The 106th Nebraska Unicameral Legislature continued with committee hearings, advanced legislative proposals and began first-round floor debates during the week of Feb. 17-21.
First-round floor debate began Feb. 19 and continued Feb. 20 for the hotly contested LB 974. Proposed by the Revenue Committee, the bill aims to reduce the overreliance on property taxes to fund public schools without making cuts in school funding.
An amendment that is pending in the Revenue Committee would replace the bill and make adjustments to the original bill, providing approximately $520 million in tax relief over the next three years.
The pending amendment would also reduce property valuations used for calculating school property taxes. Agricultural land valuations would drop from 75% to 55% of actual value, and home valuations would drop from 100% to 87%.
The proposal contains provisions that would ensure schools do not lose funding, allowing school districts that meet specific criteria to receive transition aid over a period of three years if the districts face a budget deficit.
After three hours of debate, the Legislature moved on to the next item on the agenda without voting on the amendment or the bill.
LB 1003, introduced by Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont, came before the Urban Affairs Committee Feb. 18.
The bill would allow any second-class city or village to annex land, lots, tracts, streets or highways to relocate all or part of a town because of catastrophic flooding. The bill would require a two-thirds vote of either a city council or village board in order to annex any land.
The bill would specifically bring aid to Winslow, a town in Walz’s district that suffered severe damage during last year’s flooding. The proposal would allow the town to maintain its current governmental structure while it transitions into the recovery stage.
No one testified against the bill, and the committee took no immediate action.
A bill that would help Nebraska acquire federal funding for increased statewide broadband availability moved to select file, garnering a 37-0 first-round approval vote.
LB 996, introduced by Sen. Tom Brandt of Plymouth, would create the Broadband Data Improvement Program and ensure that Nebraska is accurately represented in federal broadband grant programs.
The program would collect data to supplement already collected federal data in order to prioritize resources and outreach in areas of the state that have limited access to high-speed internet.
LB 997, introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, would create the Out-of-Network Emergency Medical Care Act to help consumers not be subjected to “surprise billings” in emergency situations by out-of-network insurance providers or facilities, according to the bill’s statement of intent.
An emergency would be classified as a sudden onset of a medical condition that would put a person’s life in danger if not treated immediately.
The bill would remove the insured from any ongoing dispute between an insurance company or healthcare provider, to help reduce the number of bankruptcies from large, unexpected medical bills.
An amendment from the Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee would provide a framework for how to settle unpaid claims.
Lawmakers adopted the amendment and moved the bill to select file.
The Judiciary Committee heard a proposal Feb. 20 that would ban “dismemberment” abortions in the state of Nebraska except in emergency situations.
Introduced by Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln, LB 814 defines a dismemberment abortion as “a procedure in which a person purposely dismembers and extracts a living fetus from the uterus using clamps, forceps or similar instruments.” The bill would not apply to an abortion that uses suction to dismember or remove an already deceased fetus.
If an abortion provider were to be found in violation of the bill’s provisions, LB 814 would allow for professional injunctions and civil action.
The committee heard testimony in support of and in opposition to the bill but took no immediate action.
Sources: Nebraska Unicameral Update, the Omaha World Herald’s “Debate pauses, negotiations continue on Nebraska Legislature’s main property tax reduction plan,” published Feb. 20, 2020.