noncontroversial bills to be considered and quickly advanced (15 minute debate time for each bill). To be eligible for consent, a bill may not have general fund impact and must have moved out of its committee without any dissenting votes. The Speaker has the sole discretion to decide which senator requests will make it to consent calendar. This mechanism for moving bills provides senators with an additional option to get non-prioritized bills to the finish line this session. Consent calendar items will be announced by the Speaker and scheduled at a later date. At that time, bills may be removed from consent calendar by a written request of three or more senators.
Until Next Time,
Your Capitol Fly on the Wall