Legislature: This week in review

By McCartney Martin, Nebraska News Service

LINCOLN–Several bills were debated and passed this week in the Nebraska Legislature, including bills relating to the state budget and the release of firearm owner information, but lawmakers again got bogged down over a tax bill pushed by the governor. 

On April 3, lawmakers passed LB 944, introduced by Norfolk Sen. Jim Scheer. LB 944 contains adjustments to appropriations for state operations, as well as school aid and construction programs for the current and future fiscal year. The bill also contains reductions to many state agencies. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as well as state and community colleges, will see a 1 percent cutback in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

LB944 also provides $55 million to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to cover increased child welfare costs. The bill also provides $15 million to balance reductions in the federal Medicaid match rate. Also included in LB 944 is a provision that prohi! bits Title X funds being granted to any organization that performs or assists abortion services. LB 944 passed on a 38-6 vote.  The governor signed the bill into law on April 4.

Also signed into law this week, was LB 42 introduced by Omaha Sen. Robert Hilkemann. The bill will require all children under the age of 8 to use federally approved child safety seats when passengers in vehicles starting in January 2019. The bill also requires infants and toddlers up to age two to remain in rear-facing car seats, unless the child has outgrown the height or weight requirements listed by the manufacturer. The bill was passed on March 29 with a vote of 40-2. 

A bill that would allow certain types of information related to firearms to be withheld from the public advanced this week. LB 902, introduced by Brainard Sen. Bruce Bostelman, would allow information regarding firearm registration, possession and sale or use obtained by a government entity for an application! or permit, to be withheld from the public.

Bostelman said that the abundance of personal information in the forms listed in the bill could have dangerous consequences, such as identity theft. Bostelman also said that the bill would provide balance between concerns regarding transparency and privacy, as well as safety concerns. The bill advanced to select file 32-0. 

A bill was debated April 3 that would eliminate the state’s current property tax credit program, and replace it with a program that would provide Nebraska homeowners, as well as agricultural and horticultural landowners, a refundable state income tax credit equal to 10 percent of their property taxes paid. LB 947, or commonly known as the Nebraska Property Tax Cuts and Opportunities Act introduced by Papillion Sen. Jim Smith, would also reduce the top individual and corporate incomes tax rates to 6.69 percent by 2020, as well as transfer $10 million to a job training fund.

However, the bill failed to receive enough votes to break a filibuster, with a 9! -25 vote. The bill was once again debated Friday afternoon, however there was no indication that the 33 votes needed to advance the bill were secure yet. Smith indicated that he hopes to debate the bill again on Monday, after speaking with sponsors of the bill over the weekend.

Also on the legislative floor Friday was a debate on LB 1103, which would guarantee a minimum amount of state aid to all of the state’s 244 public school districts. Sponsored by Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson, the bill attempts to remedy the state’s reliance on local property taxes to finance public schools, which has had the effect of putting a heavy tax burden on ag land owners. The bill did not come to a vote.

A pending amendment to LB 1103 would raise state sales and cigarette taxes to pay for increased aid to schools.

Also this week, one senator’s proposed amendment to the state constitution that would require a photo ID to vote died in the Legislature Thursday afterno! on. Legislative Resolution 1CA, introduced by Gretna Sen. John Murante in January 2017 failed to survive a cloture vote. The bill met serious opposition from Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, who said voter fraud isn’t an issue in Nebraska. Fellow Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks also spoke out against the amendment, deeming it “racist” and “costly.” LR 1CA was killed on a 24-18 vote, after a half-hour debate.


Contact McCartney Martin at nns.mmartin@gmail.com

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