FROM NVMA LOBBYISTS KATIE WEICHMAN ZULKOSKI and MICHELLE WEBER:
Day 40 of the legislative session is in the books, meaning that this 60-day session is two-thirds complete. An appropriate place for praise emoji, if ever there was one. Of more immediate import, though, day 40 is also when the legislative rules require the Appropriations Committee to release their budget recommendations for consideration by the full body—a task the committee completed with a 9-0 vote to advance the mainline budget bill. A copy of the proposal is available here. The legislative rules further require that the budget be passed by the 50th legislative day — March 27. While the positive fiscal news from the Forecast Board has helped ease the budget constraints, debates over University funding and health services are still likely to take place when the 49 members get to voice their positions. The budget does contain $0.6 million in unspent funds that could be used for fiscal notes attached to bills on the floor. The scramble to spend the money will be an interesting one to watch.
2017-19 state budget highlights (as reported by the Lincoln Journal Star):
- $8.8 billion recommended total spending.
- 0.5 percent average growth in spending over two years.
- $296 million left in rainy-day fund at the end of fiscal year 2019.
- 2 percent cut to the University of Nebraska, and state and community colleges in fiscal year 2018, and a 1 percent cut in the 2019 fiscal year, rather than the 4 percent cut recommended by Gov. Pete Ricketts.
- $55.6 million increase to cover increases in child-welfare costs.
- $15 million to cover reductions in the federal Medicaid match rate.
- $45 million in across-the-board reductions to state agencies.
- $22 million less in state aid to schools in 2018-19 than enacted by LB 327, passed in 2017.
As reported last week, the Legislature has begun debate on LB 596, Senator Groene’s equine massage legislation. The compromise amendment agreed to by the NVMA is still pending on the floor. When debate began Tuesday, Senator Chambers had concerns about where the new “registry” language was being placed in statute. Senator Chambers and Senator Groene agreed to work on the language (and not change the intent of the bill) before the bill would again be brought up for debate – we anticipate that being next week or later. We will be in close contact with Senator Groene’s office to make sure the NVMA is still comfortable with any proposed amendments.
Prior to beginning debate on equine massage, Senator Groene was the lead opponent to Senator Pansing Brooks’ priority bill relating to juvenile counsel. Groene’s opposing remarks about wine-and-cheese parties and unnecessary legislation spurred retaliatory remarks from the Lincoln senator about legislation she found to be unnecessary. The feud will likely continue, as Senator Pansing Brooks' priority bill is scheduled for debate again on Monday afternoon.
Tax bills were also making waves this week, as rumors about Senator Briese’s LB 1084 sent many in the lobby scrambling in opposition. LB 1084, Albion Senator Tom Briese’s Priority Bill, imposes many new sales taxes (including sales taxes on all “pet related services,” and animal grooming performed by a licensed veterinarian or a licensed veterinary technician in conjunction with medical treatment) and increases the overall state sales tax rate by 0.5%. The early part of the week had many speculating that there were five votes to advance the bill from Committee – a story vehemently denied by the supposed 5th vote. Next, concern moved to predictions that Senator Briese would introduce a motion to pull the bill from the Revenue Committee. Opponents to the bill quickly activated, and it appears the 25 necessary votes to get that done do not exist.
The Legislature is back in action on Monday, and we will be there working on your behalf. The chart of bills that we are following for you may be found by clicking here.
Katie & Michelle