Hours of debate Monday preceded final approval of state budget reductions, the first step toward offsetting an almost $900 mullion anticipated budget shortfall by 2019.LB 22, introduced by Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk at the request of Gov. Pete Ricketts, makes across-the-board budget cuts for state agencies.
The bill passed 42-3 after a motion to cease debate on the bill was adopted 43-1. The bill, presented on emergency status in order to expedite adjustments proposed for the state budget ending June 30, took effect immediately.
Senators also voted 45-0 to pass a bill delaying the deadline for certifying state school aid from March 1 to June 1.
LB 119, introduced by Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, would allow the Legislature to make adjustments as it works to address the state's budget shortfall.
Two bills proposed for financial and tax restructuring were met with waves of opposition Wednesday.
LB 468 and 452, introduced by Omaha Sens. Bob Krist and Brett Lindstrom, respectively, drew overwhelming opposition.
LB 468 would freeze revenue and tax provisions for two years and direct sales tax revenues on motor vehicles, motorboats and other vehicles to the state general fund, instead of the State Department of Roads and the Game and Parks Commission.
LB 452 would reduce or eliminate sales tax exemptions on certain incomes, including cabs, ride-sharing apps, storage facilities, newspapers, laundromats and the Nebraska lottery. The bill would also add sales tax to personal care services, such as haircuts, cosmetics and massage therapy.
Hearings on other legislation this week included the following:
LB 518, introduced by Sen. Matt Williams of Gothenburg would provide grants to rural and underserved communities to build workforce housing.
Lack of adequate housing in these communities, Williams said, has made it difficult to recruit young professionals, hindering economic growth.
LB 73, introduced by Sen. Merv Riepe of Ralston, would raise the smoking age from 18 to 21, preventing 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds from purchasing tobacco products.
Riepe said 95 percent of adult smokers start smoking before age 21, and the purpose of LB 73 is to delay the age at which people start smoking.
LB 608, introduced by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, would provide students enrolled in low-performing Nebraska public schools a scholarship to attend private school if one is nearby or has open seats.
The state Department of Education has identified 87 low-performing schools.
LB 449, introduced by Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, would repeal the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Management Act, which gives the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission authority to work with counties and individuals who request help controlling the animals. Chambers said if a neighbor were to complain about prairie dogs on someone else's property, the act allows the government to come onto that person's land without warrant or due process, violating property owners' rights.
LB 340, introduced by Sen. John Murante of Gretna on behalf of Gov. Ricketts, would consolidate veterans' services by transferring programs and duties of the state Department of Health and Human Services to the state Department of Veterans' Affairs. The transfer would be effective July 1, and Murante said it would increase service efficiency and result in better care at veteran assisted living services.
LB 311, introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, would remove restrictions that prohibit individuals with past drug felonies eligibility to receive Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
Prison worker’s overtime
LB 245, introduced by Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, would limit overtime to 32 hours over a two-week period for state Department of Correctional Services staff members.