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Priority Designations

March 11, 2011

By Deb Fischer, Senator
Dictrict 43

We have come to the point in the Legislative Session where bills will likely need a priority designation in order to be debated on
the floor. March 9th was the due date for Senator and Committee priority
designations as well as requests for Speaker priority designations.
Each Senator gets one bill to designate as a priority, the Committees
are able to designate two bills each and the Speaker can designate up to
25 priority bills. This system enables those bills deemed priorities to
be debated ahead of other bills.
This year I designated LB 84 as my personal priority bill. This is my
major highway funding bill. The plan has no tax increase; it targets a
half cent of existing sales tax dollars to be put into a newly created
fund over a 20 year period. The bill would have a two-year
implementation delay, taking effect in 2013.
As Chair of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, I
designated LB 112 and LB 477 as committee priority bills. LB 112
creates specific exemptions for private transportation companies that
provide carrier services to individuals served by the Department of
Health and Human Services, such as minors and people with developmental
disabilities. The bill was introduced following an Attorney General's
opinion and is important in order to make sure these individuals are
safely transported. LB 477, which I introduced, provides additional
protections for car dealers. This bill would help avoid the dealership
closings that occurred during the recent economic downturn, which caused
significant job loss and difficulties for our local economies.
Senator Tyson Larson, who is a neighbor of District 43, prioritized my bill, LB 229. This bill provides for a $7 million transfer from 2011
through 2021 from the Environmental Trust Fund to the Water Resources
Cash Fund. The purpose of this bill is to ensure water, which I believe
is one of Nebraska's most important resources, is properly and
proactively managed. A large portion of this fund will be used for the
Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. This contract with several
states and the federal government seeks to provide additional water and
habitat for endangered species. If Nebraska does not live up to our
nearly $100 million obligation to this program, there will be negative
and potentially expensive consequences. I greatly appreciate Senator
Larson's support of the bill and his priority designation.
Difficult decisions continue to be made as more bills dealing with
proposed budget cuts are debated. LB 255, which I introduced as a part
of the LB 542 process, the Legislature's budget cutting effort, received
first round approval on March 10th. This bill would eliminate the
investigation and regulatory duties of the Public Service Commission
(PSC) relating to railroads. By removing this component of the PSC's
responsibilities, the state would save approximately $250,000 over a two
year budget period. Eliminating this program will not create a safety
problem for the state because it performs a redundant service that the
federal government and the railroads already provide.
LB 421 is a bill to provide a needed increase in revenue for the
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The bill provides for a nominal
increase in park permits, from $20 to $25 in annual permits and from $4
to $5 in daily permits. These fee increases are estimated to bring in
an additional $1.2 million per year for parks. As I have discussed in
the past, our state parks often fall into disrepair because the
Commission cannot afford the necessary upkeep. For this reason some of
our local communities, including Arnold and Atkinson, have taken over
maintenance of these parks to keep them viable. This year, three bills
were introduced transferring park ownership to communities because Game
and Parks could not maintain the properties.
As always, thank you for sharing in our legislative process, and I'll
visit with you again next week.

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