Last week proved to be the most eventful week of the session thus far, starting and ending with the Legislature voting on LB 574.
On Tuesday, the Legislature voted to return LB 574, the Let Them Grow Act, to Select File for a specific amendment that did two things. First, it modified LB 574 to allow puberty blockers and hormone treatments to treat gender dysphoria, subject to strict protocols established by the Chief Medical Officer, while still prohibiting surgical procedures until age 19.
Second, the amendment added a modified version of LB 626, the Nebraska Heartbeat Act in what is now called the Preborn Child Protection Act. Abortions are prohibited after 12 weeks from the last menstrual cycle (approximately 10 weeks from conception), with certain exceptions.
The amendment was adopted, and the bill was advanced to Final Reading for a second time. On Friday, the Legislature voted to pass LB 574 into law before adjourning for the weekend.
In between debates on LB 574, the Legislature debated the series of budget bills on Final Reading.
The Unicameral’s rules require the budget to be passed on or before day 80, and we made it just under the wire. I now can breathe a sigh of relief because the budget includes $10 million of funding to rebuild the State 4-H Camp in Halsey and sets aside $576 million for possible construction of the Perkins County Canal.
The mainline budget bill, LB 814, is very conservative, only increasing state spending by 2.3% over the next two years.
Among other things, the measure provides funding for income and property tax relief, $1.25 billion for the Education Future Fund to increase state aid to public schools, and funds to construct a new prison. It also includes $20 million for rural workforce housing and $20 million for middle-income housing.
As finalized, the budget will leave $892 million in the state’s General Fund for tax cuts and other uses over the next two years, and the state’s Cash Reserve fund is expected to be at $779 million by June 30, 2025 (equating to 13% of the state’s revenues). Any line-item vetoes from the governor will need to be sent to the Legislature by Tuesday or Wednesday.
Once the budget was passed, we could consider tax cuts and other spending bills. The Legislature gave first-round approval to LB 727, which originally provided sales tax exemptions for certain purchases by the state and other public entities. The Revenue Committee amendment to LB 727 incorporated provisions of an additional 20 tax-related bills. A General File floor amendment inserted five additional bills.
The Legislature also gave second-round approval to LB 531 this week, one of the Urban Affairs Committee’s priority bills. Amendments made on the floor incorporated my LB 98 (Micro-TIF), and my LB 33 (Mayoral Voting) bills.
The governor has expressed his support for the bill, which will reduce the risk of a veto, assuming the bill gets final approval.
Unfortunately, the Unicameral is not done with controversial legislation. Pursuant to a ballot initiative passed in 2022, the Legislature is tasked with passing laws to implement Voter ID. The Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Tom Brewer, has been in tough negotiations with several senators, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General to put together language that will pass constitutional muster.
It is challenging to walk the line between protecting election integrity and suppressing voters.
Although many want a more expansive election overhaul, the key will be to find language that enacts what the voters approved in November and has enough support to get the necessary 33 votes. The Speaker has scheduled the bill for this week, but there is still no consensus on all the terms. I am hopeful that we can work out the differences and avoid a special session.
We are down to nine legislative days remaining this session. If we follow the proposed schedule, the last day will be June 9, one week following the 89th day.
The gap between Day 89 and 90 is to allow for the governor to make any final vetoes. Business on Day 90 will be limited to any veto overrides and passage of bills with a low risk of veto.
I look forward to hearing from constituents about issues impacting you. Please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-471-2729. My door is always open.
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