Don Walton: New Legislature features new faces, unresolved issues
Too early to tell.
The approaching 2019 legislative session convenes on Jan. 9 and is scheduled to wrap up on June 6, moving from winter through spring to the first month of summer with unresolved issues piled up at the beginning and fresh challenges looming ahead.
New faces, new dynamics, plenty of uncertainty, a little mystery is good.
Property taxes, state aid to schools, the face and pace of prison reform, the level of state support for the University of Nebraska, implementation and funding of Medicaid expansion, the disposition of sales tax revenue collected from online sales all unresolved.
And, of course, there’s plenty more.
The first day will tell us something.
Election of leadership, including committee chairs, will tell us whether there is a collaborative spirit at the beginning or a continuation of the conservative Republican leadership slating that occurred in 2017.
The new composition of key committees may provide an advance peek at what might be likely to emerge for consideration on the floor of the Legislature.
The eight-member, tax-writing Revenue Committee will have at least five new members. Appropriations will have at least two new senators working their way through every state agency as the committee constructs a new two-year state budget.
And, of course, new challenges will be popping up all along the way.
Early forecast: This might be fun.
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* Last week’s message to the Senate signed by 44 former senators, including Chuck Hagel, Bob Kerrey and Ben Nelson, urging today’s senators to be strong and protective of U.S. democracy was a bugle blast announcing that we are about to head into uncharted and dangerous territory now.
* President Trump poured fuel on that potential fire by raising the prospect that we could be going where we’ve never gone before when he said “I think that the people would revolt” if he was impeached.
* The president maintains 51 percent support in Nebraska in the latest Morning Consult survey of the states. That figure in a dependable Republican state demonstrates how divided the country is now.
* An ad in the program for “The Book of Mormon” distributed at Lied Center performances demonstrated a smart and skillful reaction from the church: “Our version is sliiiightly different. The musical is entertaining. The book? It’s life-changing.”
* Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman, apparently embracing and feeding the Boston-centric depiction of the Yankees as the Evil Empire, described the Yankee front office last week as “a fully functional Death Star.”
* The Star Wars battle between the Yankees and the Red Sox enters a new galaxy far, far away next June when they collide in London for two games. Uh, matches.
* Jane Kleeb and Nebraska Democrats are focused on beckoning non-partisan voters into Democratic primary elections and then perhaps gaining their allegiance in key general election contests. Here’s why: 585,022 registered Republicans; 362,394 Democrats; 258,452 non-partisans.
* In Wisconsin, the Legislature changes the rules after Republicans lose the game. And now New Jersey Democrats want to write a gerrymandering scheme into the state constitution. No party can claim the high ground.
* Recreational and medical marijuana sales in Colorado now stand at about $1.5 billion a year, producing roughly $250 million in revenue. A proposed constitutional amendment for Nebraska voters to consider in 2020 would legalize medical marijuana only.
* Nothing settled yet, but a redistricting reform initiative also appears likely. It would need to be on the 2020 ballot to be in effect when the Legislature reapportions congressional and legislative districts in 2021. Otherwise, it’s a 10-year wait.
* After the sudden, and somewhat mysterious, disappearance of this year’s billion dollar property tax reduction initiative, nothing appears to be stirring on that front. At least, not yet. If it reappears, it may come repackaged in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment.
* If you want to be White House chief of staff, you’d better park your ego at the door, prepare to be undercut by your boss and lawyer up now.
* Chris Dunker nailed it on Twitter: “So passes Foecke, Lady of the Hammer.”