Lawmakers made adjustments to the state’s two-year budget with four bills passed this session.
LB944, introduced by Speaker Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk at the request of the governor, makes adjustments to appropriations for state operations, agency and school aid and construction programs in the current and next fiscal year.
The bill contains an across-the-board reduction in general fund appropriations to many state agencies and operations budgets of 2 percent in fiscal year 2017-18 and FY2018-19.
The University of Nebraska, state and community colleges will see a 1 percent reduction in FY2018-19. Reductions in state aid—except for community colleges—is retained at 4 percent in FY2018-19.
Among other provisions, the bill also provides $55 million to the state Department of Health and Human Services to cover increased child welfare costs and $15 million to offset reductions in the federal Medicaid match rate.
A provision included in LB944 prohibits federal Title X funds from being paid or granted to an organization that performs, assists, provides directive counseling in favor of or refers for abortion services. An otherwise qualified organization that is affiliated with, but objectively independent from, such an organization—which the bill defines as legal, physical and financial separation—is not disqualified from receiving funds under the bill.
The provision also prohibits the referral of a patient for abortion services. Pregnancy termination in an emergency situation in accordance with state law does not constitute an abortion referral under the bill.
The bill also contains provisions of LB864, introduced by Fremont Sen. Lynn Walz, which provide $5.4 million in general funds in FY2017-18 to DHHS to pay developmental disability providers for services rendered on or after Oct. 1, 2017, and for which no federal funds were used.
LB944 passed on a 38-6 vote.
A number of fund transfers and changes to transfer provisions are made by LB945, also introduced by Scheer at the request of the governor and passed 41-4.
The bill contains modified provisions of a measure considered by the General Affairs Committee to increase the amount of lottery funds directed to compulsive gambling assistance in Nebraska.
The provisions, introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist as LB679, increase the annual transfer from the Charitable Gaming Operations Fund to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund from $50,000 to $100,000.
LB946, also introduced by Scheer, changes provisions relating to the state’s Cash Reserve Fund.
The bill, passed on a 40-5 vote, transfers $100 million from the Cash Reserve Fund to the General Fund. Among other provisions, it also reduces by $2.3 million a transfer from the Nebraska Capital Construction Fund due to the lower cost of the Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home project.
LB950, introduced by Business and Labor Committee chairperson Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, provides for payment of claims against the state. The bill, passed 47-0, includes tort and workers’ compensation claims totaling $2 million, along with several agency write-offs totaling $978,000 for various uncollectable debts.
LB861, introduced by Syracuse Sen. Dan Watermeier, requires the state to pay a county’s prosecution costs that arise from a single correctional institution incident—defined as one in which a crime allegedly is committed by one or more inmates confined in a state correctional institution—if those costs exceed the threshold amount for the county.
Under the bill, the threshold amount is the amount of property tax revenue raised by the county from a levy of 2.5 cents per $100 of taxable valuation of property subject to the levy. The threshold amount is determined using valuations for the year in which the correctional institution incident occurred.
Costs of prosecution include, but are not limited to, the costs of defense for indigent defendants, such as attorney and expert witness fees. The state Department of Administrative Services has the power to receive and investigate claims under the bill’s provisions.
LB861 passed on a vote of 44-0.
Senators also approved a mechanism to fund preservation and restoration of properties related to author Willa Cather.
LB379, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Burke Harr, creates the Willa Cather Historical Building Cash Fund to assist with the restoration of the Cather House and the Antonia Farmhouse. The fund will be administered by the Nebraska State Historical Society and may accept money donated as gifts, bequests or other contributions from public or private entities.
The bill also authorizes the state Department of Economic Development to use the Civic and Community Center Financing Fund to provide grants of assistance in the preservation and restoration of historic buildings owned by a nonprofit organization if a contractual relationship is created between a municipality and the nonprofit organization.
The Nebraska State Historical Society may enter into an agreement with the Willa Cather Foundation to transfer clear title of properties described in the bill from the state to the foundation at no cost to either party other than property transfer transactional costs, which will be shared equally by each party.
In order to carry out any agreements made, the Nebraska State Historical Society is authorized to dispose of these real properties using the vacant building and excess land process.
LB379 passed on a 49-0 vote.
The state Game and Parks Commission may use alternative contracting methods for public projects in the state park system under a bill passed this session. Introduced by Gering Sen. John Stinner and approved 46-1, LB775 authorizes the commission to use the design-build and construction manager/general contractor contracting methods.
The bill authorizes the commission to hire a licensed architect or engineer to assist with the development of requests for proposals, evaluation of proposals and evaluation of the construction.
Finally, senators advanced a bill from general file that would have required annual reporting of federal funds received by state agencies that participate in the state budgeting process.
LB611, introduced last session by Stinner, would have required that reports be submitted to the state Department of Administrative Services by Sept. 15 of each year that a budget request is due.
An Appropriations Committee amendment excluded the University of Nebraska and the state college system from the bill’s provisions. The amendment also clarified that the bill would require that plans be submitted to DAS only.
LB611 was advanced to select file on a 28-11 vote but was not scheduled for further debate.