Property tax and budgets remain as Legislative session resumes – Scottsbluff Star Herald

It’s back to politics in the statehouse come Monday.

The renewed session, cut short by Speaker Jim Scheer in March as the coronavirus surfaced in the U.S, comes as cases in Nebraska rise steadily over the last week, according to data from state health officials.

Despite the restart, the remaining time in the 106th session will have a distinctly different look and feel from previous years.

Who comes and goes from the legislature is limited to senators, their staff, chamber workers like the sergeant-of-arms and journalists, according to restrictions set by Scheer.

Plastic sneeze and spit guards were also installed in front of senators’ desks and temperatures will be checked before admittance. Lobbyists and members of the public won’t be permitted in the balconies, and masks will be encouraged but not required.

Three senators have said they won’t be wearing masks, including State Sen. Steve Erdman.

“I’m not at all afraid of coming back. I’m not wearing a mask,” Erdman told an Omaha news station last week. “If you’re scared, stay home.”

Erdman declined an opportunity from the Star-Herald to comment on the matter.

With about 15 bills hanging in committee, Scheer said his goal is to give bills on the floor debate time. To this point in the session, property tax cuts and business tax incentives set to expire at the end of the year were some of the major themes of the session.

Last week, Sen. Lou Ann Linehan said she doesn’t believe that there is enough vote to pass any of the major proposals on the floor.

“I’m hopeful that we will find a way to put it all together,” Linehan said, referring to a proposal to combine the legislation. “We need an incentive bill and we need property tax relief — I think we need both of them.”

One major opponent of the proposed changes are Nebraska school districts. Linehan said that the smaller districts, who have less to levy in taxes compared to larger districts, were concerned they’d be shorted in the proposed bills.

“Education can’t trump every other thing in the state. We have to have a strong business culture, we have to have a strong ag economy,” Linehan said.

The budget will be another major sticking point next week in Lincoln.

State budget predictions reversed course this week after the Nebraska Department of Revenue released June tax reports the state had managed to stave off a serious collapse in revenue.

Sen. John Stinner said he predicted a $95 million shortfall for June. Nebraska instead saw a net increase of $10 million, something that came as a pleasant surprise to Stinner. That $10 million is designated by law to fund the state’s rainy day fund.

Adjustments to the budget made it through the first round of debate, with two remaining.

The session begins Monday, with 10 of 17 remaining days reserved for late-night meetings.

We’re always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what’s going on!

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