Last week saw the end of bill introduction. When it was all over, senators added 597 new bills, 11 proposed constitutional amendments and two substantive resolutions. The last day of bill introduction always brings us a small sigh of relief, as the universe of proposed legislation closes and we all can get a better handle on what is likely, or unlikely, to get traction in this 60-day session. But the sense of completion is always short-lived, as public hearings begin today, Day 13. This now becomes the busiest part of the legislative session, juggling multiple hearings per day and securing Chamber staff and volunteers to make the trip to Lincoln to represent the Greater Omaha Chamber as official testifiers. It is expected that public hearings will continue through the end of February.

Beyond bill introduction, Senators spent their time on the floor during the last two weeks debating several proposed rule changes. A number of mostly technical changes were adopted, but the biggest change is a rule proposed by Senator Ben Hansen of Blair that would limit bill introduction to 20 legislative bills per senator per year and 10 legislative bills for each committee. Senator Hansen and other proponents argued that it would help relieve some pressure on the most overburdened committees. Opponents to the proposal stated that it could actually result in more legislation being introduced rather than less. 31 senators ultimately voted to support the rule change, one more than needed for approval. It remains to be seen what the practical impact will be, since bill introduction is finished for the year and the rules will be re-debated next year in a new two-year biennium.

Although public hearings don’t officially begin until today, the Chamber participated in a hearing last week in the Urban Affairs Committee on an amendment to a carryover bill, LB 164. The proposal, introduced by Senator Terrell McKinney, would make changes to the Municipal Inland Port Authority statutes, including many sought by our economic development partnership for the benefit of the port authority already established by our Greater Fremont Development Council partners. The amendment would also allow for the creation of an inland port authority in Omaha, to assist in development of the proposed Airport Business Parks in North Omaha. The Chamber testified in support of this proposal, and Senator McKinney has indicated he would like to see it passed this session.

Last week, Governor Jim Pillen also gave his traditional “State of the State” address, where he laid out his vision and priorities for the state. A number of his priority proposals were introduced by senators, including many bills seeking to reform Nebraska’s property tax system, and a legislative bill which would change some major components of the ImagiNE Nebraska Act, the state’s primary economic development tool. You can expect the Greater Omaha Chamber to play an active role in both of these areas throughout the remainder of this 60-day session.

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