By Senator Russ Karpisek
This was a week full of important business and a few very late nights at the Legislature. We debated and approved an override of the governor’s veto of LB421, a bill that is needed to provide funding for functions of our state parks that have suffered under budget cuts. The bill raises the fee for state park permits from $20 to $25 for residents, $30 for non-residents.
We also voted to override a governor’s veto of Sen. Council’s LB200, which would provide grant incentives for farmer’s markets and community gardens in an effort to increase access to fresh produce in areas that need it, both rural and urban.
The abortion debate was renewed as we took up a bill (LB690) that changes the requirement from parental notification for women under 18 to obtain abortions, to parental consent. Debate carried on late into the night as opponents argued the constitutionality of the measure and privacy issues. A last-ditch effort to amend the bill to provide prenatal care to low-income women under 18 failed, but not before reviving the conversation we had last year following the cuts of prenatal care to these women, many of them undocumented. The amendment was ruled not germane and the bill advanced.
Sen. Sullivan’s Pipeline Reclamation Bill, LB629, advanced to second round debate. Although the bill doesn’t stop the proposed Keystone XL pipeline or change its path, it puts in place valuable state oversight of the pipeline’s operation. TransCanada would be responsible for maintaining minimum standards of operation as it installs and manages the pipeline, and would be held financially liable for restoration of land or property damaged during installation or in case of an accident.
We had a heated discussion about redistricting the states’s congressional and legislative district boundaries. The Congressional district proposal advanced by the Redistricting Committee enjoyed support by mostly Republican senators, with Democrat senators arguing that it displaced too many people in the first and second districts. I introduced an amendment putting Saline County back into the first district, where it was until a politically-motivated move ten years ago. I had been contacted by the city of Crete, who expressed their desire to be moved back. I withdrew my amendment and will work on getting it adopted on Select File.
There was also heated discussion on redrawing legislative district lines, particularly in the western districts. With the continued population move to the eastern part of the state, the proposal that was approved on General File would remove one district from northwest Nebraska and add a district to the Gretna area in Sarpy County. District 32 stays mostly the same, except that it would include a section of Lancaster County including Sprague, Denton and Hallam.
Our final piece of business this week was LB397, the CIR (Commission on Industrial Relations) bill. A late compromise was agreed upon by the business community, public employee unions and employers that garnered wholehearted support on the floor. Under the compromise, the CIR retains authority to judge labor disputes between public employees and employers, but with limits. Adjustments to the wage range would allow for more local control of wages during hard economic times.
Thank you for your support as I represent the concerns of District 32. Please contact our office with any questions, comments, or issues.