Session ends, eight senators depart

The second session of the 105th Legislature adjourned sine die April 18.

Six senators are leaving the Legislature due to term limits: Bancroft Sen. Lydia Brasch, Omaha Sen. Burke Harr, Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, O’Neill Sen. Tyson Larson, Columbus Sen. Paul Schumacher and Papillion Sen. Jim Smith. Two more, Lincoln Sen. Roy Baker and Heartwell Sen. John Kuehn, have decided not to seek reelection to a second term.

In his remarks, Gov. Pete Ricketts commended senators for working together to pass legislation to prevent opioid abuse, increase speed limits on the state’s highways, ensure Nebraska students can read at grade level by the end of third grade and remove onerous occupational licensing regulations.

“I think this session underscores the importance of that collaboration—working together—and how by doing that we can accomplish much,” he said.

Turning to tax policy, Ricketts praised lawmakers for passing a bill intended to prevent a nearly $200 million tax increase on Nebraskans due to changes in the federal tax code last year. However, he said, the Legislature failed to pass a bill that would provide property tax relief despite support from the public and various agricultural and business groups.

Ricketts also thanked the Appropriations Committee for tackling a $200 million budget shortfall this session while making investments in child welfare services, services for those with developmental disabilities and corrections.

“Once again, by working together, we closed that gap, we balanced our budget, and we did it without raising taxes,” he said.

Speaker Jim Scheer of Norfolk told lawmakers they had accomplished much during the 60-day session, but they left several issues—such as property tax reform, economic development, Medicaid expansion, marijuana policy and others—for future legislatures to address. The speaker encouraged senators who will return next session to spend the interim thinking about what they would like to accomplish.

“Start working with other senators this summer on the big issues,” he said. “Sit down with those outside of your usual circle of support to explore ways that compromise can be reached.”

The first session of the 106th Legislature is scheduled to convene Jan. 9, 2019.

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