Mueller Robak Legislative Update
2018 LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
Today is Day 48 of the 60-day legislative session, and the Legislature is in full swing. The Legislature has moved to all-day floor debate, after finishing committee hearings for the year. Senators, committees, and the Speaker of the Legislature have designated their priority bills. The Appropriations Committee has advanced the budget bills to the floor for debate. And, there are several big issues, like tax reform, still in the works.
Every session, each Senator can prioritize one bill, each committee can prioritize two bills, and the Speaker of the Legislature can prioritize twenty-five bills. As their name suggests, “priority” bills are given priority over non-priority bills on the legislative agenda. In this year's 60-day “short” session, a priority designation is essential to a bill's chance of success, unless the bill qualifies for the Legislature's Consent Calendar, which is an expedited process reserved for non-controversial bills. In the legislation tracking chart included with this update, priority bills are identified in the “Status” column. These are the ones we are watching most closely going forward. Key bills are discussed further below.
Earlier this month, the Appropriations Committee advanced this year's budget bills – LB 944, LB 945, and LB 946, which together include the appropriations, re-appropriations, cash fund transfers, and other budget adjustments for the year. The bills were debated last week on General File, the first of three stages of legislative debate in the Nebraska Unicameral. Importantly for AGC, the Appropriations Committee has NOT targeted roads funding to help make up the state's continued budget shortfall, and it has not been part of the budget debate to date. But, each of the budget bills garnered significant debate on other issues, including funding for the University and ideological differences about spending cuts. The primary issue related to funding for family planning and reproductive health services for low-income or uninsured individuals under a federal grant program called “Title X.” Last week, the Legislature debated the budget bills into the night and ultimately overcame a filibuster to advance the bills to Select File, the second stage of legislative debate.
On Tuesday of this week, the Legislature returned to the budget bills. Again, the opponents filibustered the bill that includes the Title X issue, but this week they had enough support to sustain their filibuster and stop the budget bill from advancing to Final Reading, the third stage of legislative floor debate. The Speaker of the Legislature scheduled the bill again for debate today. At the time this update went out for publication, the debate had not yet started. If a compromise cannot be reached, the bill almost certainly will be filibustered again.
Other Key Legislative Bills
This year, Senator Curt Friesen introduced LB 1031, related to large excavation projects and locate costs. AGC opposed the bill because it would impose locate costs on our members and create other problems in administering “large projects,” defined in the bill as “an excavation in a city of the metropolitan class, city of the primary class, or city of the first class measuring more than one mile in length and taking more than ninety days to complete.” The bill has not advanced from the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, and it was not designated as a priority bill this year, meaning that, even if it does come out of committee, it is unlikely to advance on its own. Stakeholders likely will continue to look at this issue in the interim between legislative sessions.
Senator John Murante introduced LB 1009. The bill creates a new statutory classification for Super-Two's. The bill also has been in the news as the “speed limit bill” because it authorizes NDOT to increase the maximum speed limits on state highways by 5 mph. As introduced, the bill also would authorize NDOT to increase the speed limit above 75 mph on the Interstate after conducting an engineering and traffic investigation. Before advancing the bill this week on General File, the first of three stages of legislative debate, the Legislature adopted an amendment that cut out the part of the bill related to the Interstate, so it will apply to state highways but not include the Interstate study. The bill now will move on to Select File, the second stage of legislative debate.
Tax reform continues to be a big topic in the Legislature. The Revenue Committee considered three primary proposals:
- LB 829 was introduced by Senator Steve Erdman to provide property tax relief through a state income tax credit equal to 50 percent of a taxpayer's property taxes that go to school funding.
- LB 947 was introduced by Senator Jim Smith on behalf of the Governor. It provides more incremental property tax relief, combined with cuts to the top individual and corporate income tax brackets.
- LB 1084 was introduced by Senator Tom Briese to provide property tax relief through increases to the sales tax and extending the sales tax to more goods and services.
The other two bills still are in committee. It has been reported that LB 829 does not have the support of a majority of the Senators on the Revenue Committee. Proponents of property tax relief are collecting petition signatures to put the proposal contained in LB 829 on the ballot, so the question would go to the voters in November. Senator Briese also is still working on LB 1084 to find a way to get it out of committee and to the full Legislature, so the tax reform debate undoubtedly will continue through the end of session and possibly beyond. We will keep watching these and other bills as we move into the last few weeks of the legislative session.
Click here to view legislation tracking chart
William J. Mueller, Mary Johnson, and Bub Windle
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