State senators to finish Legislative session using COVID-19 precautions

Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 8:22 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - In one week, Nebraska’s Unicameral will reconvene to finish this session. There are new precautionary measures in place, including plexiglass in front of senators’ desks and signs asking them to not touch their microphones. Lawmakers said there’s still a lot to do, with only 17 days to finish up.

“It’s going to be a challenge to focus on issues, but it’s necessary,” Sen. Anna Wishart said. “We need to go back.”

While safety is a top priority for some senators, their level of safety varies.

“I plan on wearing a mask,” said Sen. Wishart.

“I’ve survived without wearing the masks and unless the speaker requires it I probably won’t be wearing it,” said Sen. Tom Brewer.

Sen. Tony Vargas said in a statement today; “Many of my own family members have been infected and after losing my father to COVID, I’m not taking any chances. In my capacity of Vice-Chair of the Executive Board, I have worked with the leadership in the Legislature to prepare the building to be as safe as possible for everyone. As the Senator who represents some of the communities that have been most impacted, I am taking every precaution possible to protect the health and safety of myself, my staff, and the public.”

Masks won’t be required for state senators, rather recommended. The Clerk of the Legislature said all other staff will be required to wear a facemask inside the chamber. When senators get back into session, there’s one thing they all agree needs to be a top priority.

“Passing the budget. That’s a requirement by the Constitution,” said Sen. Brewer. “That’ll be the first thing we are hopefully taking a look at.” “We need to come back to manage our budget,” said Sen. Wishart.

Senators were in the middle of the budget debate when the session was postponed in March. Passing a budget in mid- July or August means it will pass after the start of the fiscal year. There are also a couple of key factors about the budget that is still up in the air.

“We won’t know where we’re at until maybe just literally hours before going to session on a rough estimate on sales tax, income tax and where our budget is at,” Sen. Brewer said.

A few other bills expected to be heard on the Senate floor include Sen. Megan Hunt’s Pay-to-Play bill, Sen. Brewer’s detaxation of military retirement and Sen. Lou Ann Linehan’s property tax relief bill.

Gov. Ricketts said in a statement today; “As we enter the final days of the legislative session, we are at a critical moment for our state’s future. I will continue to work with Senators, so we can come together around a plan that moves property tax relief forward to grow our state. I urge Nebraskans to engage their Senators on these important issues as they return to work here at the State Capitol.”

Sen. Brewer said he believes some bills that were expected to pass this session, may not have enough time.

“The legislation that does die because of lack of funding, we can bring it back in January and be able to get new life to it,” said Sen. Brewer

The Legislative session will restart July 20. Senators will be in session every weekday until Aug. 13, with exception to Aug. 7 and Aug. 10.

Copyright 2020 KOLN. All rights reserved.

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