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Opinion - Opinion
 
At Legislature: Budget dominates, Medicaid debate beginsTell North Platte what you think
 
Photo by George Lauby
Tom Hansen

I want to update you on a bill I mentioned in an earlier newsletter. Originally stalled in the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, LB 935 (originally pertaining to moving the veteran's home from Grand Island to Kearney)was voted 5-3 to send it to the full Legislature.

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LB 935 would require a legislative review of any proposal to move a state service or agency from one community to another, if the cost was $15 million or more.

The bill was amended by deleting language that could have been applied to the decision to move the Central Nebraska Veterans Home from Grand Island to Kearney. Sen. Gloor has designated it as his priority this year so it should show up on the agenda soon.

Highway bonds

We spent over 5 hours on a bill that would allow the state to issue bonds for highway projects. LB 1092 would give the State Highway Commission bonding authority to issue bonds to accelerate completion of highway construction projects. 

The bill would allow up to $200 million in bonds.  

 

Allied schools

After a short opening, Sen. Scheer made a motion to bracket his bill, LB 682, which would have provided for formation of allied school systems. He indicated that he would likely introduce an interim study on this issue.  

           

Medicaid

The Medicaid expansion bill, LB 887, is scheduled for debate on Tuesday at 1:30. You can watch the debate by live streaming at http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government,  or television on the NET channel. I encourage you to do so.

 

Spending

The budget package proposed by the Appropriations Committee was debated and advanced to second round of debate. The three bills in the package were composed of:

LB 905 – provides for deficit appropriations. Those deficits included a property tax credit of $25 million; Medicaid replacement funding of $16.9 million; prison inmate expenses of $8 million; developmental disabilities waiting list of $5 million; early childhood education (one-time funding) of $3.5 million; and pediatric cancer research (one-time funding) of $1.8 million.       

LB 906 – transfers funds and creates and eliminates funds. Includes state aid to schools (without $33 million funding proposed by LB 726) of $40 million; homestead exemption of $12.5 million; and adjustments to Health and Human Services programs of $7.7 million.

Other appropriations included: The Water Sustainability Fund was created in the Department of Natural Resources and will receive a total of $45.6 million from state funds.

Also included: Game and Parks for improvements, maintenance - $15 million; job training - $10 million; county jail contracts - $5 million; State Capitol heating and air conditioning - $12 million; and State Capitol courtyard fountains - $2.5 million.

 

Bills advanced to final reading:

LB 699 – The original bill eliminated the bow hunter education program. The Committee amendment reinstates the program and clarifies the language of the license-purchase exemption certificate process.

LB 920 – establishes the Public Guardianship Act and Office of Public Guardian and defines the scope of the office.

LB 1016 – authorizes a purchase of a $3.5 million new aircraft for the use of state government.

 

Bills advanced to second round of Debate:

LB 251 – my bill, allows rental car companies to charge a fee of up to 5.75% on each rental contract.

LB 560 – provides enforcement provisions to certain labor and employment acts.

LB 744 – establishes the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission who will develop programs and plans for the observance of the 150th anniversary of Nebraska statehood in 2017.

LB 768 – revises the fee calculation for registered feedlots and dairies by basing the calculation of the registered feedlot and dairy fees upon capacity only upon an initial application. It incorporates LB 846 which creates the brand inspection area defined as the area of Nebraska counties, or portions thereof, adjacent to the mandatory brand inspection area designated by statute.

LB 836 – provides and changes provisions relating to legislative findings for tax incentive programs.

LB 863 – combines several bills* that were heard by the General Affairs Committee: 
            *LB 855 – changes provisions for formation and operation of cemetery associations;
            *LB 861 – prohibits use and distribution of e-cigarettes and other products derived from tobacco, from minors; 
            *LB 863 – eliminates a provision requiring cities and villages to “vote in” liquor by the drink;
            *LB 888 – allows a local governing body, with at least a 2/3 vote to approve, in addition to on-sale until 2 a.m., off-sale until 2 a.m. or on and off-sale until 2 a.m. 
            * LB 1052 – allows any licensed retailer engaged in the sale of distilled spirits to issue tasting cards to customers. Without this change, a customer would be able to run a tab, but would be unable to have a prepaid distilled spirits cards. Current law only allows for pre-paid wine-tasting cards.

LB 949 – approves $5,144,093 in claims against the state.

LB 967 – changes provisions relating to state aid to schools and funding for early childhood education programs.

LB 986 – changes homestead exemption income limitations.

LB 987 – adjusts individual income tax brackets for inflation and exempts social security income up to a certain amount from taxation.

LB 1012 – changes provisions relating to blighted areas under the Community Development Law.

LB 1076 – provides that the Legislature finds that the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides for Medicaid reimbursement to permit disabled or elderly adults to live at home rather than in long-term care facilities.

LB 1087 – creates a homestead exemption for disabled veterans, widows, and widowers.

LB 1103 – provides for a strategic planning process for education.

LB 1114 – changes and states intent relating to funding for economic development programs and changes a termination date.

Many of the bills I mentioned in this newsletter have a lot more substance to them than the summary indicates. You can either contact my office or you can go to the Legislature’s website at www.nebraskalegislature.gov to obtain more information on any of the 460 bills introduced this session.

You can reach Sen. Tom Hansen by email at thansen@leg.ne.gov


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 3/14/2014
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