Kind of a tough week in the Legislature wrapped last Friday with tense discussions among senators and visitors alike. This was something of a culmination of the session-long debate on transgender youth medical treatment (LB 574) and reproductive rights/restrictions (LB 626). Combining the two resulted in final approval, but discussion of these issues during floor debate is by no means over.
This week’s agenda kicked off with a discussion of voter ID—a requirement approved on November’s ballot—taking up a full eight hours on first round debate. There is disagreement on the preferred mechanisms for this, including between those supporting the overall policy: How to make it effective without discouraging election turnout. How to avoid constitutional challenges. How to avoid a special session.
There was also lengthy discussion this week on a criminal justice bill (LB 50) intended to assist those convicted of lower level felonies in preparing to rejoin the community and workforce. This did advance with the support of 28 senators under an agreement to further negotiate changes that could address concerns of opponents.
The Chamber Agenda
Things progress on the business front.
Taxation: LB 754 puts Nebraska on the path to a 3.99 percent individual and corporate rates by 2027. It would not only put more money into business and household budgets but would aid in recruiting and retention efforts by putting Nebraska on par or better with a number of competing states. This is waiting for a final vote.
For those concerned with property taxes, LB 243 substantially increases tax credits. This, too, is headed for the final round.
LB 727, a Revenue Committee tax catchall with well over 20 proposals rolled in, includes a number of Chamber member priorities. Highway construction bonding; extension of the authorization for the UNMC NExT project timeline; ImagiNE authorization for waste recycling and processing; renewing, with amendments, the Nebraska Advantage research and development credit; reviving the historic-property tax credit; retail development and convention center incentives, etc. On Tuesday evening, after some trims and tweaks, senators advanced the bill to Final Reading. As with LB 754, some provisions were scaled back following the Economic Forecasting Board’s reduction in the current year’s revenue projections. Revenues remain healthy but have to be balanced with the budget bills (which have been sent to the Governor following final approval).
Between the budget bills and LB 531 (the North and South Omaha redevelopment measures) we are confident that funding will be approved for an Omaha airport business park—currently set at $90 million. Establishing statewide industrial mega-sites might take a little more time. There is intent language in the budget, and an interim study (LR 197) was introduced to take a deeper look at this issue.
Due to continued filibustering, the model has been the Christmas tree. As with the aforementioned LB 727, committees report bills with multiple provisions that were separately introduced. A Business and Labor bill contains numerous provisions, including one to allow the Department of Labor to utilize training funds for job retention (Final Reading). A Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee bill includes a provision to authorize the use of federal CHIPS Act funding to facilitate microprocessor manufacturing (Final Reading). The time for this mechanism is running. Chances are good that such omnibus measures ready for the last stages of debate will consume the remainder of the session.
There are at most seven days remaining in the session. Perhaps fewer, as the 90th day (June 9) is often reserved for veto overrides.
With the tax proposals, economic development and community redevelopment programs, and issues such as voter ID, it could be close. But senators have been putting in long days and evenings (one lasting until 11:32 p.m.).
All sorts of things could happen in that time.