One or more times a day, the legislature moves among “divisions” of bills on the agenda. Each division contains a list of bills designated as priorities by individual senators, committees and the speaker of the legislature. The divisions are assigned the name of the primary introducer of the last bill in the division.
Recently I asked why this unusual format is used. The simple answer is a former speaker of the legislature believed it would improve efficiency, and the speakers who followed just continued the practice.
To view the daily legislative agenda go to www.nebraskalegislature.gov and click on the monthly calendar in the right hand corner.
In choosing their individual priority bills, senators can select a bill they introduced, or they can choose a bill introduced by another senator. No matter how the choice is made, the objective is to give an important policy proposal the best possible chance to be enacted.
I want to highlight a few of the 49 bills that were selected for special attention this year by my colleagues.
LB 595 by Bellevue Sen. Scott Price would require a review of the state's new emergency technology.
The primary cellphone companies that operate in Nebraska have agreed to expand emergency texting capabilities by the spring of 2014.
Enactment of LB 595 would authorize the Public Service Commission to define next-generation 911 and create the upgrades that are needed to support this expanded service.
The bill includes an emergency clause, so it would become law as soon as it is signed by the governor.
The continuation of newly established foster care reimbursement rates and creation of a standardized process to establish new rates in the future would occur with the passage of LB 530 by District 34 Sen. Annette Dubas.
In the current fiscal year, an additional $3.10 per day was added to the foster care rate for all children.
LB 530 would continue this new rate for the next fiscal year and require new reimbursement rate recommendations from the Foster Care Rate Commission to be implemented on or before July 1, 2014.
The Department of Health and Human Services would be required to establish a pilot project implementing standardized level of care assessment criteria to determine a foster child's placement needs and to appropriately identify future foster care reimbursement rates.
The criteria would be research-based and reflect a commitment to child-centered, family-involved systems of care. LB 530 is part of the legislature's continuing work on foster care that began last year with a complete overhaul of the state's foster care system.
Imperial Sen. Mark Christensen chose LB 522 to require the Department of Natural Resources to provide reasonable compensation for water users affected by a closing notice.
Surface water appropriators would be prohibited from storing or diverting natural or in-stream flows in order to comply with a compact or decree.
Payments from the state's general fund would be provided to irrigation districts to reasonably compensate affected users.
Expanded uses of the Civic and Community Center Financing Fund is the goal of LB 153.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Dubas and prioritized by Sen. Jerry Johnson of Wahoo. The expansion would add recreation centers to the type of facilities for which the fund could be used, as well as the kind of expenses that could be covered by the fund in the future.
LB 153 would also change criteria used by the Department of Economic Development for granting awards and reporting requirements.
As always, I value your input, and welcome phone calls, emails and personal visits from you.
Senator Al Davis, State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509. (402) 471-2628. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rancher Al Davis represents north central Nebraska in the Legislature. The seat was formerly held by Sen. Deb Fischer.