Speaker Jim Scheer announced new precautions for the Legislature in response to COVID-19 concerns. His decision to reconvene the body will be day-to-day, rather than adhering to the set schedule. Twenty days remain in this sixty-day session.
Until further notice, visitors are banned from the Legislative Chamber, including the balconies. They may visit the Capitol Rotunda and hang with lobbyists all they want, but the place is a Germaphobic nightmare. All that handshaking, back-slapping, and close-talking is a breeding ground for disease.
Every session, the Legislature’s only “must-do” is to pass the budget. The biennial budget that passed the last session was for FY2019/2020 and FY2020/2021. The fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30 of the following year. This second year of the biennium is typically making adjustments to the budget. The difficulty with this session is that tax revenues exceed projections. Some senators want to spend the newfound money, while others don’t.
No call-in votes. If a senator is ill and wants to vote, they must drag their fanny to the Chamber, plant themselves in their seat and push the green or red button. Twenty-five votes to advance a bill, thirty-three to overcome a filibuster and thirty to override a Governor veto.
After overcoming several filibusters, the budget advanced from General File late last Thursday. Select File debate is Tuesday. A filibuster or two may ensue, but the bill will proceed to Final Reading. The Speaker wants the budget delivered to Governor Ricketts on Friday, and he tends to get his way.
Property tax relief is on life support. Senator Lou Ann Linehan admitted that her PTR bill, LB 974, is dead. She could not show Speaker Scheer that she has 33 votes to overcome a filibuster.
One thing that Lou Ann is not – a quitter. She is working on a modified LB 974 that will amend into LB 1106, a shell bill on General File, and prioritized by the Speaker. Her amendment is not available at this writing as it’s likely more than one hundred pages of complicated formulas and tax jargon. I probably wouldn’t read it anyway.
LB803 (Hughes) MONITOR – SPEAKER PRIORITY BILL
- Creates a new promotional checkoff program for pulse crops, including dry peas, lentils, chickpeas or garbanzo beans, faba beans, and lupine. The bill also expands a waiver of a distance limitation for overweight/oversize vehicles transporting crops to include pulse crops.
LB1084 (Kolterman / MONITOR)
- The Nebraska Transformational Project Act would provide $300 million in state funding to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for their NExT Project. Before receiving $300 million, UNMC must show the economic impact to Nebraska is at least $2.7 billion during the planning and construction period and at least $4.9 billion over ten years.
- NExT Project has two components: a state of the art academic medical center facility and a federal all-hazard disaster response military and civilian partnership.
LB1159 (Stinner) SUPPORT
- Extends the initial training period for a noncertified pesticide applicator from 60 to 120 days prior to obtaining an initial commercial or noncommercial applicator license. The bill also authorizes unlimited exam attempts for the noncertified applicator during that training period.
Held In Committee
LB919 (Wayne / MONITOR)
- Hemp cultivator, processor-handler, and broker license and renewal applications shall only be denied if they are incomplete or deficient, including for nonpayment of the required application and registration fees, or if the applicant does not meet minimum qualifications.
LB946 (Briese / MONITOR)
- The bill lowers the sales tax rate and eliminates exemptions on services. Service includes all activities that are engaged in for other persons for a consideration and that involve predominantly the performance of a service as distinguished from selling or leasing tangible personal property.
Failed to Advance
LB974 (Linehan) MONITOR – REVENUE COMMITTEE PRIORITY BILL
- A complex property tax reduction and school funding bill. As amended by AM2433, the bill would reduce property taxes as a significant source of funding for K-12 education. Unless expressly exempt:
- Real property would be valued at 95% of actual value for the tax year 2020, 91% in the tax year 2021, and 86% in 2022 and after that.
- Agricultural and horticultural land would be valued at 65% of actual value in the tax year 2020, for purposes of taxes levied by a school district and 75% of actual value for taxes levied by other political subdivisions.
- Agricultural and horticultural land would be valued at 60% of actual value in the tax year 2021, for purposes of taxes levied by a school district and 75% of actual value for taxes levied by other political subdivisions.
- Agricultural and horticultural land would be valued at 55% of actual value in the tax year 2022, and each tax year after that, for purposes of taxes levied by a school district and 75% of actual value for taxes levied by other