Independent Legislature may prompt gubernatorial vetoes

January 27, 2019

Vetoes appear to lie ahead.

Trying to understand a new Legislature in its opening days is virtually impossible, but early on this looks like it could be an unpredictable one.

There’s some independence already on display.

Too early to know how this all plays out, but there might be a growing willingness to at least consider some bills that would increase state revenue.

And that might even present an opening for some kind of grand bargain between senators who want to raise sufficient revenue to adequately fund designated state programs and services while replenishing the state’s cash reserve and senators who want substantial and immediate property tax relief.

A bunch of options are sitting on the table as senators begin their 13th day in session.

A host of sales tax exemptions, tax credits and incentives are in play along with proposed sales tax increases targeted at products like cigarettes and alcohol. One bill proposes an increase in the state sales tax rate.

Gov. Pete Ricketts has made it clear he would veto such legislation.

And it would take 30 votes in the 49-member Legislature to override those vetoes.

The bigger legislative obstacle always is a filibuster that could trap any revenue-producing legislation (presumably other than the bill that would provide for collection of sales tax revenue already owed for online purchases) on the floor by refusing to invoke cloture and end debate.

Invoking cloture would require 33 votes.

If there are two legislative camps, one wanting substantial and immediate property tax relief and one wanting to produce additional revenue for designated state programs and services, neither probably could command the 33 votes required to break a filibuster by opponents.

Some past Legislatures might have viewed that as an opportunity to attempt to forge a grand bargain.

Don’t see that happening, or even likely to do so, but let’s keep an ear to the ground.

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Here’s an outsider’s look at Nebraska from the January issue of The American Prospect, which describes itself as a liberal/progressive magazine that also appears online.

“Nebraska’s unique state legislature, long tradition of local grassroots activism and a willingness to take level-headed approaches to initiatives at the polls show that although Democratic candidates routinely get crushed in statewide races, progressive issue-oriented campaigns are not always lost causes,” Ross Benes wrote.

“Nebraskans have long embraced measures that belie their conservative tendencies,” he stated.

“It settles more refugees per capita than most states; is the only state whose electric utilities are all public entities; and took environmentalism seriously very early on.”

Benes also pointed to recent initiative votes to approve Medicaid expansion and increase the state minimum wage.

“Just as long as they don’t have to vote for a Democrat,” he wrote.

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Last week’s column made a reference to the events at the Lincoln Memorial that resulted in what appeared to be mocking disrespect directed at a Native American elder by a group of Kentucky high school kids, although there has been lots of subsequent pushback disputing what really occurred.

A paragraph in the column questioned whether the kids learned that kind of behavior at school or at home.

National news reports described it as a Catholic high school and I repeated that description without even thinking that I then might be implying in the column that students learned that kind of behavior at Catholic schools or in Catholic homes.

Not what I meant; what I really was thinking was that racism and prejudice in America is too often learned at home. Not Catholic homes.

So, probably not for the last time, I learned once again that you need to be really careful in choosing words.

That was not directed at Catholics — but I can understand why some people might think it was.

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Finishing up:

* Ben Sasse will interact with UNL student leaders in a conversation on stage at the Coliseum on Feb. 11. Cool site.

* An opponent of one of Tom Brewer’s legislative bills approached the senator prior to speaking at a legislative hearing to tell the senator he would be reluctantly speaking in opposition, bearing in mind the fact that Brewer is a former world sniper champion.

* Megan Hunt has introduced legislation placing limits on inquiries about immigration status by law enforcement officers. The bill’s stated purpose is to remove barriers that discourage immigrants from reporting crimes.

* Really glad baseball doesn’t mirror NFL rules when a game goes into extra innings. Win a toss of the coin in the NFL at the beginning of overtime and you can effectively win the game.

* Losing Isaac Copeland is a terrible blow for a team that is struggling. He was the steadiest guy on the court for the Huskers.

* A State Patrol trooper wants to know: Pitchers and catchers report in 18 days.

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