2010 Legislative Priorities
Nebraskans for Peace
On top of the 300-plus bills that carried over from last year’s legislative session, Nebraska state senators have introduced another 400 bills for 2010. With state tax receipts continuing to fall short of projections however (and another round of budget cuts looming), any of this legislation that requires new money will be pretty much dead on arrival in this short, 60-working-day session of the Unicameral. Given this economic reality, here’s a brief overview of some of the bills NFP will be supporting. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it provides a sampling of the kind of legislative priorities NFP will be advocating for in the next three months.
A dozen new bills dealing with renewable energy were introduced, but two that could dramatically reshape the energy landscape in Nebraska are LB 1048, the Natural Resources Committee’s ‘Big Wind’ bill that grew out of Sen. Ken Haar’s legislation from last year, and Sen. Heath Mello’s LB 1098. The Natural Resources Committee bill would help create the legal and infrastructural conditions necessary for large-scale wind development projects in the state that could ultimately make Nebraska an exporter of clean renewable energy to the rest of the nation. Sen. Mello’s bill, alternatively, would authorize Nebraska municipalities to establish “sustainable energy financing districts” to loan homeowners and local businesses the funds for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to their properties. To make this program broadly accessible, the loans would be assessed against the property and paid back in the form of property taxes. The energy savings from the improvements, though, would largely offset the property tax increase, allowing everyone the opportunity to adopt a ‘greener’ lifestyle—and thereby reduce our dependence on foreign oil and domestic coal.
Two bills dealing with the alcohol-related problems at Whiteclay were also introduced. Sens. Russ Karpisek and Leroy Louden are sponsoring legislation that would earmark state liquor taxes for detoxification services and other health needs and increased law enforcement in this 14-person border town that sells over three million cans of beer a year to the Pine Ridge Reservation. While each of these bills does require a new legislative appropriation, they divert revenue state government currently receives from the sale of alcohol in Whiteclay to these social needs.
And finally, NFP will support Sen. Brenda Council’s request, in LB 1105, for an audit of the costs associated with administering the death penalty in the state. The bill requires a comparison of the expenses borne by the Attorney General, the Department of Correctional Services, law enforcement, the counties, the courts, and the advocacy offices involved in capital cases with the costs these governmental entities have accrued in non-death-penalty sentences resulting from first-degree murder convictions. If adopted, this bill would provide some factual information to a subject that for too long has been driven by blind emotion.