Government Military and Veterans Affairs

Pacific stress test bill expanded, clears first round

A bill meant to prepare supply chains and critical infrastructure for the risk of a possible Pacific conflict advanced from general file April 3 after lawmakers declined to make it a vehicle to attempt to return Nebraska to winner-take-all distribution of the state’s Electoral College votes.

Sen. Eliot Bostar
Sen. Eliot Bostar

LB1300, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Eliot Bostar, would require an assessment of all risks to state or national security, economic security or public health in the event of a conflict involving China or other countries in the Pacific theater and the U.S. or its allies. The governor would be required to publish the state risk assessment annually.

The bill would create the Committee on Pacific Conflict and outline membership and expectations, including production of the annual threat report. LB1300 also would prohibit companies from designated countries from bidding on certain state or local procurement contracts.

Bostar said if Taiwan were invaded, which is a persistent danger, it likely would result in the U.S. being targeted.

“Given that Nebraska is home to Strategic Command and other critical American assets, it’s not hard to imagine [the state] being the target of cyberattacks and other disruptions,” Bostar said. “We cannot control these global risks, but we can and should prepare for them.”

A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment would add restrictions on circulation of the committee’s report, with criminal penalties for unauthorized dissemination, and allow the substitution of a briefing for the written report if deemed necessary.

Dunbar Sen. Julie Slama offered an amendment to the committee amendment that would add the provisions of LB764, originally introduced by Central City Sen. Loren Lippincott. Those provisions would end Nebraska’s split system of awarding electoral votes, in place since 1991.

Currently, the statewide winner in presidential elections receives two electoral votes and the winner of each of the state’s three congressional districts receives one electoral vote. Nebraska and Maine are the only two states to use this system.

Slama said renewed national interest in how Nebraska apportions its Electoral College votes provided an opportunity to revisit the state’s policy.

“We have a chance to seize the moment here,” she said.

The amendment was ruled not germane to the underlying bill by the presiding office, a ruling that Slama challenged and sought to overrule. The motion from Slama to overrule the chair was defeated on an 8-36 vote.

Lawmakers then adopted the committee amendment on a 41-0 vote, which contains provisions of six additional bills, including Bellevue Sen. Rita Sanders’ LB2. The provisions would create a state Commission on Asian American Affairs.

The commission would include 14 individuals of Asian ancestry appointed by the governor. It would be tasked with enhancing the cause of Asian American rights and developing solutions to problems common to all Asian American residents of Nebraska.

Sanders said Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority group in the state and impact Nebraska through sports, cuisine, holidays and culture.

Provisions of LB869, introduced by Bostar, would expand the mission of county veterans service committees to encompass aid to all veterans, regardless of whether a war existed during their term of service. The measure also clarifies that a person who served on active duty for training in the Nebraska National Guard would be eligible to receive assistance from county veterans service committees.

LB887, sponsored by Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, would create the Nebraska Nonprofit Security Grant Program to be administered by the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. The proposal outlines a list of authorized uses for grant funds, which NEMA would begin providing Jan. 1, 2025. Individual recipient organizations would have an annual grant cap of $100,000 and total annual grant awards would be capped at $500,000.

LB1048, introduced by Bostar, would require certain chemical facilities in Nebraska to participate in a federal program relating to cybersecurity and infrastructure security.

Also included in the committee amendment are provisions of two bills originally introduced by Omaha Sen. Mike McDonnell. LB1243 would create the Wildland Incident Response Assistance Team within the office of the state fire marshal.

LB1358 would prohibit metropolitan and primary class city council members from increasing their salaries or the mayor’s salary in excess of inflation as calculated by the Consumer Price Index plus 1% without a public hearing, a two-thirds vote of the council and voter approval. Omaha is the state’s only metropolitan class city and Lincoln is the only primary class city.

In addition, salaries could be raised only once every two fiscal years. The measure would set maximum salary levels for directors of public power districts and salary limitations for metropolitan utility districts and counties.

Following adoption of a technical amendment offered by McDonnell, lawmakers voted 41-0 to advance LB1300 to select file.

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