New Nebraska session begins with focus on taxes, flooding
Nebraska lawmakers kicked off their 2020 session Wednesday with an expected focus on property taxes, the state’s flood recovery and a surplus of tax revenue after several years of tight budgets.
The new, 60-day session will put senators in a time crunch as they consider fresh proposals in addition to legislation carried over from last year’s 90-day session.
Sen. Kate Bolz, Lincoln, said making reforms in Nebraska's prison systems is a top priority this session.
"Making sure were correctly supporting our correctional employees. They have a new contract they've negotiated. Its our job to provide the funding to support that contract," Bolz said.
Sen. Tom Brandt, District 32, also said prison reforms are necessary, specifically for the staff.
"We need a stable staff. If you have stable staff, that just creates more influence in the prisons themselves," Brandt said.
The first proposals slated for debate include a tax exemption for military retirees and a bill that would allow teachers to physically restrain violent students in classrooms.
Sen. Bolz is also proposing a bill to help decrease the cost of insulin for Nebraskans.
"We've been working with insurance companies, individuals and advocates to try and figure out a cap for the cost of insulin for individuals who need that medication to stay alive," Bolz said.
Sen. Brandt said he hopes to create more laws involving hemp in Nebraska.
"We have an opportunity this year to synchronize Nebraska's hemp laws with the new USDA federal regulations," Brandt said.
Gov. Pete Ricketts is expected to deliver his annual State of the State message and present his proposed budget to lawmakers on Jan. 15.
After several recent years of tight budgets, lawmakers will have an estimated $126.3 million in excess revenue at their disposal for the current two-year budget cycle. Lawmakers will also have to make adjustments to the state budget to account for new requests for money.