Bill introductions wrapped-up Wednesday, and the fat lady sang, “Hallelujah!”. On the first day of the session, Speaker Mike Hilgers, with a nod to the COVID, asked his colleagues to limit their bill requests in hopes of reducing close contact with one another in the Legislative Chamber. The bill count is 684, plus an additional dozen proposed constitutional amendments (ahem). Committee hearings for every one of these gems begin tomorrow.
The Speaker is departing from the traditional format of morning floor debate and afternoon committee hearings. Again, to distance senators from close contact on the Legislature floor. Beginning tomorrow, committees will conduct bill hearings all day, at least until early March.
Hilgers also expanded opportunities for public input.
- In-person testimony remains the same. If you don’t say what you came to say in five minutes, Nebraska Nice goes out the window.
- Written testimony will be entered into the record just as if you sat in the testifier seat.
- The submission of online comments on a bill at any stage of debate is a new twist. All senators and staff will have access to these comments. This one has the potential for excellent entertainment value.
- Position letters will be accepted as well.
There was a dust-up last week during a debate on the Rules of the Legislature. Usually, the Rules’ debate is a dry and philosophical discussion between a couple of senators who actually read the rules. It usually goes something like this: a rule change is requested; senators expound; senators vote; they move on.
But, crack the seal on the worm can of Rules about electing the Speaker and committee chairs, and senators quickly join sides in a game of extreme verbal dodgeball. One side wants secret ballots. The other side wants public votes.
Without elaborating about the competitive play, we can only say that one side cast a flood of votes to retain secret ballots over the groan of senators who prefer transparency. No blood, no foul.
Following is a partial list of legislation on our tracking sheet:
- LB52 – Provide for immunity for injury or death resulting from COVID-19 exposure.
- LB59 – Change provisions regarding sales of tourism promotional products by the Nebraska Tourism Commission and distribution of revenue.
- LB79 – Change the minimum amount of relief provided under the Property Tax Credit Act.
- LB122 – Change provisions relating to the minimum wage.
- LB133 – Adopt the Nebraska EPIC Consumption Tax Act and eliminate certain other taxes.
- LB139 – Adopt the COVID-19 Liability Protection Act.
- LB290 – Adopt the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act.
- LB422 – Change the sales tax rate and impose sales tax on additional services.
- LR11CA – Constitutional amendment to require a consumption tax and prohibit other forms of taxation.