Inside the Rotunda, Week 8

Women Flexing Muscles  

After doing more shoveling this Sunday morning, and once again muttering under my breath about the groundhog, Your Capitol Fly on the Wall sat down in front of the fireplace and enjoyed a nice front-page story in The Lincoln Journal Starabout the record number of women serving in the Legislature this year. The article talks about how this dynamic brings different perspectivesto the body. While 14 women out of 49 senators still leaves a lot of room for improvement, the additional female representation has provided a noticeable change on the floor. Earlier this year, Senator Michaela Cavanaugh quietly made historywhen she became the first mom to breastfeed in the Legislative Chamber. If any of the male senators had an issue with it, they apparently knew enough to keep it to themselves – at least publicly. In addition to taking powerful action on the floor, Senator Cavanaugh has also introduced LB709, a bill that would provide for a place to express breast milk in the State Capitol. While the bill hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing yet, discussion is already taking place about where to put the facility. 

The powerful women in the Legislature will also have an opportunity this week to make their voices heard on an equal pay bill, which is up on today’s agendaand likely to be debated sometime this week. LB217(Pansing Brooks) would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who disclose wages for the purposes of finding out if they are being paid equally for equal work. Pay secrecy policies prevent women from finding out if they are being compensated equally. U.S. Senator Deb Fischer has introduced similar legislationat the federal level. Nebraska women currently earn 77 cents for every dollarearned by men, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.  

Revenue Projections Lowered

The Nebraska Economic Forecasting Advisory Board delivered bad news last week when it lowered Nebraska’s revenue projectionsby $110 million. This will mean a tighter budget for those wanting to restore funding to programs, and it also makes the road tougher for those advocating for property tax cuts. 

Priority Bills

The list of priority bill designationsis starting to grow.  Thus far, most of the designated priority bills have either not had their hearings or have not moved to General File (the first of three rounds of debate on the floor). Once committees begin moving more priority bills to the floor, the Legislature will reach a “tipping point” whereby every bill currently on General File, but not designated a priority, will move to the end of the agenda and may not be debated at all this year. Senators with bills close to the top of the agenda right now are hoping they can get them up for debate before priorities move them down. Senators can still designate those bills as priorities now, but most senators don’t want to waste priority designations at this point on bills that may make it across the finish line during this window without a priority designation. But the “tipping point” is coming soon.  As a reminder, every senator gets one priority bill and every standing committee gets two priority bills. 

Until Next Week. 

Your Capitol Fly on the Wall