Lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to bills ranging from tax breaks for a big data center to new regulations for dog breeders, and began debate on changing keno operations.
It was a day filled with final reading, the third and final stage of voting when there's seldom any debate. Among the bills receiving final approval were two aimed at attracting a billion-dollar data center project that an unnamed company is reportedly considering building in Kearney. One would offer the project tax breaks, the other, discounted electricity.
Lawmakers also passed a bill specifying the size and construction of exercise areas for dogs in commercial breeding facilities and requiring that individual health records be kept. But the series of swift votes with no debate stopped when senators began first round consideration of a proposal that would allow speeding up keno games. Currently, the law requires a five minute waiting period between games. Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber wants to let communities cut that to three minutes, which would allow more games.
Among those supporting the proposal was Sen. Paul Lambert of Plattsmouth. He talked about the benefits that communities could get from more keno revenues. "This is (a) very important stream of revenue to make some improvements in your community. Parks, swimming pools - we've all seen that happen. And one nice thing, I believe, is if you don't want to participate in it, you don't have to," Lambert said. "If you don't want to pay this tax, you don't have to. You can stay home or you can play. But we all able to benefit from the advantages and the money that comes in and some of the things that we're able to do for our community."
Opponents said the attempt to generate more revenue would have negative effects on society as whole. They said the bill would represent expanded gambling. Supporters of the bill disputed that, but Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial, an opponent, said it didn't really matter what the effect was called. "Whether you look at it as expanded gambling or not, the intent here is to make more revenue. If we're making more revenue, there's more being bet, there's more being lost to me, whether we are expanding it, increasing it, to me, in my eyes it's harmful to the communities, it's not the direction I think we should be going as individuals in this state," he said.
The Legislature adjourned for the day without reaching a first round vote on the bill.