Session Review: Executive Board

Executive Board chairperson Sen. Bob Krist

Redistricting and expansion of legislative oversight topped the list of Executive Board issues considered by lawmakers.

Currently, the Legislature is responsible for drawing new governmental boundaries every 10 years after the decennial census for districts pertaining to the U.S. House of Representatives, the Legislature, Public Service Commission, University of Nebraska Board of Regents and the state Board of Education.

LB580, introduced by Gretna Sen. John Murante, would have created the Independent Redistricting Citizen’s Advisory Commission to assist in the process beginning in 2021. The bill passed on a 29-15 vote but was vetoed by the governor April 18.

The bill proposed that the commission be established by Jan. 30 of each redistricting year. Each of the three legislative caucuses would appoint three people to serve on the commission, with no more than five members of the commission with the same political party affiliation.

In his veto message, Gov. Pete Ricketts outlined several objections to the bill, including that it “improperly delegates” redistricting authority.

Murante did not offer a motion to override the governor’s veto and explained in a statement that concerns had arisen about the bill’s constitutionality.

Oversight

Lawmakers adopted resolutions authorizing three special committees of the Legislature.

LR418, introduced by Omaha Sen. Sara Howard and adopted 26-7, creates the ACCESSNebraska Oversight Committee to provide oversight and ongoing dialogue between the Legislature and the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to ensure continued improvement of the system.

ACCESSNebraska is an online and call center system developed and implemented by DHHS to determine public benefit eligibility and deliver benefits to clients.

The new committee replaces the ACCESSNebraska Special Investigative Committee of the Legislature, which was created in 2014 to investigate an array of problems, including long wait times for callers, lost paperwork and high worker turnover.

LR403, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, creates the seven-member Election Technology Committee to study the longevity of technology used by election commissioners and county clerks to conduct elections as of Jan. 1, 2016.

The committee also will study the feasibility of updating or replacing elections technology and report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature no later than Dec. 15, 2016.

The resolution was adopted 30-4.

LR413, introduced by Syracuse Sen. Dan Watermeier and adopted 32-0, establishes the Task Force on Behavioral and Mental Health to monitor the progress of a statewide needs assessment and the development of a strategic plan being undertaken by the DHHS division of behavioral health.

Lawmakers also passed a bill that expedites delivery of confidential records to the Inspector General of Nebraska Child Welfare.

A measure passed by the Legislature in 2015 expanded the jurisdiction of the inspector general to include the state’s juvenile services division of the Office of Probation Administration. It authorized the inspector general to access confidential information pertinent to investigations, including video testimony from victims of abuse.

LB954, introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, additionally authorizes the inspector general to submit written requests for access to records—including sealed records—of juvenile probation officers. The records must be delivered within five days of a juvenile court order.

The bill also directs the juvenile court to provide confidential record information to the Foster Care Review Office.

LB954 passed 49-0 vote and took effect immediately.

Senators authorized the Legislative Audit Office to conduct performance audits of two judicial branch offices.

Introduced by Watermeier and passed 49-0, LB1016 subjects the Office of Probation Administration and the Office of Public Guardian to performance audits by the Legislative Audit Office. The office reviews state agency programs to ensure they effectively implement the Legislature’s intent.

The Legislative Performance Audit Committee introduced LB1022, which gives the Legislative Audit Office direct access to data necessary for conducting performance audits of tax incentive programs. The bill allows the office to request confidential state Department of Revenue data and removes current provisions giving the speaker of the Legislature and the chairperson of the committee access to confidential data in certain circumstances.

The bill passed 44-4.

Other measures

A bill that establishes a process for the development and publication of a certified version of the state constitution was approved on a 45-0 vote.

Under LB686, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, the secretary of state, attorney general and the Legislature will cooperate in publishing a certified version of the Nebraska Constitution. The document will be updated annually to incorporate any changes made by the Legislature or the courts.

The certified copy resulting from the process will serve as the official version of the Nebraska Constitution and may be cited as prima facie evidence of the law in all state courts. It also will be made available electronically on the Legislature’s website and to the public in print form upon request.

Lawmakers voted 46-0 to create a legislative task force focused on innovation and entrepreneurship in Nebraska’s economy.

LB1083, introduced by Gothenburg Sen. Matt Williams, adopts the Next Generation Business Growth Act and creates a Venture Development and Innovation Task Force, consisting of six senators appointed by the Executive Board.

In consultation with the Executive Board, the task force will employ a nonprofit organization to assist in development of a statewide strategic plan by Dec. 1, 2016, to cultivate a climate of entrepreneurship and innovation in Nebraska. The $75,000 in funding for development of the strategic plan will come from the Community Development Assistance Act.

The Next Generation Business Growth Act terminates on Jan. 1, 2017.

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