Photo by George Lauby
We passed the half-way mark in the 60-day session. Senators and committees have designated their priority bills, and committees have completed their hearings of all bills introduced this session.Looking at how much more work we have to accomplish in such a short period of time I wonder how we can get it all done.
Some of the most controversial legislation is yet to be dealt with -- Medicaid expansion; prison reform; tax reform; state aid; preserving water resources and balancing the state budget.
Somehow it always comes together.
Veteran’s home bill dies
A bill that would have required Nebraska senators to sign off on the plan to move the state’s veterans home from Grand Island to Kearney stalled in committee this week failing on a vote of 3-4.
Sen. Mike Gloor (Grand Island) said he introduced LB 935 after the decision to move the home was announced last year by the governor.
The Appropriations Committee members voted to include a $78 million heating and air-conditioning project for the capitol in the budget plan that will be presented to the full Legislature.
The 10-year project involves replacing the building’s 50-year-old system with newer, more efficient equipment. The work would be funded over several years, with the first $11 million to come from the cash reserve fund.
Medicaid expansion in Nebraska moved closer to a debate by the full Legislature.
The Health and Human Services Committee voted to advance LB 887 on a vote of 5-1. The bill would attempt to improve health insurance coverage and access to care for low-income, working Nebraskans who earn too much for regular Medicaid but not enough to be eligible for the Affordable Care Act marketplace subsidies.
LB 887 would expand the percentage of the state’s population on Medicaid from 13 percent to 21 percent.
Bills advanced to second round of debate:
LB 671 repeals the law that authorizes the Game and Parks Commission to issue permits to hunt mountain lions. As amended, the bill would allow a farmer or rancher to kill a mountain lion that is a threat to livestock, and allows people to kill a mountain lion immediately that is stalking, attacking or showing unprovoked aggression toward them.
LB 690 develops a comprehensive and coordinated system of home and community-based long-term care services by participating in the State Balancing Incentive Payments Program and creates an Aging Nebraskans Task Force to develop strategies for long-term care services.
LB 920 creates the Office of Public Guardian, establishes a director, deputy public guardian and up to 12 associate guardians. This bill offers legal guardianship for elderly and disabled Nebraskans who lack other options.
LB 1016 allows the state to purchase a state aircraft and provide for its operation. After spending $3,800 to study whether it would be more cost-effect to buy the University of Nebraska Foundation plane, buy a new plane or lease a plane, the study recommended the state buy a 2013 Beechcraft C90 at a cost of $3.6 million. An amendment was passed that requires quarterly reports on how the plan is used, including the purpose, destination, duration, people on board and stops made – insuring the plane is used for state business only.
Public hearings this week included several bills dealing with handguns –
LB 694 - allows a lawful firearm to be possessed by a person on school grounds for the sole purpose of an historical reenactment with approval from the school.
LB 724 allows law enforcement officers to carry their weapons concealed while off duty anywhere they could carry while uniformed or on duty, and would supersede any local carry restrictions in regards to these "active duty" law enforcement officers.
LB 879 provides for a permit to carry a concealed handgun in a school.
LB 1110 allows active duty military personnel to have 60 days after returning home to Nebraska to renew their Nebraska Concealed Handgun Permit.
LB 1035 adds a measure of accountability to ensure Nebraska is meeting an existing state and federal requirement.
Other bills/resolutions of interest in hearings:
LR 414 requests the federal government to reject changes to the current law governing country of origin meat labeling.
LR 423CA is a constitutional amendment that would provide that residential real property be classified separately for property taxation.
LB 954 allows utility vehicles to use blue and amber flashing lights. Companies have begun marketing vehicles to utilities with blue lights in the flashing, to make them more visible and safe when stopped on the road for construction, maintenance, or repair.
LB 972 allows up to five public charter schools to be opened in Omaha. A similar bill was introduced last year and was in effect killed by the education committee.
LB 1057 directs the first year of sales tax receipts on internet transactions to the Property Tax Credit Cash Fund when collection of these taxes is authorized by the U.S. Congress. Future legislatures would decide how to allocate the revenue.
LB 1060 eliminates elected Educational Service Unit Boards and replaces them with appointed boards. Appointments would be made by the county boards that comprise the ESUs geographical district.
LB 1099 provides for a comprehensive study of the Tax Equity and Educational Opportunities Support Act (TEEOSA) to include hiring independent experts to provide a thorough review of Nebraska’s state aid to schools.
LB 1109 changes provisions relating to consent and parental notification and eliminates certain penalties with respect to abortion.
To find a continuous current status of these and other bills log on to www.NebraskaLegislature.gov.
Sen. Tom Hansen files these reports every two weeks while the Legislature is in session. Hansen represents Lincoln County, District 42.