Legislature wraps up 2013 session with leftovers

Legislature wraps up 2013 session with leftovers

By Paul Hammel June 6, 2013 6:01 pm Comments

The 2013 session of the Nebraska Legislature was like a six-course meal in which you save the main courses as leftovers.

That’s because some of the biggest issues, including tax reform and Medicaid expansion, were deferred for debate next year to allow for more study and more arm twisting.

But, as they always say at the State Capitol, what needed to be done was done. A balanced budget — as required in the State Constitution – was passed. No taxes were raised. Some good laws were passed, and not-so-good laws not passed.

Here’s some random thoughts at the end:

– Gov. Heineman passed on vetoing a couple of bills in the waning hours of the session, which kept the vibes good at the end. It was pretty clear anyway that the tax break for wind farms, Legislative Bill 104, had more than enough support to override a threatened veto by the governor.

– did anyone notice the necktie worn by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist on the final day? Krist, who helped ground the effort to buy a $2.2 million airplane for the governor, had a tie featuring dozens of planes on it.

– some interesting picks for the Tax Modernization Committee. The Exec Board got to pick the final two members of what turns out to be a 14-member committee. They picked two Democrats known for their support of social programs and work on state budgets.

One, as expected, was a freshman, Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz, who is a member of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee. Another, in a bit of surprise, was not a freshman: Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist. (Krist, who sponsored the amendment to add the two extra senators, had said he wanted those to be freshmen to provide continuity on tax policy for future Legislatures.)

Reportedly, the committee was seeking to better “balance” the committee, which has some strong conservative voices and, until the last two additions, had nine Republicans and only three Democrats.

Nordquist pointed out that as chairman of the Legislature’s Retirement Systems Committee, he’s dealing with potentially a huge funding liability, keeping state pensions afloat. And he’s a key member of the Appropriations Committee.

– Beatrice Sen. Norm Wallman joined Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers late in the session by asking that paper copies of bills be placed at his seat in the legislative chambers.

The high stacks of red notebooks dotting the chamber went away a couple of years ago when senators got notebook computers. But one stack made a comeback this year when Chambers — who is not a computer user — returned and asked that he be provided the bills on paper to him. (We are big supporters of paper publications on this blog!)

Chambers was seen often thumbing through the pages, reading up on a bill. Wallman, not so much.

– in a bit of surprise, a feud didn’t develop during the year between Heineman, the Republican governor, and the new chair of the Appropriations Committee, Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, a Democrat.

They had clashed often in past sessions, but appeared to tone it down this session due to the important and hard work of crafting a budget. Give credit to Mello, who displayed a talent for budget detail and explanation. Also give credit to former State Sen. Lavon Heidemann, now the lieutenant governor. He and Mello talked frequently about the budget during the session.