Legislature begins full-day debate
By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Monday marked the first day that legislators met in session for the entire day. Full-day floor sessions will continue until the Legislature adjourns in early June.
Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango said during his tele-conference Tuesday morning the body should make some good progress in the days ahead.
One thing that could impede that progress would be more filibustering of bills.
Hughes said that’s been one of the frustrations he’s experienced as a state senator.
He said they waste eight hours of debate on an issue when everybody knows what the likely outcome will be.
Debate on a bill on general file can last up to eight hours. The only way to stop debate is a cloture vote, which takes 33 votes. If 33 votes are obtained, then senators can vote on whether or not to advance a bill.
Efforts Monday on a cloture vote on the repeal of the motorcycle helmet law failed, which basically killed the bill for this session.
Dry bean check-off bill
Hughes said the bill to increase the check-off for the Dry Bean Commission passed second round debate Monday.
LB242 would increase the check-off from 10 cents/hundred-weight (cwt) to 15 cents/cwt with future authority to go to 24 cents over time.
The bill also contains language to remove the ability for farmers to ask for a refund of the check-off fees.
The bill also limits the amount the commission can spend on federal lobbying efforts.
Hughes anticipates the bill will pass on final reading. Then it will be up to Gov. Ricketts whether or not to sign it.
Hughes said the fact that it’s a tax the growers impose on themselves should help in getting the governor’s signature on the bill.
Hughes said Gov. Ricketts stopped in his office Tuesday morning to discuss the impacts of Hughes’ priority bill, LB323.
The bill calls for the creation of the School Finance Review Commission, which will allow the Legislature to study and revise the education finance formula in an effort to make our state less reliant on property taxes to fund schools.
Hughes said the governor doesn’t want the bill to become a vehicle to allow more school spending but rather act as a tool for property tax relief.
Possible gas tax increase
Hughes said the body will address LB610 which would increase the gas tax, phasing it in until it reaches 6 cents by 2020.
Hughes said it’s a tax increase but more importantly, it’s a use tax paid by people who use the highways.
He said a great deal of the tax is generated by traffic on the interstate.
The increase in gas tax would be used for bridge and highway improvements at the state, county and local level.
Hughes said he’s not in favor of more taxes but noted that road system is crucial to the state’s ag industry and this is a way of funding those improvements.
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.