Priority Designations

By Deb Fischer, SenatorDictrict 43 We have come to the point in the Legislative Session where bills will likely need a priority designation in order to be debated onthe floor. March 9th was the due date for Senator and Committee prioritydesignations as well as requests for Speaker priority designations.Each Senator gets one bill to designate as a priority, the Committeesare able to designate two bills each and the Speaker can designate up to25 priority bills. This system enables those bills deemed priorities tobe debated ahead of other bills. This year I designated LB 84 as my personal priority bill. This is mymajor highway funding bill. The plan has no tax increase; it targets ahalf cent of existing sales tax dollars to be put into a newly createdfund over a 20 year period. The bill would have a two-yearimplementation delay, taking effect in 2013. As Chair of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee, Idesignated LB 112 and LB 477 as committee priority bills. LB 112creates specific exemptions for private transportation companies thatprovide carrier services to individuals served by the Department ofHealth and Human Services, such as minors and people with developmentaldisabilities. The bill was introduced following an Attorney General'sopinion and is important in order to make sure these individuals aresafely transported. LB 477, which I introduced, provides additionalprotections for car dealers. This bill would help avoid the dealershipclosings that occurred during the recent economic downturn, which causedsignificant 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 2011through 2021 from the Environmental Trust Fund to the Water ResourcesCash Fund. The purpose of this bill is to ensure water, which I believeis one of Nebraska's most important resources, is properly andproactively managed. A large portion of this fund will be used for thePlatte River Recovery Implementation Program. This contract with severalstates and the federal government seeks to provide additional water andhabitat for endangered species. If Nebraska does not live up to ournearly $100 million obligation to this program, there will be negativeand potentially expensive consequences. I greatly appreciate SenatorLarson's support of the bill and his priority designation. Difficult decisions continue to be made as more bills dealing withproposed budget cuts are debated. LB 255, which I introduced as a partof the LB 542 process, the Legislature's budget cutting effort, receivedfirst round approval on March 10th. This bill would eliminate theinvestigation and regulatory duties of the Public Service Commission(PSC) relating to railroads. By removing this component of the PSC'sresponsibilities, the state would save approximately $250,000 over a twoyear budget period. Eliminating this program will not create a safetyproblem for the state because it performs a redundant service that thefederal government and the railroads already provide. LB 421 is a bill to provide a needed increase in revenue for theNebraska Game and Parks Commission. The bill provides for a nominalincrease in park permits, from $20 to $25 in annual permits and from $4to $5 in daily permits. These fee increases are estimated to bring inan additional $1.2 million per year for parks. As I have discussed inthe past, our state parks often fall into disrepair because theCommission cannot afford the necessary upkeep. For this reason some ofour local communities, including Arnold and Atkinson, have taken overmaintenance of these parks to keep them viable. This year, three billswere introduced transferring park ownership to communities because Gameand Parks could not maintain the properties. As always, thank you for sharing in our legislative process, and I'llvisit with you again next week.