Straight Talk from Steve: Disappointing Bills
April 6, 2022 | View PDF
In the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature expectation lurks as a kind of devilish phantom farmer secretly sowing seeds of disappointment.
That is what life is sometimes like inside the Nebraska State Legislature. You can spend an entire year or more crafting a single piece of legislation only to see it fail on the floor of the Legislature by a single vote or two, and that is what happened last week on more than one occasion.
Last week was a very disappointing week in the Nebraska State Legislature. With just a few days left in the legislative session, some of the Legislature’s most important bills failed to advance and become law, and sometimes it was by a small margin of votes. So, today I am going to tell you about three bills which should have advanced in the Legislature last week, but didn’t. Each of these bills was a good bill, but is now dead for the year.
The first bill to tell you about is my own constitutional resolution for the consumption tax, known in the Legislature as LR 264 CA. LR 264 CA was my priority bill for the year and it failed on the floor of the Legislature with only 19 affirmative votes. It needed 25 votes to advance.
What was just as disappointing as the vote was the fact that the north gallery was completely full of citizen supporters who came out to listen to the debate only to see that only a few Senators remained on the floor to participate in the debate. Instead of hearing reasons to support the consumption tax, these Senators had already made deals with the lobbyists or made up their own minds not to support it and turned a deaf ear to the floor debate. So, LR 264 CA is now dead.
The second bill to tell you about was LB 933, Sen. Joni Albrecht’s pro-life bill. This bill was equipped with a trigger clause to end the practice of abortion in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Constitution gets amended, or Congress passes enabling legislation allowing states to pass their own laws on abortion. However, pro-choice Senators led a filibuster against the bill. When Sen. Albrecht tried to get around the filibuster by invoking cloture, a motion which would have ended the floor debate and put the bill up for a vote, it failed by only two votes.
Cloture votes require affirmative votes from two-thirds of the Legislature (33 votes), and failure to meet that threshold automatically ends debate for the day. The cloture vote received 31 YES votes with three Senators absent, which was 67.4 percent of the Legislature, more than two-thirds. Nevertheless, 15 NO votes or 32.6 percent of the Legislature was all that was needed to kill the bill. LB 933 is now dead.
The third bill to tell you about is LB 543, otherwise known as the Right-to-Repair Act. LB 543 was Sen. Tom Brandt’s priority bill for the year.
The Right-to-Repair Act gives the owner of agricultural equipment the right to repair equipment without breaching the manufacturer’s original contract. Owners of the equipment would be given access to manuals, tools and parts which are necessary for making the repairs. The Right-to-Repair Act is controversial because it mandates that manufacturers part with their own proprietary information.
Passing LB 543 on General File, however, would have enabled the Legislature to continue having a constructive conversation about this very controversial topic. Instead, LB 543 failed on floor of the Legislature. So, LB 543 is now dead.
As you can see, life in the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature can sometimes be full of disappointments. It can be frustrating to invest yourself in a piece of legislation only to see it die in committee or fail on the floor of the Legislature.
Being a State Senator is not a job for the faint of heart; instead, it is a job which requires firm resolve, steadfast patience, and persistence over time. I will be back again next year to try and achieve my number one goal, which is to give meaningful tax relief to all Nebraskans.