The legislature adjourned Thursday, April 1 about noon for a long Easter weekend. While the heavy lifts of the session are yet to come, the legislature regularly addresses the majority of the bills on the agenda each day.
This past week, after advancing some consent calendar bills and Speaker Priority bills on March 29, the body debated legislation regarding annexation, fireworks, a mental health crisis hotline, broadband, appointments to several state boards and others. On April 1 they passed several bills on Final Reading before adjourning for the week.
Committees have found time to discuss bills in Exec. Session and at this point, only six senator personal priority bills still remain in committee.
A few happenings of note in regard to IIAN bills. The Revenue Committee advanced Sen. Erdman’s proposed constitutional amendment to scrap the tax system and replace it with a consumption tax. This places a tax on insurance services front and center. The bill won’t pass but it was interesting to see Sen. Lindstrom and Sen. Linehan vote Aye.
Department of Insurance bill LB 22 on annuities had an 11th hour amendment filed by Sen. Wayne and Sen. Lathrop on behalf of the trial attorneys. It would have allowed for a cause of action against an agent for violation of the act. Chairman Williams who is carrying the bill was not happy about their late objections. Concerns were raised by the insurance industry directly to senators. Eventually, Sen. Wayne pulled the amendment and the bill passed 42-0.
LB 106 that increases the drivers record fee to create a new operator license system was passed on Final Reading 36-4.
Click to see IIAN's Bills of Interest
Speaker Hilgers announced that in terms of scheduling, the upcoming weeks will follow a similar pattern as the week that just ended. Monday will start with consent calendar bills, typically noncontroversial bills with no amendments, followed by Speaker Priority bills, again bills that are not controversial. The middle of the week the body will debate the more difficult or substantive bills. The last day of the week the agenda will include bills on Final Reading and “Christmas Tree” bills, a bill with several other bills amended into it.
The Speaker’s plan is also to perhaps work into the evening on some days but not to work late into the night as has happened in the final weeks of previous sessions. He believes the legislature does not do their best work late at night and has been scheduling bills in such a manner all session to try and avoid late nights.
The Appropriations Committee released their two-year budget package on April 2, which can be accessed here
. The package was advanced unanimously from committee and will be scheduled for General File (first round) legislative debate on Thursday, April 8th. Some of the key highlights for this budget include funding the following:
• Two percent Medicaid provider rate increase ($84M)
• $32M for economic development and job training ($17 million for Nebraska Career Scholarships and $15M to the Business Innovation Fund)
• Increasing the Cash Reserve Fund by $351M (from $412M to $763M)
• Provides a maximum of $211 million for floor bills (spending bills not included in the budget proposal; currently there are more than thirty bills that have fiscal notes)
There is discussion about allowing the lobby to return to the rotunda. However, there are some steps that need to be taken in order for Speaker Hilgers and Chairman of the Exec. Board Hughes to be comfortable allowing access to and from the rotunda by senators including all senators being fully vaccinated. There are at least a dozen senators who have not received the second shot that requires a two-week immune build-up period; therefore, we are at least maintaining the status quo for another 2-3 weeks. Even so, there are an increasing number of lobbyists present in the rotunda depending what is on the agenda.