Senator outlines bills introduced this session
January 28, 2021
In early December, the former chair of the executive board, along with chairs of standing committees, sent an email to senators suggesting they limit the number of bills introduced. This would assist with safety measures being developed for senators and the public, in preparation for the legislative session during a pandemic. However, 684 bills were still introduced during 10 days of bill introduction. Although this number was less than the 739 bills in 2019, it was more than the 667 bills introduced in 2017 and the 655 bills in 2015.
I introduced four bills and one resolution that will have a public hearing. Three of the bills I introduced will be heard on the very first day of public hearings.
I introduced LB75 at the request of the Nebraska Association of County Officials. It would clarify what happens if a township form of government is discontinued but there is a library involved. Under LB 75, the county board would be required to hold a hearing, within one year, to determine whether the township library would be disposed of, merge with another library or continue operation. A decision on the disposition of the library would be made within 60 days. The public hearing on LB75 will be held before the General Affairs Committee.
A former Northeastern Nebraskan asked that I introduce LB 77. It would prohibit an insurance company from increasing rates for a member of the armed forces, based solely on the fact that they had discontinued their motor vehicle insurance coverage while deployed overseas. This has been referred to as the Patriot Penalty and occurs in approximately 21 states, including Nebraska. The public hearing on LB77 will be held before the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee.
The final bill that I introduced that had a public hearing scheduled on Jan. 25 is LB78. Currently, applications for the Gold Star Family, D.A.V., former Prisoner of War and Purple Heart license plates require a signature. By signing, the applicant acknowledges that filing a false application violates the Motor Vehicle Registration Act and could be subject to prosecution. However, the information submitted on the application is not verified. LB78 would require applicants to register with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. DMV would then be able to verify an applicant’s eligibility using this registry, which is already being used to verify information for Military Honor license plates. The public hearing will be held before the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.
The speaker of the legislature has developed procedures for the public hearing process during the pandemic. The capacity of the hearing rooms will be limited to accommodate social distancing, testifiers will be requested to limit their time in the hearing room to the bill of interest, masks are required, except when testifying, and handouts should be limited or eliminated. There are new procedures to allow a senator who has tested positive or is in quarantine to participate remotely.
It is recognized that input from the public is very important to our unique one-house system and COVID has made this difficult. Therefore, options for public input have been expanded for those concerned about testifying in person. Testifiers will be able to submit testimony in person prior to the start of hearings and this testimony will be treated as if it was given during the hearing. Furthermore, the public will be given another way to contact senators, in addition to emailing each senator. There will be a new feature added to the Legislature’s website -NebraskaLegislature.gov -for the submission of written statements on pending legislation at any stage of the process. Search for the bill you would like to submit a statement on and click the corresponding button near the top of the bill Page.
Senators adopted permanent rules this past week which will be utilized throughout the session. The Rules Committee had suggested three minor changes which were adopted by the body.
Sen. Steve Halloran proposed an amendment to the rules to require a voice vote on legislative leadership positions rather than a secret ballot. This amendment was offered to the Rules Committee but they did not recommend it for consideration by the entire legislature. Our Unicameral is based on nonpartisanship. Senators are elected without a party affiliation, in an effort to allow the body to work together to avoid the partisan problems that have created roadblocks at the federal level. Supporters of the proposed change mentioned the need for transparency, but opponents said it would dismantle what our institution is based on, pressuring senators to vote down party lines. I believe senators should elect the best person for the position based on their background and their character. This amendment to the rules lost on a 19-30 vote.
As the committee hearing process begins, I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts on the various bills.
I can be reached at [email protected] My mailing address is District #40, P.O. Box 94604, State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509 and my telephone number is 402-471-2801.