Nebraska Legislative Session to wrap up this Wednesday
BEATRICE – The Nebraska Legislature’s 60-day session concludes on Wednesday, with Governor Pete Ricketts delivering remarks and lawmakers honoring those who are leaving the body.
State Senator Myron Dorn of Adams said the biggest accomplishment this session was likely on the revenue side….a major tax cut package contained in LB 873.
"What that will ultimately do for many people in the State of Nebraska is it will give back some taxes not only on Social Security but also on community colleges...and it puts in many things that help a broad segment of the people of the State of Nebraska. That is probably the one thing that we passed this year, that took a lot of work. Three different tries on three different bills....but long-term for the State of Nebraska will have a huge impact."
The package also reduced the top rate on individual income and corporate taxes. Governor Pete Ricketts signed the package of reductions last week. Some critics fear it will put the state in a squeeze during times revenue forecasts are not as positive.
As for one of the biggest disappointments of the session, Dorn says it may be the failure to enact justice reforms as a part of reducing Nebraska’s serious prison overcrowding problem.
"Senator Lathrop brought a bill, and we had a CJI report....and out of that came twenty one things...seventeen of which were agreed upon by generally all of the senators. There were four issues that were an obstacle. Both sides visited multiple, multiple times. Senator (Suzanne) Geist was really leading the other side...she is on Judiciary (Committee) with Senator Lathrop. There were a lot of good discussions on the floor and I do know they met multiple times with Speaker Hilgers, the Governor...there were a lot of conversations that went on. Somebody estimated that we had probably forty hours of discussion on the sentencing reforms we had on the floor...and then not to have something meaningful come out of that, for me, was disappointing."
Dorn says if and when the state builds a new prison…without justice reforms…the state is likely to be back at that 150% of capacity level in its prisons.
The final day allows some time for overrides of any last-minute vetoes by the Governor, but largely, it’s a ceremonial final day. A dozen senators are term-limited out of the legislature and a couple others have opted not to run again.
"Term limits are okay, but if we had them at twelve years rather than eight years.....I'm not saying everyone would run those twelve years, but we're losing some senators this year that have been there. To watch them the last four years, some of the leadership and institutional knowledge that they have....and now, they're not going to be there next year. Some of them are glad to be leaving....some of them, I think they wouldn't mind coming back."
Dorn and Senator Tom Brandt, of Plymouth are the only state lawmakers running for reelection without any opponents.