Inside the Rotunda, Week 5

A More Robust Debate 
Most of the legislation that has made its way onto the floor of the Legislature has thus far been without controversy and has received broad, often unanimous, support from the body. That changed somewhat at the end of last week as the Legislature began debating LB66 (Hansen, M.), which requires cities with a population of 800 or more to consider early childhood education in their municipal comprehensive plans by 2022. The bill’s backers have included Holland Children’s Movement. However, some of the more conservative members of the Legislature are raising objections to the bill. Debate continued this morning and unfortunately, it didn’t advance. Not to worry, a similar bill, LB 160 (Quick) may make its way to the floor; and it isn’t known at this point if the Legislature will then see its first filibuster. It’s a reminder that while there is a greater spirit of working together in the body this year, sharp differences remain on a number of issues.

Performance Measurement 
The Legislative Audit Office often flies under the radar in the Legislature, but staff members in this office provide important program performance evaluations that can lead to legislation. Some of this office’s more recent reports, which can be found online, shed important light on the effectiveness of business tax incentives, including the Nebraska Advantage Act. Much of this work informed a special economic development task force led by Senator Sue Crawford. Late last year this task force recommended an early sunset to Nebraska Advantage because of a lack of transparency and doubts about effectiveness. Open Sky Policy Institute has also conducted important research about the effectiveness of business incentives that has informed the discussion. As a result, a broad range of senators are supporting a new business incentive program introduced by Senator Kolterman called the ImagiNE Nebraska Act (LB720).

In this context, expect further discussion and debate around the issue of workforce development and how the state deals with what the business community cites as its #1 issue – recruiting and retaining skilled workers. Among the ideas on workforce development will be a bill heard this Thursday in the Judiciary Committee. LB627 (Pansing Brooks) would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Proponents argue that a welcoming and inclusive environment is a must in today’s business world. With Nebraska unemployment rate among the lowest in the Nation at 2.8%, it seems like the time could be ripe for some senators to try and include employment nondiscrimination in the current reevaluation of business incentives. Stay tuned. 

Kids Count 
Voices for Children in Nebraska released its annual Kids Count report last week. This report provides important data on the well-being of children in Nebraska. It’s a treasure trove of information. For those in doubt, senators and staff really do utilize this kind of research. 
 
Winter Blues 
While I appreciate the ray of hope Phil generously provided this weekend, I can’t say I trust that little groundhog. I recommend we all consult our local meteorologists!

Until Next Weekend,

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall