Nebraska Legislators Return To Work
July 20th, 2020
Update from Mueller Robak LLC:
On July 20th, Nebraska’s unique one-house Legislature will reconvene to complete the final 17 days of its 2020 session. The body has met for just three days since its initial suspension in mid-March. During those three days it quickly introduced and passed an emergency appropriation measure funding various public health needs related to the pandemic response.
When it returns the legislature will spend its time debating bills that were named a priority earlier in the session by a senator or a standing committee and it will also attempt to find compromise on property tax reform—an issue that has flummoxed senators for years now. Also closely tied to the property tax discussion is a measure that enacts the next generation of business incentives for Nebraska. Nebraska’s current incentives law is set to expire at the end of the year and this year’s measure on second round of debate sets a base level of assistance for all projects and rewards higher wage projects and increased capital investment with additional incentives.
Several new issues have arisen since March. The Black Lives Matter movement and whether Governor Pete Ricketts had the sole authority to spend federal pandemic aid money is sure to generate heated floor debate, although it is unclear whether actual legislation can be introduced at this stage of session to address either topic.
Additionally, some senators want to discuss whether Nebraska should decouple from the federal income tax code changes made by the CARES Act which are projected to reduce state revenues by $300M. Others view the economic recovery mechanisms passed in the CARES Act that provide cash flow and liquidity to the most vulnerable businesses as vital to keeping the Nebraska economy afloat in challenging times.
What is clear is that on Monday the legislative chamber and floor procedures will look far different than ever before. Plexiglass barriers have been erected, most staff have been banned from the chamber, masks are encouraged, and the traditional “note passing” system from lobbyists to senators has been suspended.