By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
During his tele-conference call Tuesday, Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango said he doubted whether proponents of LB10, all Republican, had enough votes to stop a filibuster intended to stall the bill.
When the smoke cleared Tuesday morning, they came up two votes short of ending the filibuster, 31-18.
That likely means the bill is dead for this session anyway.
The bill would have awarded all five of the state’s presidential electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote in the state election.
Now, two votes go to the popular vote winner, with the other three awarded to the candidate(s) who wins the voting in each of the three Congressional districts.
In the first round of debate, 33 senators voted to end the filibuster and move the bill to Select File. On Tuesday, four of the 35 Republicans in the nonpartisan Legislature were among the 18 to vote against ending debate.
Focus now on Priority Bills
With senators and committees selecting their priority bills last week, Hughes said the rest of the session will be spent debating priority bills and the budget.
If a bill wasn’t prioritized, he said it’s unlikely those bills will get on the agenda during this session.
Hughes said it’s been a busy first half of the session but added the “intensity is going to go up from here.”
The budget is due by the 60th day of the session and once that hits the floor, senators will concentrate on that until it’s done.
He said there’s still some mighty big issues outside of the budget to tackle, such as repeal of the death penalty, Medicaid expansion, minimum wages for wait staff and changing senators’ term lengths with a constitutional amendment.
Hughes said he’s still undecided with several bills dealing with medical marijuana.
Hughes said he’s in favor of relieving people’s suffering from pain and disease. However, he said he needs to see scientific, fact-based evidence to substantiate the claims of the benefit of medical marijuana.
If it’s shown there is benefit, he wants to see it tightly regulated with distribution by pharmacies and hospital, not on the corner like in Colorado.
One thing he doesn’t see is Nebraska legalizing marijuana like Colorado did.
“That’s not the right direction,” he said. “That’s brought a lot of unintended consequences for that state.”
During a visit to McCook last week, Hughes got to tour the Work Ethic Camp north of McCook.
He said the designated capacity for the correction facility is 100 males. But presently, they are housing 180.
Statewide, he said Nebraska’s prisons are operating at 160 percent of capacity.
On Monday, he toured the state penitentiary in Lincoln. “It was a sobering afternoon,” he said, but also gave him better insight to the overcrowding issue.
Prison reform bills will come through the Judiciary Committee of which Hughes is a member of.
He said the state must also do a better job addressing the needs of inmates who have committed low-level crimes.
He said there needs to be better preparation of inmates through counseling and training before their release to insure they stay out of jail in the future.
He likes what he sees in the new head of corrections. Hughes said the state didn’t get into this problem overnight and it’s going to take some time, at least one to two years, to get things back on track.
All-day debate next week
Beginning next week, the Legislature will spend the entire day on the floor debating bills. With all that the body has to accomplish, Hughes said he’s expecting some late nights along the way.
He said there’s still not a lot of agreement on how to address property taxes in the state, or whether or not to expand Medicaid. As a result, he expects lots of lively debate in the final 45 days of the session.
Sen. Hughes holds a weekly tele-conference with constituents each Tuesday morning during the session. Locations for the tele-conferences include the Imperial city council chambers, Southwest Public Power in Palisade and Midwest Electric in Grant. The phone-in tele-conferences start at 7 a.m. MT each Tuesday and are open to the public.