When I was first elected to the Legislature in the fall of 2014, a friend explained to me the importance of being able to count votes. This last week I have put that sage advice to work: Trust everyone but count the votes.
Thirty-three, it takes 33 out of 49 votes to stop a filibuster and vote for cloture. Last week three proposals have failed to advance due to a failure to garner 33 votes to cease debate and trigger a vote on the advancement of the bill.
Lawmakers debated a bill May 15 that would create a new business tax incentive program to replace the Nebraska Advantage Act. The application period for that program is set to end next year. Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward, sponsor of LB720, said the new program, called the ImagiNE Nebraska Act, would be simpler and more transparent than the Nebraska Advantage Act, focus on high-wage jobs and improve the state’s ability to attract new business investment.
I opposed the bill, the state has forgone approximately $1.5 billion in revenue under existing tax incentive programs without seeing a commensurate increase in economic growth.
After three hours of debate, and the lack of a solid 33 votes for cloture, the Legislature moved on before voting on the bill.
A bill that would create an income tax credit for those who donate money to nonprofits that grant scholarships to students to attend a private elementary or secondary school stalled on general file May 13. Under LB670, introduced by Elkhorn Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, individuals, pass through entities, estates, trusts and corporations could receive a nonrefundable income tax credit equal to the total amount of their contributions or 50 percent of their income tax liability for the year, whichever is less. The scholarships could be used to pay tuition and fees at a qualifying non-governmental, privately operated elementary or secondary school in Nebraska.
Again, after three hours of debate, the Legislature moved on before voting on LB670.
A bill that would approve certain forms of cannabis for medical use stalled on general file May 15. LB110, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart, would create a framework for legalizing medical cannabis use in Nebraska.
Registered medical cannabis users could purchase cannabis through regulated in-state dispensaries or home delivery from out-of-state suppliers. Patients would be limited to no more than 2.5 ounces of cannabis or cannabis products containing no more than 2,000 mg of THC. Supporters cautioned that LB110 was the Legislature’s last opportunity to approve and regulate medical cannabis before the issue goes to 2020 general election voters through an initiative petition drive.
After three hours of debate, without sufficient support LB110 was taken off the agenda before a vote was taken.
Lawmakers advanced the state’s mainline budget bill to final reading May 15 following a successful cloture vote. LB294, introduced by Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk at the request of the governor, would fund state government for the next two fiscal years. After hours of discussion, senators voted 47-2 to invoke cloture, or cease debate and vote on the bill. Lawmakers advanced LB294 to final reading also on a 40-7 vote.
Thirty, it takes 30 votes to override a governor’s veto. Lawmakers voted April 30 to override the governor’s veto of LB472 that allows a county to impose a sales tax to help pay a federal judgment against it.
Gov. Pete Ricketts returned LB472 to the Legislature without his signature April 24 after lawmakers passed it April 18.
LB472, introduced by Adams Sen. Myron Dorn, authorizes a county board to adopt a resolution to impose a sales and use tax of 0.5 percent on transactions within the county to pay a qualified judgment, which the bill defines as a judgment rendered against a county by a federal court for a violation of federal law.
The proposal is intended to help the residents of Gage County. In 2016, a federal judge awarded more than $28 million in damages to the six men and women wrongfully convicted of the rape and homicide of a Beatrice woman in 1985. The individuals, commonly known as the “Beatrice Six,” had sued Gage County in federal court after DNA evidence exonerated them. Dorn said imposing the sales tax will reduce the time needed to pay the judgment from more than eight years to as little as six years, providing some property tax relief to Gage County property owners.
With possibility six days left in session, senators are keenly watching the numbers to guarantee their priority bills survive the threat of a filibuster, have the votes to ensure cloture and advance to the governor’s desk.
If you have any legislative concerns you would like to discuss, please feel free to contact me or my legislative staff. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the telephone number is 402-471-2630. You are always welcome to stop by my office in the State Capitol.
Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson represents District 34 in the Nebraska Legislature.