After a four-day holiday weekend, senators returned last Tuesday morning and had their first opportunity to engage in floor debate. They discussed and advanced several bills off General File (first round of debate), including Department of Insurance bills LB 21 and LB 22. Also advancing was LB 106, the new motor vehicle record fee to fund a new records system at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The bill adds an additional fee of $4.50 to obtain a driver record, with $4 going to replace the aging driver information system the state currently uses and 50 cents to the DMV cash fund. These three bills will likely move very quickly through the process.
IIAN President Peggy McDonald was the star of the show in the Banking, Commerce & Insurance Committee last Tuesday. She testified on our behalf in support of LB 612, which doubles the automobile minimums from 25/50/25 to 50/100/50. She did an excellent job connecting with the committee members and was brave enough to share a personal story about the accident her niece was involved in a few years ago. The Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys also testified in support. The bill was not advanced to the floor for debate, but the introducer, Sen. Lathrop, remains committed to further discussion.
Last Tuesday afternoon and the rest of the week looked much like previous weeks with committees holding hearings on bills both in the morning and afternoon. Of note were the COVID-19 liability-related bills on February 18 – LB's 52 and 139 - heard in Judiciary Committee on January 18. LB 139, the Chamber sponsored bill, is expected to be the vehicle to advance.
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The Speaker announced that March 11th is the deadline for senators and committees to declare priority bills. Each senator is able to designate one bill as his/her personal priority and committees are able to designate two bills as committee priority bills. In addition, the Speaker is able to designate 25 bills as Speaker priority bills. Senators have until March 10th to submit a letter to the Speaker requesting one of their bills be a Speaker priority. The Speaker will announce the 25 priority bills no later than March 16th.
This week in addition to all day committee hearings, there will be Select File floor debate on bills that were advanced from General File this week. Monday is a recess day. The legislature will reconvene on Tuesday morning, February 23rd.
February 19 was Day 30, so we are at least one third of the way through session depending on whether they can pass a budget and get out early. That remains to be seen. With Census numbers now not available until September, a special session will be needed in the fall for redistricting.