Nebraska Legislative Update
April 4, 2006Budget Bill
On March 28, the Legislature gave 41-7 Final Reading approval to LB 1060, the main budget bill. Senators Erdman, Foley, Friend, Langemeier, Mines, Redfield and Smith voted “No” (Speaker Brashear did not vote).
The bill now goes to the Governor for his action. He has until midnight April 3 to sign the bill, veto it or issue line-item vetoes of specific items.
Before the final vote, Sen. Pederson, chair of the Appropriations Committee, warned the Senators to be careful with their spending in the waning days of the session or else face a budget crisis. LB 1060 leaves about $117 million for tax relief and any other new spending. However, the tax relief in LB 968 and spending at various stages of legislative debate total about $133 million.Tax Bill Receives Final Approval
On April 3, the Legislature gave 42-2 Final Reading approval to LB 968, the Revenue Committee’s package of tax cuts. Senators Kopplin and Kruse cast the “No” votes. Again, Governor Heineman has five days to take action, but is expected to sign the bill.Clock Still Ticking … Big Issues Still Remain
The Legislature did begin to move on two big issues at the end of last week. It remains to be seen if enough time remains in the session to finish that action.
The Education Committee advanced LB 1024 to the floor on a 6-2 vote last week. This is the bill that will serve as the vehicle for debate on the Omaha public school issue. LB 1024 would create a “Learning Community” in the Omaha metropolitan area (this would apply only to Douglas and Sarpy Counties, but other counties can institute the “learning community” idea if all school districts in a county participate and have at least 2,000 students). School district boundaries would not change, but the “learning community” would be a new type of educational service unit using a single tax base to fund schools in the area.
Last week the Legislature’s Executive Board ordered that articles of impeachment against University of Nebraska Regent David Hergert be drafted for consideration by the entire Legislature. Sen. Engle, chair of the Executive Board, said the articles of impeachment would be brought before the Legislature sometime before the session is adjourned. The Executive Board appointed a committee to draft the articles.Legislative Lingo
Throughout the course of these updates, we will be using certain terms that describe where a bill is in the legislative process. Here is a brief guide to those terms and some basic legislative procedure:
Committees have a number of options for each bill – send as introduced to the full Legislature for General File, send to General File with amendments, Indefinitely Postpone (or kill) the bill, or hold the bill over to the 2006 session .
Once a bill is sent to the full Legislature out of committee, it faces three possible stages – General File, Select File and Final Reading.
At the General File and Select File stages a bill can be amended; a bill cannot be amended at the Final Reading stage.
As bills are killed in committee or become law through floor stages, they will be deleted from the Legislative Update.Bills Update
As in the past, we will divide into categories the bills we are working on or tracking. Any bill designated a Priority Bill will also have a “P” attached to its number (for example, LB 123P). The chief sponsor of the bill is listed in parentheses.
The words Support or Oppose after a bill description indicate where the Center for Rural Affairs has taken a position on the bill. If neither word is indicated, the Center has not taken a position at this time.
Based on further analysis and Priority Bill designations, this week we’ve added a few bills to our list.Agriculture/Livestock
LB 132 (Cunningham) –This bill modifies the Nebraska Pasteurized Milk Law. The bill sits on General File. Support
LB 346P (Agriculture Committee) – Would modify several provisions of the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Act all with the goal to increase utilization of the tax credit. The bill sits on General File, but was amended into LB 990 and approved on Select File. Support
LB 834 (Kremer) – Would preempt any local government action to regulate the registration, labeling or sale of seed based on the “type, nature or genetic makeup.” The bill awaits action on General File. Oppose
LB 916 (Kremer) – Would implement the state Competitive Livestock Markets Act (passed by the Legislature in 1995) in the event the federal mandatory price reporting law is not re-authorized by Congress. The bill awaits action on General File. Support.
LB 990P (Wehrbein and others) – Would allow tax credits for livestock modernization projects under the Nebraska Advantage Rural Development Act. On March 27, the bill was advanced to Final Reading on a voice vote.
LB 1004 (Hudkins) – Would allow for promotion of Nebraska-made wine and liquor by allowing holders of farm winery licenses to obtain a special license to sell or consume alcohol. The bill awaits action on General File.
LB 1109 (Schrock) – Would modify rules for the rejection, suspension or revocation of livestock waste permits. The bill awaits action on General File.
LB 1195 (Schrock and others) – Would require counties to allow permits or variances to existing livestock facilities to construct or modify livestock waste facilities if the purpose of the permit or variance is to comply with state or federal regulations. The bill awaits action on General File (though it is unlikely to receive further attention since a similar provision was amended into LB 975, which was signed into law).Education/Schools
Note: Several mentions are made below to LB 126 – a reminder this was the bill passed by the Legislature, vetoed by the Governor and overridden by the Legislature in 2005 that requires all Class I (elementary-only) school districts to assimilate with a K-12 district. A citizen’s petition seeking the repeal of LB 126 will be on the November 2006 General Election ballot.
LB 129P (Education Committee) – An overhaul of the formula for state aid to schools. The bill is awaiting action in the Education Committee.
LB 839 (Hudkins) – Would order the State Committee for the Reorganization of School Districts to issue orders reestablishing Class I and Class VI (high school-only) districts if 2005’s LB 126 is repealed in November. The bill awaits action by the Education Committee. Support
LB 1050 (Wehrbein) – Would establish a study committee on the costs and benefits of countywide school districts. The bill awaits action by the Education Committee.
LB 1119 (Heidemann and others) – Would delay all provisions of LB 126 until 2007. The bill awaits action by the Education Committee. Support
LR 253CA (Hudkins and Fischer) – A proposed constitutional amendment that would require a vote of the people in affected districts on school mergers, dissolutions or affiliations. This is similar to a petition proposed by a group of Class I supporters for which signatures are being sought. The bill awaits action by the Education Committee. SupportTaxes
LB 775 (Wehrbein) – Would reduce the sales tax rate to 5% after October 1, 2006 (from 5.5%). The bill was Indefinitely Postponed by the Revenue Committee on March 27.
LB 849 (Redfield and others) – This is the Governor’s income tax reduction proposal. The bill was Indefinitely Postponed by the Revenue Committee on March 27.
LB 896 (Preister) – Would establish a renewable energy tax credit against the income tax of the producer of electricity by renewable means. The bill awaits action on General File.
LB 968P (Redfield) – This is now the Revenue Committee’s tax relief proposal. The bill was approved on Final Reading on April 3 (see above).
LB 1006P (Bourne and others) – This bill was originally the Governor’s school property tax levy proposal; a similar provision is included in LB 968. The bill was amended to a constitutional amendment to use the proceeds of the sale of school lands for early childhood education.
LB 1239 (Raikes) – An income tax “simplification” plan. Would collapse income tax brackets into two rather than four – above and below $75,000 for estates and trusts and single and married filing separate taxpayers, and above and below $150,000 for joint and head-of-household taxpayers. The bill was Indefinitely Postponed by the Revenue Committee on March 27.Other
LB 188P (Beutler) – Modifications to the Nebraska Campaign Finance Limitation Act. On April 3, the bill was approved 30-10 on Final Reading. It now awaits action by the Govenor. Support
LB 554P (Beutler) – Would increase the state minimum wage. The bill was debated on March 29, but no action was taken. The bill awaits action on General File.
LB 1198 (Connealy) – Would authorize on-farm sales and use of biofuels by adding “microscale producer” to the definition of “producer” in existing motor fuels laws. The bill awaits action on General File. Support
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