Capitol Digest: State treasurer proposes establishing college savings plans for every Nebraskan at birth

January 18, 2019

College savings for all. Nebraska’s new state treasurer wants to establish a college savings plan for every Nebraskan upon birth and throw in $100 in seed money. State Treasurer John Murante said such automatic college savings accounts have shown to improve academic achievement by giving every kid hope that they can attend and afford college.

The idea, which would be funded with private money or leftover state cash, would help achieve a goal of making Nebraska the best “college savings state” in the nation, Murante said. He joined state senators Thursday in unveiling a package of proposals on the subject.

Minimum wage. Nebraska’s minimum wage of $9 per hour would increase every year with inflation under Legislative Bill 383, introduced by State Sen. Dan Quick of Grand Island. LB 400, offered by Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from the current $2.13 per hour to 50 percent of the minimum wage for other workers.

Both measures would need 33 votes to pass because they would change a minimum wage approved by a vote of the people. Backers of a higher minimum wage used a petition to put the issue on the ballot in 2014 after failing to get any increase through the Legislature.

Helmet repeal. First-year State Sen. Ben Hansen of Blair is taking up the perennial effort to repeal Nebraska’s motorcycle helmet requirement. He introduced LB 378 along with 13 co-sponsors. Hansen, a chiropractor and motorcycle rider, said he uses a helmet but doesn’t think that government should mandate their use. Health professionals have been among the most vocal foes of past repeal efforts.

Filibuster rules. Filibusters would have to last at least six hours in first-round debate before lawmakers could take up a debate-ending cloture motion under a proposed change in legislative rules. The change was advanced by the Rules Committee on a 4-1 vote.

Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer of Norfolk, who sits on the Rules Committee but does not have a vote, opposed the proposal. He said the speaker should have the flexibility to decide when to allow a cloture motion, saying there are times when six hours is not needed.

Current rules give that flexibility to the speaker, but past rules have required as much as eight hours of debate. Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln proposed going back to the eight-hour standard, saying it would give all lawmakers a chance to speak on an issue and would encourage compromises. Others said it would discourage filibusters by making them more difficult and politically costly.

The proposed rule change will be debated Tuesday. Filibusters have become more common during the last four years as more senators use them to block bills they oppose.

Corrections. On Friday, State Corrections Director Scott Frakes will update senators on the state prison system. Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha led colleagues on a tour of two state prisons Tuesday and held a briefing for them Wednesday with state probation and parole officials. Lathrop served in the Legislature from 2007 to 2015 and led the Legislature’s probe of the corrections system and its problems with overcrowding and staffing.

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