Gov. Dave Heineman addresses the Legislature (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
The Nebraska Legislature slow-marched to the conclusion of its 2014 session Thursday, passing a number of bills and getting an earful about one that did not pass.
The last day of a Nebraska legislative session is traditionally long on ceremony and short on debate. But that wasn’t the case this year. Sen. Ernie Chambers filed an amendment to every bill scheduled for a final vote. Chambers used the time that gained him to talk about, among other things, his own failed proposal to ban mountain lion hunting. He noted the ban was the only veto by Gov. Dave Heineman his colleagues did not override. "I’m the one that he fixed, and the legislators went along with that," he said.
Chambers said that although he had not stopped mountain lion hunting this year, he would continue to fight the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, which schedules the hunt. "Next year is coming. Some of the underminers have done their undermining of our process and other things on their way out the door. They won’t be back. But others will. And so shall I. And Game and Parks has not escaped," he declared.
In between Chambers’ speeches, lawmakers plugged away at voting on a number of bills. Among those passed was a requirement for some insurance policies to cover therapy for people with autism, and to subsidize special formula for children with severe food allergies. Another bill authorized six specially designed license plates for veterans of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard.
Chambers eventually withdrew his amendments and gave up speaking shortly after 3:30 in the afternoon. Senators then approved more bills, including requiring teachers and other school personnel to receive training in suicide prevention. And they voted to abolish a requirement for nurse practitioners to have an integrated practice agreement with physicians and spend 2,000 hours training with them.
In a speech marking the end of the session, Heineman praised senators for passing bills for tax relief. "We’ve indexed Nebraska’s individual income tax brackets for inflation. We’ve begun the process of exempting social security income and military retirement income from taxation. We have helped farmers and ranchers by eliminating the sales tax on repair parts for ag machinery and equipment," he said. The governor also mentioned an increase in property tax credits.
Heineman praised lawmakers for supporting water projects, and for rejecting Medicaid expansion and highway bonds.
The governor now has until the end of the day Tuesday to decide whether to sign or veto the bills passed. With the Legislature out of session, any vetoes of bills passed on the final day cannot be overridden.