January 3 marked the opening day of the 105th Legislature, Second Session, in the Nebraska Unicameral. This is the second year in a biennium cycle, which means senators will meet for a short, 60-day session slated to adjourn April 18.
The first 10 days of every legislative session are devoted to bill introduction. Fewer bills are introduced in the second session, however, several hundred are still expected to be introduced. Senators will begin floor debate next week on bills carried over from last year that had public hearings and are awaiting deliberation. Speaker Jim Scheer has indicated that 2017 carryover legislation without priority status will not be debated. Committee hearings begin on Tuesday, January 16, on all new legislation introduced this session, and full-day floor debate begins February 28..
A few procedural items were on the opening day’s agenda, including election of a new Committee on Committees chairperson. Senator Robert Hilkemann was elected to fill that position left vacant by Senator Joni Craighead’s resignation. The body also welcomed newly appointed Senator Theresa Thibodeau who will fill out the term of former Senator Craighead.
State Faces $173 Million Shortfall
The 2018 Legislature begins with a challenging task on the agenda—shoring up a $173 million budget shortfall due to lower-than-expected tax receipts. This follows a year in which the Legislature already closed a $1 billion gap. All indications are that several attempts will be made to control spending and cut both income and property taxes.
This is an election year in which 16 seated senators face re-election; six senators are in their final year due to term limits and one senator has chosen not to seek re-election. This means the 2019 legislative session will commence with at least seven new senators, a 15% turnover in the body.
We Update Status of Early Childhood Bills Daily
For more information and status updates on all legislation affecting Nebraska children ages birth to 8, check our Nebraska Legislation beginning later this month. We'll produce daily updates with a printable report after all bills for this session have been introduced.