Governor, Speaker plea for unity
The 105th Legislature has adjourned Sine Die. That’s Latin for “without day,” or without assigning a day for a further meeting.
I’m sure there are a few who hope that might leave the door open for a special session. My money is on the 106th Legislature set to convene Jan. 9, 2019.
Lawmakers left the Capitol after pleas for unity from Governor Pete Ricketts, Speaker of the Legislature Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk and several of the eight lawmakers who will not be back next year. Six of those were term-limited out of office and two chose to quit after serving just one term.
Ricketts told senators that working together is one of the hallmarks of the state.
He noted how collaboration this year led to passage of bills raising the speed limit on select state highways; improving reading levels of elementary school students; expanding health care options; controlling opioid abuse; removing red tape obstacles for school bus drivers and reforming some aspects of the State Patrol.
He thanked senators for their efforts to try to pass his major tax reform plan (LB 947) and reiterated that “we can’t tax one Nebraskan to give tax relief to another. I will continue to work for property tax relief for hard working Nebraskans,” he said. “We will cut budgets. We have reduced the growth of government and adjusted three state budgets in 15 months. That hasn’t been done in 10 years.”
The bill was pulled when three hours of floor debate made it clear it didn’t have the support to advance. A sticking point was whether or not a plan should include new revenue sources to fund property tax relief. Ricketts and a handful of senators said no. A proposal that did call for new revenue while providing significant property tax relief did not advance.
Scheer encouraged senators who will return next session to spend the interim thinking about what they would like to accomplish.
“Start working with other senators this summer on the big issues. Sit down with those outside of your usual circle of support to explore ways that compromise can be reached,” he said.
The eight who are leaving: Lydia Brasch of Bancroft; Burke Harr and Bob Krist of Omaha; Tyson Larson of Columbus; Paul Schumacher of Columbus; Jim Smith of Papillion; Roy Baker of Lincoln and John Kuehn of Heartwell all made parting remarks.
Harr said we must learn to work together to better the state. “It’s more than just changing the filibuster rules,” he said.
That was a contentious debate that had lawmakers hamstrung and operating under temporary rules for better than a month during the first session in 2017. This is a team sport.
“Politics rewards partisanship. Compromise comes through debate. Bipartisanship is an achievable goal,” he said, urging his colleagues to rely on trust and friendship.
As expected, Schumacher delivered a sobering gut check. He said the phrase “I’ll cut your taxes are the very first words in the I want to be governor handbook.”
He cautioned that the rainy day fund (the state’s cash reserve) is dwindling. “We’ve more than cut it in half while the sun is still shining. People have every right to hold us accountable,” he said.
Senators have been left “in the quicksand of three-quarters of a billion dollars a year in reduced revenue, and hearing only demands for more quicksand,” Schumacher said.
As if that’s not bad enough, he said there can be no property tax reduction for rural landowners. “All that there can be is shell games, smoke and mirrors and packs of lies. Our people deserve more honesty than that.”
I agree. People deserve honesty and a dedication to the nonpartisan ideals that George W. Norris had when he led the way to establish the nation’s only Unicameral Legislature.
It has worked well for years and kept Nebraska free from the partisan gridlock that has crippled Congress. Working together, across party lines, is the only way to solve our problems.