On Wednesday, Jan. 8, the 106th Legislature, Second Session convened at 10 am. This will be a 60 day session and at this time, the last day is scheduled for April 23.
The first ten days of session are when new bills can be introduced. There are also 481 carry over bills from last session. I have heard talk that normally in the second session you can expect around 350 new bills to be introduced.
As we start the new session the state has experienced revenue growth. At the end of the 2019 session, the cash reserve fund balance was projected to be about $333 million. The budget was passed by the Legislature using those projections. The actual receipts at the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year on July 1, 2019 included around $176 million in additional revenue. The fund balance of $333 million, plus the additional revenue of $176 million, minus $54.7 million which was transferred to the Nebraska Capitol Construction Fund, increased the unobligated Cash Reserve Fund balance to approximately $455 million.
The cash reserve is not a “savings account” as we might understand it. It is to be used for temporary transfers to the state’s general fund when balances are not sufficient to process expenditure transactions. It is important to maintain the Cash Reserve Fund to insure strong financial health for the state in future years. It has also been crucial in years of revenue shortfalls, to help in balancing the budget, which is required by our state constitution.
However, with that $176 million in revenue growth in FY18-19, discussion during the interim has certainly proposed using some of those funds, and funds from future revenue growth projections, to help achieve property tax relief. Early in the session, the Revenue Committee has plans to introduce a proposal to accomplish that. Of course, there will be many additional ideas for utilizing that revenue.
Other major issues of interest during the 2020 session will be: LB 720, the tax incentive bill for businesses, the Department of Corrections staffing issues and prison overcrowding, deficit funding for the Department of Transportation as well as 2019 flood damage costs of roughly $52 million, and Department of Health and Human Services issues with Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTC) at Geneva and Kearney.
On Monday January 13th we will begin full floor debate on bills carried over from 2019. Public hearings for new bills will begin on January 21st. You can access the legislative calendar, daily agenda and information on every bill at www.nebraskalegislature.gov.
In preparation for the session, I have been doing my homework on a wide variety of topics and meeting with a lot of people and organizations. The December schedule included educators and administrators, county officials, public power interests, special needs providers, safety and brain injury protocol proponents, farmers and land owners, University chancellors and the new NU president, Ted Carter.