Legislative Roundup, Week 20

Sine Die

The legislative session will adjourn Sine Die tomorrow with an agenda that contains mostly farewell ceremonial activities, including a closing address from the Governor. The body will convene at 1:00 pm Tuesday.

Click here for a link to the NET live stream of floor debate.

Failed Overrides

After the Governor vetoed roughly $45 million from the state budget, the Legislature attempted to override those line-item vetoes, but the body’s most conservative senators voted against all attempts to prevent the additional cuts. Every one of the motions to override failed to get the 30 required votes for override. Vetoes included $32.5 million for low-income Nebraskans with developmental disabilities or mental health issues. The heartfelt pleas of certain senators and the presence in the Capitol Rotunda of people who have developmental disabilities was not enough to restore funding.

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Legislative Roundup, Week 19

Early Sine Die

In a surprising announcement last week, Speaker Scheer said the legislative session will adjourn Sine Die May 23, rather than June 2 as scheduled. All priority bills will make it to the floor for debate before the Legislature adjourns.

Budget Veto and Revenue Forecast

The Legislature advanced its budget on Final Read last week, but only after some of the body’s most conservative members came close to forcing a government shutdown. The bill needed 33 votes on Final Reading because an emergency clause was necessary to avoid a gap between budget cycles. The Legislature is on watch for vetoes from the Governor. He has already vetoed one item that appropriated $11 million for a new heating and air conditioning system in the Capitol. The Governor says sufficient funding is available to keep the project on schedule. The Lincoln Journal Star reports that the Governor is ready to “slash” the budget, so expect big battles this week.

Revenue numbers continue to come in below projections with April showing a $55.5 million shortfall. But Appropriations Committee members say this poses no immediate problems with the budget package the Legislature just passed.

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Legislative Roundup, Week 18

Big Victories; More Battles

The power of persistent advocacy was on display last week after a series of victories for CSN members. However, no rest is in store. More battles are up this week.

Today’s agenda includes a veto-override attempt on LB75 (Wayne), a bill to eliminate the two-year waiting period for felons to have their voting rights restored upon completion of their sentence. Governor Ricketts previously vetoed this bill to restore voting rights to ex-felons. Nebraskans for Civic Reform has worked for passage of LB75.

Also back on the agenda is LB335 (Riepe), which institutes a freeze on child care subsidies. The bill previously advanced to Select File, which is the second round of debate before Final Reading. Several Coalition members, including the Holland Children’s Movement, would like to see this bill killed. Lowering the rate of subsidies also lowers access to affordable child care.

Also scheduled this week will be Final Reading on the budget bills. In addition, LB651 (Linehan) will make its way onto the agenda after the Nebraska Legislature voted last week to pull the bill out of committee. This bill, which would require that a student be held back in third grade if they do not pass reading proficiency standards, had been held up in committee. Education groups, including Stand for Schools and the Nebraska State Education Association oppose the bill because studies show holding kids back does more harm than good.

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Legislative Roundup, Week 17

Decision Time Arrives

The big showdown on the budget and taxes will reach its zenith this week, starting with tomorrow’s agenda. The Legislature will make crucial decisions this week that will greatly impact the lives of low-income families and children.

Click here for a link to the NET live stream of floor debate.

Budget Advances with Women’s Health Cuts

Last week, the Nebraska Legislature advanced the main appropriations bill, LB327 (Scheer) to General File (the second of three rounds of debate) WITH a controversial provision to restructure Title X family planning grants to keep funding away from Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics. Advocates, including ACLU of Nebraska, Women’s Fund of Omaha, and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, are extremely concerned about the impact on preventative services and basic health care for low income and rural women as many patients rely on these health centers as their primary health care provider.

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Legislative Roundup, Week 13

Last week was the first week of all-day floor debate and it was a flurry of activity with nearly 40 bills advancing. During this phase of the legislative session, things can move quickly. Keep up to date by following the Unicameral Update.

Voting Rights Victory

The Nebraska Legislature gave first-round approval Friday on LB75 (Wayne), which allows those completing prison sentences, parole or probation to have their voting rights immediately restored. Current law provides for a two-year waiting period for restoration of voting rights. Nebraskans for Civic Reform has worked hard to get this bill passed, resulting in a quick and surprising 28-5 vote Friday. For more information, read the news coverage in the Omaha World Herald and Lincoln Journal Star.

Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence Protections Move Forward

Legislators also gave first-round approval last week to LB289 (Pansing Brooks), which increases penalties on human traffickers. After several hours of debate in which some senators expressed reservations about raising mandatory minimums and questioned other aspects of the bill, LB289 advanced on a 42-0 vote. Senator Pansing Brooks committed to working with senators between General File and Select File to address their concerns.

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Legislative Roundup, Week 12

The Clock Ticks

Speaker Scheer has asked senators who have priority bills that are likely to generate extended debate to get advance vote counts. His email states in part:

“To facilitate being able to hear as many priority bills as possible, I intend to rely on the vote counts provided to me for bills that will likely require a cloture vote. If the sponsor of a bill can show me that they have 33 votes, or are within reach of 33, I have no problem spending 6 hours on any bill. However, if a bill is going to go to cloture and is not near the 33 vote threshold it will be scheduled for a specific period of time and then not scheduled on the agenda again until the sponsor can show me that he or she has the votes.”

The specific period for debate is likely to be three hours or less. This puts pressure on senators, staff, lobbyists, and advocates to work vote counts now. With limited time for floor debate, it reduces the ability to run the clock, cut deals and increase vote counts on the floor.

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Legislative Roundup, Week 7

Cease Fire

The Nebraska Legislature agreed to a temporary truce last week in the continuing battle over adoption of permanent rules. Under the agreement, the Legislature will work under temporary rules until March 20.. At that time, the battle will resume. The hope is that Senators will spend time between now and then working on some of the noncontroversial, or less controversial, issues that have made it to General File (the first round of floor debate). Freshmen Senators, in particular, will be able to see that most of the bills passed through the Legislature carry broad, bipartisan support. Today’s agenda includes many such bills.

The ongoing battle, coupled with an unusual period without recess days, has had an exhausting impact at the Capitol.

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