On Friday, Jan. 26, Speaker Jim Scheer laid out the road map for the remainder of the session. The Legislature has 60 days to complete its work in even numbered years; and as of Friday, we had completed over 25 percent of this session.
A tool used in the Unicameral is the system of designating priority bills. Each senator is allowed one priority bill, Standing Committees each select two and the speaker can pick an additional 25 bills. This means there are 102 priority bills designated, but depending on time constrains, the controversial nature of some bills and the budget bills to create a balanced budget (which is constitutionally required), not all priority bills may see debate.
The Speaker does his best to schedule every priority bill but his ‘pep’ talk on Friday was a cautionary note to all the senators to be ready on their bills and attempt to work through issues on any bill prior to its debate. This sends a clear message to senators and committees to have as clean a bill as possible when it comes to the floor. Not all controversy can be eliminated and there are always issues where no matter the compromise, people will be opposed to the change. Those bills will see hours of debate and run until a cloture motion.
My seven bills are all set for hearing. After the hearing, the committee chair schedules those bills for discussion during an Executive Session of the Committee. This is only for committee members, committee staff and the press. No one else is allowed to attend. At the exec session, the committee discusses the bills heard so far and decides to either advance a bill, with or without amendments, hold the bill (which in a short session means it is finished for this year) or indefinitely postpone the bill, effectively killing it.
Two of my bills have already had their hearing. LB710 which changes provisions relating to civil claims of four thousand dollar or less was heard by the Judiciary on Jan. 19. On Friday, the Judiciary Committee voted to advance the bill with amendments to General File. I hope to see this bill successfully through the process.
LB711 which would require all passengers in a vehicle to wear seat belts, was heard by the Transportation Committee on Jan. 23. The committee has not held an Executive Session yet so the bill remains in committee.
On Feb. 1, I have two bills up for hearing. LB907 would place a sales tax exemption on agricultural machinery and equipment and will be heard by the Revenue Committee. This bill was introduced at the request of a business owner in the district and garnered support from a number of ag interests. The obstacle for this bill will be the fiscal impact (lost revenue) which would have significant impact on the state’s General Fund.
Also on Feb. 1, LB1037 will go before the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Under current law, a person holding an elective office on a city, village or school board, must declare any conflicts of interest and then abstain from participating or voting on the matter. LB1037 would allowed elected representative to vote or make decisions relating to the board on which he or she serves. These boards have a limited number of representatives and if one or two may have to abstain, it could be difficult to the get the necessary number of votes.
Last week, the Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Sen. Adam Morfeld’s bill in response to confidential data breeches similar to the Equifax breech over the summer. LB757 would prohibit a credit-monitoring agency from charging fees to place, temporarily lift or remove a security freeze. The Equifax breech impacted 145 million Americans, 700,000 of whom were Nebraskans, to potential identity theft. LB757 would prevent a company whose data was stolen, to then turn around and charge the consumer fees to monitor their credit history and prevent potential identity theft. The committee has not taken action on the bill as of yet.
The Judiciary Committee also heard a number of bills relating to the opioid epidemic. Sen. Sara Howard’s LB931 creates a seven-day duration cap on a prescription for an opiate issued to a person under the age of 19 years of age. LB933 by Sen. Brett Lindstrom would require medical practitioners to notify patients, or a parent or guardian of a patient under 18, of the risk of addiction and overdose when prescribing opiates and other Schedule II prescription medications. Other bills relating to opiates were LB934 and LB906. More information can be found on these and all bills at www.nebraskalegislature.gov.
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